How soon we forget.
The Perils of the New, Shiny George W. Bush, by Branko Marcetic (Jacobin)
The cuddly George W. Bush who paints pictures of dogs and Jay Leno is a war criminal. He doesn’t deserve an inch of rehabilitation.
George W. Bush has to be high in the running for the worst president in the history of the republic, and he probably would’ve reigned unchallenged for at least a few decades had Hillary Clinton’s inept campaign not led to her defeat. As it is, the less than two months of Donald Trump’s volatile presidency suggests his full four years will at least be neck and neck with Bush’s eight.
Still, Bush’s presidency was historically disastrous, which makes it understandable that since Trump’s ascent, Bush appears to be waging an understated media campaign to rehabilitate his image — one which the media has happily assisted him with.
Trump’s insanity has led many liberals and other former Bush opponents to start “reconsidering” Bush’s presidency. Slate implored Bush to “speak to his party” about its latest descent into Islamophobia. “Compared to Donald Trump, George W. Bush looks like a paragon of statesmanship,” Francis Fukuyama wrote in 2015. Photos of everyone from Hillary Clinton to Michelle Obama embracing Bush have gone viral, while the former president recently yukked it up with Ellen Degeneres on her talk show.
More recently, Bush earned accolades for saying he didn’t like “the racism” and “name-calling” of the Trump era, and that the media was “indispensable to democracy” — fairly innocuous comments that are apparently grounds for heroism when stated by Bush.
Much of Bush’s rehabilitation is, as the Washington Post recently documented, both a result of the fact that next to Trump, just about anyone compares favorably, and because of a nice speech Bush delivered in 2001 as he prepared to murder and torture thousands of Muslims, telling Americans that “Islam is peace,” speaking out against recent hate crimes, and assuring American Muslims he wouldn’t resurrect Roosevelt-style mass internment. (It is apparently an admirable and statesmanlike thing to pledge not to round up innocent people in camps without due process based on their religion).
Bush and his supporters have often said that history would vindicate his presidency. It hasn’t and it won’t, even if Trump takes us to new lows.