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Pandemic Revisionism: The George W. Bush Whitewash

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful. And so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people. And neither do we.” (President George W. Bush, Aug. 5, 2004).

Hatred is disorientating, and becomes, over time, a form of enduring fanaticism. The attacks on US President Donald Trump tend to fall into this camp. Much criticism of his often grotesque conduct, from his conversion of high office to a social media spectacle of grabs and interruptions, to his whole lowering of the tone, is warranted. He has brought locker room morals and the ethics of the US corporate boardroom to the White House. In the annals of the US presidency, he will not favour well, but nor should he necessarily be seen as a singular catastrophe. There are other worthier contenders for the court historians to consider.

One of them must be George W. Bush who, true to his misspoken words, never stopped thinking about new ways of harming the US and its people. This was a president who declared with confidence that there could be such things as an “Axis of Evil” in international relations; that the map of the Middle East needed to be rewritten in blood – yet again – on an adventurist, schoolboy hunch; and proclaimed a Global War on Terror with a sort of mad glee that tolerated an extra-judicial culture of torture, renditions and CIA black sites. “My blood was boiling,” he writes in that painful, and for the most part hopelessly unreliable read Decision Points. “We were going to find out who did this, and kick their ass.” This was not a quest marked by the need for sound evidence, be it Saddam Hussein’s fictitious weapons of mass destruction, or forged links between Baghdad and al-Qaeda. When destroying a country, stubborn motivation can resist the evidentiary brief.

Domestically, Bush’s tenure oversaw a bloating of the national security state, fattened by inefficient and intrusive surveillance coupled with the use of imperial styled powers that disparaged the workings of Congress. Air pollution standards were reduced; logging of wilderness areas encouraged and naff intrusions of religion into policy witnessed.

In responding to Hurricane Katrina, one of the most devastating natural events in US history, the president distinguished himself by continuing his vacation at his expansive Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas before cutting it short. Once committed in response, he could never dispel the image of detachment from the catastrophe.  Praising the bungling performance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown (“you’re doing a heck of a job”) did not help.

At the helm of the US imperium for eight years was a person of questionable cognitive heft and permanent frat boy immaturity, who had an entertainingly defective grasp of language (entrepreneur not being a French word; misunderestimated, and all that) and a tenuous hold on reality. During his time in office, dark forces led by Vice President Dick Cheney pulled strings and encouraged this manqué president. A sense of the impression he left on the United States could be gathered by the fact that the country got its first black president, elected not for being necessarily irresistible in offering small change but for not being Bush.

In retirement, he has been treated as a harmlessly mild, doddery recluse, dedicated to peaceful pursuits, such as painting. Along with his wife Laura, they are sharing what they have described as “the afterlife in their promised land in Texas”.

From this world of the afterlife, Bush has suddenly piped up. The deaths and suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were just too much for him to ignore. In a video posted by the George W. Bush Presidential Centre, the credentials of sainthood and leadership were offered to rolling images of the United States. “We are not partisan combatants.” Pieties aplenty choke the performance. “We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.” He noted that Americans need to “be compassionate” and “creative in our outreach.” Remember to show empathy and kindness, those “essential, powerful tools of national recovery.”

The response to this sop-filled intervention by Bush has been one of reputational restoration. They have come from the usual circles: starry-eyed thespians and celebrities, many of them centrist or slightly tilted to the left of politics; many, if not Democrats then those with Democratic allegiances. Andy Worthington had already detected this trend in 2018. Trump’s place in the White House had caused many to lose their heads, with “a bizarre propensity, on the part of those in the centre and on the left of US political life, to seek to rehabilitate the previous Republican president, George W. Bush.” They ranged from the former First Lady, Michelle Obama (“a beautiful, funny, kind, sweet man”) to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who, last year, kept company with the Bushes at a sporting fixture. “Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean I’m not going to be friends with them.” Best forget what he did.

The COVID-19 video performance has induced another round of emetic showering. Debora Messing, for one, gushed at the show. “A REAL president,” she tweeted. Former Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill exercised her tear ducts. “In a million years I never thought I’d be crying watching this, thinking how much better we’d all feel if Bush were president today.” Historian Seth Kotlar was captured by “nostalgia”, not necessarily for Bush “but for Presidents who genuinely tried to speak to the entire nation, not just a part of it.”

Trump preferred a different reaction and predictable focus: himself. Bush, he fumed, “was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax in American history.” That little matter called the impeachment proceedings still rankles. But Bush, it seems, continues to slide into that place of history where minds atrophy and hagiography quells reality.

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16 comments

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  1. Jack Cade

    Dumbya is a borderline simpleton. The Americans reverence for the position of POTUS leads them to believe that the job transforms pigs arses into silk purses, and nothing will convince them otherwise.
    Noam Chomsky, in an interview, listed all of the crimes of all of the US presidents since 1945. It’s pretty depressing stuff..,even hapless Jimmy Carter was dropped in it by the CIA. Not a decent human being among them, even the sainted Obama.

  2. Grumpy Geezer

    Dubya’s best quip? “I am a merkin.”

  3. Michael Taylor

    He’s given us some gems, hasn’t he, Grumps?…

    Nucular (instead of nuclear).

    When asked if he’s computer literate he said he “knows how to use the Google.”

    And my favourite: “Humans and fish can co-exist peacefully together.” (Or thereabouts.)

  4. Grumpy Geezer

    Good on ya Michael. I won’t be able to pronounce nuclear properly for days now.

  5. Phil

    For mine it was that well known phrase ” Well there you go again ” Ronald Raygun Reagan who takes the prize for the second most evil POTUS in my life time. Who could forget the hot mike when he said as a joke “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”[ He is actually on record as saying he was a bomber pilot during WW2, When what he really did was dress up and flog war bonds. Rubbery Figures had a field day with this loon. I think he probably fantasized having sex with that harridan Maggie Thatcher. Of course the dismantling of the so called middle class started with Reagan and went full on with Clinton. Trump will take some beating for the most evil, racist, narcissistic philandering,sociopath, to ever grace the halls of the White House. I am still not convinced this idiot wont start a war before the election.

  6. Jack Cade

    Merka and Yurp.
    Axles of Elvis.

  7. Grumpy Geezer

    What could Rubbery Figures do with our current lot?

  8. Grumpy Geezer

    Trump’s Nipple and Button, Jack.

    (We’re detracting from the aricle here.)

  9. Phil

    ‘ What could Rubbery Figures do with our current lot?’

    After taking some time to work out they were for real, they would find a whole new audience and make squillions. Tis a pity that sniveling effeminate Pyne is still not there. They could do a whole series just on him alone. Then there’s the LUSH Joyce, months of fun for all.

  10. Phil

    ” I did not have sex with that women yall ” The end.

  11. Phil

    ” I’m not a crook ” Tricky Dicky. They still aint a patch on our politicians.

  12. Jack Cade

    GG

    But he was THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD! As was Ronald Reagan, whose mind was just as absent as Joe Biden’s is. But Reagan had enough of his grey matter left functioning to learn his lines. He never had a coherent thought, only learned what the NRA and the Military industrialists told him to say. That his ‘reign’ coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union had nothing to do with him or America – but they (the Americans) claim they did it.

  13. Roland Flickett

    Trump doesn’t just claim to be a merkin; he wears one on his head.

  14. Phil Pryor

    It’s been a poor run since 1788 in USA presidencies, with village idiots, peeping toms, cat burglars, hit men, petty crooks, pathological liars, bullies, beasts, bouncer-bodyguards, break and enter merchants and any other nohoper you care to mention filling out the list. The Chomsky rundown is very informative, but who in the USA knows of it and has studied more about the inbuilt deficiencies of the office,where a popular vote in states leads to a rigged and vulnerable system to elect (a perverted and corrupted form of popularity) a dud to be manipulated, a fuhrer failure, a sawdust caesar, a kinky kiddy-behaviour king, an unwiped arsehole eventually. Apart from a polite choice of Washington, Jefferson for literary theory, Lincoln for his persistence, F D R for actually having and using his brainpower, the list is as flea ridden as a dead camel’s date, and more aromatic. Biden looks a fitting addition to failure and waste of time. The powerful Texas-California axis of corporate, military, tech., mining, oil, retail and money gets up the occasional Nixon, Reagan, Bushes types.., sickening and long run disastrous, and this will continue over time, interspersed with motley morons.

  15. Jack Cade

    Apparently Trump’s exhortation of injecting bleach or disinfectant has caught on, and a few of his followers have done it. Plus one of the fundamentalist churches has also endorsed it.
    I’d like to kick in a few bob to buy some syringes and donate them.
    Anybody know who to call?

  16. Wam

    It has been a long time since the punchline of that quote became true but Donald is determined to €£§§¥€§€£4€%#3%@%-& America worse than any Russian regime or cubby’s could achieve.
    Americophobes clapped when he was elected but now even we are thinking few septics deserve him any more so brain dead Biden may fall over the line?
    Ps
    Love ‘mourning america’

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