Bush’s reign became a teachable moment
A few commentators have opined when it comes to assaults on the Constitution and American civil liberties, Richard M. Nixon was small potatoes compared to George W. Bush.
However that might be true, to put Bush in the same league as Nixon is to accord Bush a stature that is most undeserving.
In his book titled the same, Garry Wills dubbed the 37th president “Nixon Agonistes,” suggesting one who struggles with his being, conscience, and mind. He draws on John Milton’s poem “Samson Agonistes” about the biblical long-haired dude, shorn and duped by Dalila, who gouges out his eyes when he realizes a woman has bested him.
Prior to the Watergate scandal that destroyed his presidency, Wills wrote, “Nixon is not pretty, inspiring, heroic, grand.”
One would like to think a better Nixon, a psychologically secure one, would have aspired and, in so doing, inspired and been heroic and grand. Instead, Nixon is a tragic figure, like Shakespeare’s Richard III, complete with the fatal flaw that led to his undoing.
While Bush can be considered a tragic character, his fatal flaw has not been one of ambition. If Papa Bush were not among the powered political elite and were, say, a simple corporate CEO, young George would have been content to live his life on the fairways sipping pina colladas.
But dad was more than a successful politician; he was a war hero, one who actually flew real bombing missions in WW II. There was no way for sonny, who had a preference for partying rather than boot camp, to outdo daddy in that venue.
Bush’s conflict has been neither grand nor epic, but familial and personal, a life-long conflict with his paterfamilias played out on the world’s stage with George portraying his 21st-century Oedipus self to his father’s King Laius.
Ironically, by invading Iraq and taking the head of his father’s arch-nemesis Saddam Hussein, Bush both redeemed and defeated his father. He got Saddam’s head as a trophy, which his father didn’t, but the world responded, “So, what?”
While the elder Bush will not be ranked among the greatest stars in the pantheon of American presidents, history, nonetheless, will recognize him as a hero who served his country with courage and dignity in his other roles. There will be no such accolades for junior.
George W. Bush is the man who should never have been king. Being miscast, he simply never had the “it” to play the part. He could only be himself, not able to rise above and become greater in the eyes of his nation.
Despite his MBA, his mental acumen is weak to say the least, making him easy fodder for the machinations of the dark knight, Dick Cheney. By so easily orchestrating his own ascent to the vice-presidency, Cheney must have easily seen through the mental patsy who would ostensibly be his boss.
Is he the worst president ever? History will render its judgment, but in the beyond, it’s likely Warren G. Harding and James Buchanan are high-fiving each other at the prospect of having climbed a rung from the ladder’s bottom.
Bush, though, didn’t do it alone; he had his sycophants of yes-men and women and the tens of millions who voted for him, twice, and a remnant that still idolizes him.
Looking at it benignly, Bush’s reign became a teachable moment, albeit, an eight-year-long one. From it, Americans have re-learned we are inherently an inter-dependent species, putting to rest the shibboleth of the self-made man.
We have learned capitalism is not a free market system, but can be socialism for the rich.
We have learned American global economic, military, and political hegemony, based upon the idea that America is the one remaining super power, is a mirage. .
We have learned the phrase “limited government” in the financial sense is simply partisan rhetoric with no application in the reality of the modern state.
And we have learned that when it comes to private matters such as gay marriage and a woman’s right to control her own reproductive system, limited-government conservatives are anything but.
Those who have stood firm against the infringement of our essential liberties and the assault on the Constitution over the past eight years have been redeemed with Barack Obama’s election. Give yourselves a high-five.
Echoing Benjamin Franklin, President Obama said it perfectly in his Inauguration speech: “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”
What remains is the issue of accountability. Even if Obama’s Attorney General decides not to appoint a special prosecutor and Congress continues turning a blind eye to justice, both Bush and Cheney will still face the court of world justice for the remainder of their days.
The looming question for them is in which countries they should not land so to avoid the fate of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet, who went to England for medical help and found himself under arrest, held on crimes against humanity.
A tip to the former president and vice-resident from a lowly liberal columnist basking in his redemption: avoid Spain.