Donald Trump is a real gift to George W. Bush’s legacy, and the 43rd president seems to really be making the most of his moment. Next to Trump, of course, Bush is a poet, philosopher, statesman, and successful business leader. So, a few reminders, for those readers who might be too young to remember the thwarting of democracy that was necessary for his election, the pointless, costly, brutal, and illegal invasion of Iraq, the assault on civil liberties, or the economic ruin of GWB’s tax cuts:
Above, George W. Bush dresses as Santa, with members of the Secret Service dressed as elves, in order to hand out toys at a children’s hospital in Dallas. His tax cuts fueled economic inequality, handed significantly more money to the already-wealthy, and jacked up the deficit for years. The percent of Americans living in poverty increased under his tenure. Like Reagan before him and Trump after him, he sought ways to put more money into the pockets of the people who already had the most.
Above, Bush receives a hug from former First Lady Michelle Obama. The two remain friends, despite the fact that Bush’s 2000 presidential primary campaign used fears of interracial sex in a smear campaign against his opponent John McCain. In South Carolina, Bush’s team suggested McCain had had a biracial child. In fact, McCain had adopted a child from Bangladesh, and racists in the Republican party saw her as evidence for the Bush campaign’s claims. Like all Republicans since Nixon, Bush could not have won a presidential campaign without appeals to racism.
Above, George W. Bush paints portraits of those who have served in the Armed Forces since 9/11. To date, approximately 7,000 members of the Armed Forces have died in the global War on Terror. If Bush painted one of their pictures every day, he’d have to live be 90 years old to paint them all.
It is not insightful or noble or brave or courageous for Bush to now criticize Trump. He should have spoken up during the campaign. He should have worked to reduce presidential power so that a future power-hungry white nationalist wouldn’t have had the opportunities that Trump is now using. Bush gave us the template for violating the civil rights of non-citizens. He gave us the structure for spying on people more effectively. He gave us unending warfare and the executive order to bring retired military officers back to the military–an order that Trump has ramped up forty fold. Bush gave the model for tax cuts that hurt the poor to profit the rich. Some of us will never, ever recover from them. His very election sent the message that family status and power–not talent or competency–is what wins elections. Without Bush, we would not have Trump.
PS. A bonus video for those who need a more explicit explanation of how to think about Bush’s effort to rehabilitate his legacy.