The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

George H.W. Bush, R.I.P.

Posted on | December 1, 2018 | 1 Comment

 

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones . . .

Former President George Herbert Walker Bush will be universally praised in the wake of his death because it is always the policy of liberals to celebrate the dead Republicans they formerly defamed, as a means to impugn the living Republicans they currently defame. Those of us old enough to remember how liberals hated Bush when he was president (and before that, as vice-president under Ronald Reagan) will not be deceived by their panegyrics to his “civility” and “bipartisanship.”

George Bush was not yet 19 years old when he was commissioned as a Navy pilot, and still only 20 when he was shot down in action:

On 2 September 1944, Bush piloted one of four aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese installations on Chi Chi Jima. For this mission his crew included Radioman Second Class John Delaney, and Lieutenant Junior Grade William White, USNR, who substituted for Bush’s regular gunner. During their attack, four TBM Avengers from VT-51 encountered intense antiaircraft fire. While starting the attack, Bush’s aircraft was hit and his engine caught on fire. He completed his attack and released the bombs over his target scoring several damaging hits. With his engine on fire, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft. However, the other man’s chute did not open and he fell to his death. It was never determined which man bailed out with Bush. Both Delaney and White were killed in action. While Bush anxiously waited four hours in his inflated raft, several fighters circled protectively overhead until he was rescued by the lifeguard submarine, USS Finback. During the month he remained on Finback, Bush participated in the rescue of other pilots.

Did I mention that Lt. Bush’s grandfather was a wealthy industrialist, that his father was a senator, and that he was a senior at prestigious Phillips Andover Academy when he decided to enlist? In other words, the sons of America’s privileged elite once felt a patriotic duty to their country that today’s decadent elite don’t seem to feel, and if nothing else, Bush deserves to be well remembered for his heroic service.

Bush’s landslide 1988 victory over Democrat Michael Dukakis was interpreted at the time, and rightly so, as an endorsement of Ronald Reagan’s successful presidency — a “third term,” as it were — but Bush lacked Reagan’s inimitable personal charm and, some conservative critics would say, was not devoted to the same political principles. Bush was much more aligned with the “Eastern establishment” GOP, the Chamber of Commerce “country club Republicans,” whereas Reagan had been an all-out supporter of Barry Goldwater in 1964. Bush’s 1988 campaign promise of a “kinder, gentler America” was resented by many Reaganites (including Nancy Reagan, who understood this phrase as an implied criticism of her husband’s policies), and Bush notoriously failed to keep his other promise: “Read my lips — no new taxes.”

It would be easy for conservatives to criticize Bush now, as they criticized him at the time, for fumbling away Reagan’s successful legacy. The Berlin Wall came down during the first year of Bush’s presidency, and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, not long after America led an allied coalition to victory in the first Gulf War. At that time, polls showed that Bush was overwhelmingly popular and he looked like a shoo-in for re-election. However, in the second half of 1991 a recession began — a mild recession that proved to be brief, but this wasn’t apparent at the time, and the liberal media made it seem like 1932 all over again. The economic downturn, a GOP primary challenge from Pat Buchanan and the subsequent third-party campaign of Ross Perot created the perfect storm in 1992 that allowed Bill Clinton to be elected president with less than 43% of the vote. It was these events, I would argue, which spawned the post-Cold War problems that have haunted America the past 25 years.

One could imagine an alternative history — for example, if Bush had vetoed the tax increase enacted by the Democrat-controlled Congress — that might have prevented the unraveling of his presidency and, with a Republican in the White House to reap the benefits of the “peace dividend” (i.e., deficit reduction as a result of lower military spending), the political and cultural trends of the 1990s might have taken a much different path. But this is hindsight and wishful thinking, and we have to live in the world we have inherited, not the world as we wish it might have been. The failure of Bush’s one-term presidency should not, however, cause us to forget the good things he did.

For example, Bush was one of the leaders of the GOP’s effort to break the Democrat stranglehold on the “Solid South.” He defeated the powerful Texas Democrat machine to win two terms in Congress, ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1970, and served as Ambassador to the United Nations (1971-73) and later as director of the CIA. In the interval, Bush was chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973-74 when it fell his duty to inform President Nixon that he would have to resign, as the Watergate revelations had destroyed his support within the GOP. In all of these roles, Bush was a man of honor who did what duty required, as a patriotic servant of his country. This has nothing to do with why liberals are now praising Bush, however. Instead, they’re praising Bush as a way to make an invidious comparison to Trump. You can be certain that after Trump dies, he will somehow be rehabilitated by liberals and praised in order to discredit future Republicans.



 

Comments