Sense and Sensibility – President Bush (The Elder)

The NY Times writer and author Thomas Friedman is rarely off point.

His article on George H.W. Bush (father of our recent president) will not disappoint those who appreciate his wisdom and insight. It’s refreshing and shines a light on a man who as Friedman says (and I agree), is “underrated”.

Some may be surprised by Bush Sr’s actions in office:

1)    He wasn’t afraid to raise taxes despite saying that he wouldn’t. His common sense prevailed unlike many American “conservatives on the right” today. 

Friedman quote
Despite having run on the promise of “Read my lips: No new taxes,” when the deficit started spiraling to dangerous levels under his presidency, Bush agreed to a compromise with Democrats to raise several taxes, along with spending cuts, as part of a 1990 budget deal that helped to pave the way for the prosperity of that decade. It definitely hurt his re-election, but he did it anyway. 

2)     After taking Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, he didn’t wage war in Baghdad. As everyone knows, his son (George H. Bush.) started a war on the basis of information that has proven to be false.  Again, a big dose of sense by the elder Bush.

Friedman quote:
George H.W. Bush also believed that to be a conservative was to act with “prudence,” one of his favorite words and a philosophy he demonstrated in foreign policy by deciding, once he defeated Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, not to follow him to Baghdad. 

In addition, he was sensible in embracing science.  

Friedman quote:
George H.W. Bush also believed in science. How many Republicans know that he and his aide Boyden Gray pioneered the use of cap-and-trade to deal — very effectively — with the problem of acid rain produced by power-plant emissions? 

I find it hard to look at today’s G.O.P. without thinking how far it has drifted from the kind of balanced conservatism the elder Bush brought to politics. Today’s G.O.P. has gone from espousing cap-and-trade to deal with pollution to espousing the notion that all the world’s climate scientists have secretly gotten together and perpetrated a “hoax,” called climate change, in order to expand government — all of this at a time of record heat waves and climate disruptions. 

Not all of Bush’s actions were of the sensible kind.  A stain that Freidman failed to mention is the William Horton drama – a campaign ad instrumental in helping Bush win the White house. 

For those unfamiliar, it was a TV campaign showing prisoners going in and out of a revolving prison door. The ad’s intention was to showcase the “light on crime” record of Michael Dukakis (1988 Democrat Presidential Nominee).  William Horton was serving a life sentence when he was released on a weekend parole program during the Dukakis administration in Massachusetts. While out, he attacked a white couple.  Even though many didn’t like this type of racial and fear-based advertising, it was very effective. 

A quote about and link to the “Revolving Door” ad is below:

This stark and unsettling ad from the Bush campaign doesn't mention the notorious escaped convict William Horton by name. (Although he went by William, the Bush campaign referred to him by the less respectable name “Willie”). However, with its release just a few weeks after the independently financed ad "Willie Horton" had generated controversy and national press coverage, the connection was clear. Under the direction of campaign manager Roger Ailes, Dukakis was linked with the case of the African American felon who fled Massachusetts during a weekend furlough and attacked a young white couple in Maryland.

Bush’s main strategist, the late Lee Atwater was a primary force behind the campaign.  It seemed to work brilliantly as Dukakis lost his double digit lead from the summer of 1988 – and subsequently the election.  Atwater later apologized for the ad which is a good thing. 

A few quotes are below:

Dukakis is the person to whom Atwater most famously apologized, in a startlingly candid, first-person piece in Life magazine published two months before his death. 

Atwater recounted how, speaking of Dukakis during the '88 campaign, he promised to “strip the bark off the little bastard” and “make Willie Horton his running mate.” 

 Then he said: “I am sorry for both statements . . . the first for its naked cruelty, the second because it makes me sound racist, which I am not.

In my opinion, presidential nominees should stay away from this kind of racial advertising – messages that play to the fears of the misguided, uneducated or hateful.

From the aforementioned points above, Bush Sr. was a president who made decisions based on logical insight and most importantly, decisions that kept the best interest of Americans in mind.  We could use some of his prudence today.

William Horton aside, many of his actions were sensible although I doubt he would fare well in the current Republican Party, whose shining stars (Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry) are more suited for a comedy tour.  In 2011, far too many conservatives and/or Tea Party supporters seem to care less about the country and more about keeping Obama out of a 2nd term. 

Any intelligent or compassionate person knows that in order for America to begin to rise out of the financial ashes, taxes MUST be raised.  Judging from his past history, Bush Sr. would probably be in agreement with a tax increase in 2011, unlike his son, who kept taxes low while authorizing two wars.

Even the “Gipper” and most beloved conservative (President Ronald Reagan) raised taxes!

Who on the conservative or Tea Party side will be courageous enough to show some or any of the sense and sensibility of George “Poppy” Bush? 

Happy Gswede Sunday!
Another George (aka Gswede) enjoying the Good Life in Sardinia, Itlay - June 2011


Anonymous said...

Hey bro... Love your stuff! Keep it coming. I believe it was actually Al Gore who actually first pulled the race card with Wille Horton-- which brings me to challenge you a bit to have a more nuanced view of the tea party.

It's not Obama the man that the many activists have issues with-- it's his ideas, particularly economic. I voted for him and like him and his family a lot and believe in the transformational force of his election.

But his economic ideas are anachronistic- if not plain stupid. Got to call a spade a spade. We are his natural base as brothers-- if we don't pull his coat, who will?

Anonymous said...

plus we all know that the Horton issue was originally used in the 88 democratic primary by everyone's favorite academy award winner and masseuse flasher al gore! gotta love politics!