Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Thoughts On Bush

Sorry for the delay, but it's been one of those weeks/weekends. I was asked for my thoughts on Bush and I figured I would share them. To sum it all up, Bush seemed to be a genuinely nice man... but he should never have been President.

Looking at Bush's biography, the man lived an interesting and impressive life for the most part. As he aged, he became more of a bureaucrat, but before that he was an heroic fighter pilot who defended the US bravely in World War II. I respect that. I also respect that he seems to have become a genuinely nice person after he left office, befriending everyone and living the kind of life we would hope all retired people could live. There are dozens of stories too of good deeds and kindnesses that he did throughout his life which back up the public persona. For example, there was a story the other day that he stayed in Washington, D.C. at Christmas so the Secret Service team protecting him could be with their families.

He also did seem to care about people, though I always felt that he didn't really relate to people. Indeed, I think here is the crux of the problem with Bush. He lived in a world of elites. He knew those people. He related to those people well... he did not relate to normal people. Hence, it is no coincidence that since his retirement, many of the stories about how good of a person he is are connected to relationships he's had with elites, e.g. Michelle Obama. What is less common is stories of Bush interacting with average people. What's more, the times Bush is described as good to average people tend to come in the vein of "he's good to servants." The Secret Service story is an example, this is Bush doing a favor to employees.

By comparison, consider Peyton Manning. When he retired, we started hearing amazing stories about this man. On his own, he handwrote thousands of letters to people he met expressing gratitude for things related to them personally -- ways they touched him. I saw a show on this with people reading the letters and most cried as they read them to the camera. We learned that he volunteered his own time religiously to visit sick kids and spent hundreds of thousands of his own dollars buying food for Katrina victims and personally delivering it. Or take Roger Stabach who has a legion of people who swear their love for this man. A couple talk about the lengths to which he went to stop them from killing themselves when no one else even noticed. Others talk about him personally rescuing their imploding lives through personal gestures. Stories like this are typical for these amazing people. Bush, while awash with stories of being pleasant or volunteering as a spokesman for one thing or another, has no stories like these where he connects on a personal level with average people.

Why does this matter?

I think it explains the problem with Bush. He never related to real people. Bush was amazing at dealing with Kings and other Heads of State. He was quite adept at running an organization like the CIA. But he was clueless at understanding us. That was the scandal when he was asked the price of milk and couldn't answer it. That was the problem when his rhetoric sounded like an accountant reading code rather than a neighbor talking to you. That was why he was so slow to understand how his actions hurt the average person, why he never fought back when the Democrats smeared him and conservatism (because to him, it didn't matter -- he didn't believe it and none of his friends at the cocktail party wanted to hear it, even as it felt like a heinous personal slander to millions of us), why he didn't understand how fuel taxes and income tax increases would break the people who supported him, and why it always felt that he was more comfortable at international conferences than meeting people in diners.

This kept him from seeing how he was destroying conservatism, and I would honestly say that Bush destroyed conservatism.

Reagan's administration was the culmination of decades of real people fighting back against liberal experts. Reagan saved America -- and that is not hyperbole. He built a multi-racial, multi-gender, broadly American coalition of common sense believers who were busy rebuilding an America that had been brought to its knees by decades of liberalism: weak military, horrible military doctrine, defeatism, hyper-regulation, excessive taxation, a world clogged by lawyers, a pro-criminal criminal justice system, lunatic courts, growing racial spoils, etc. Reagan and his followers worked hard to turn these things around.

Bush, however, came from that world of experts. And when he ran after Reagan left office, he slandered conservatism (calling for a "kinder, gentler nation" as if conservatism were hateful) and he cut deals to undo large parts of Reagan's agenda. What's more, he let the left slander and smear him and conservatism without defending either. This crippled conservatism and let the left dump all kinds of hateful ideas onto conservatism -- ideas we still need to refute today because they came to be seen as "fact" when he seemingly verified them.

(As an aside, the view of Bush as "nice" did not arise until after he befriended the Clintons. That's when the media fell in love with him. Before then, he was portrayed as an out-of-touch, rich corporate-tool, too-white racist who was too stupid to run the country. They even knowingly lied about him having affairs.)

It also revived the anger conservatives felt at the country clubbers (of which Bush was a member) who seemed to like losing to the Democrats because that made their cocktail parties less contentious. This sheered off a chunk of conservatives who drifted to "true conservatism," a destructive ideological purity that still costs the GOP several percentage point each election. It also made the rift between the party power brokers and the public much larger than it had been in decades, making the GOP an ungovernable party at the national level.

Then he pushed elitist ideas like creating the "New World Order" along international lines. This generated massive paranoia in the fringier elements of conservatism. All those idiots screaming about black flags and secret this and that got their start believing that Bush had sold the country to foreign elements.

I think Bush was a nice guy, but out-of-touch with real people. He played by the rules of elite society and, in those terms, he was a decent elitist, unlike so many of the rest. But as a President, he was a total failure. He destroyed America's momentum, devastated his friends, and let us be painted with moral-crimes that the left continues to hold against us today. I also see him as the guy who spurred the paranoid, hyper-purity-obsessed state of modern conservatism through his failures.

I know a lot of people like him and you're not supposed to talk ill of the dead, but that was what I saw going through those years. I truly get why so many people abandoned the party of Reagan to support H. Ross Perot. In 1988, the public at large viewed liberalism as a failed experiment and saw liberals as crazy. By 1992, liberalism had become hip and conservatism had lost its meaning and was seen as the ideology of corporate lobbyists and out-of-touch rich whites. That was Bush's legacy.



LL said...

Noblesse oblige is admirable in itself. Giving money that goes to distribute soap and toilet paper in the third world is not a bad thing either.

A president needs to relate to the nation and to at least work for the good of the regular folks. Reagan did that. Bush did not. Bush had one term and was followed by Slick Willie. Like him or not, Clinton rolled with the political tide, enjoying the Reagan wealth dividend that kept the nation financially healthy.

AndrewPrice said...

Clinton fell into the most amazing bounty. First, no one wanted to run against Bush because his popularity was at 92% after the Gulf War... right before the budget deal and other sins sent it crashing. So no bigwigs ran.

Then he got the benefits of Reagan's economy. Then he had Newt feed him great legislation and he otherwise sat on his butt (before the GOP imploded in impeachment). He also had Hollywood selling him. And he had crazy H. Ross Perot undermining the GOP in the elections.

It's hard to fail with those benefits. And yet, he still never won a majority of voters.

tryanmax said...

While Reagan is the first president I remember directly, Bush is the first I remember with any clarity. And yet, all I seem to remember is Dana Carvey. So allow that to be my segue into what may be a touch of rose-tinted nostalgia. I have no doubt the cast of SNL was as heavily Democrat then as it is now, but the viciousness wasn't there. Carvey did what I perceive to be a perfect caricature, exaggerating both Bush's personal charms and foibles. Totally unlike the SNL of today, where Alec Baldwin mugs a character that could just as easily be Ebeneezer Scrooge if the costume were different. That's all I've got.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I would say that is true, but I think what you are seeing is liberals jumping on the slippery slope and now we are almost near the bottom of the slide... (I hope we're near the bottom).

Unlike SNL today, Carvey still understood that he would be more popular if half his audience didn't hate him. I also think at that point, liberals hadn't had 20 years of smug victimization to feed them anger.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, the slide is bottomless. Trust me. As for Bush I think you summed him up very well. He royally pissed me off with that kinder,gentler nation crack. He never seemed to realize, and he certainly never acknowledged, the debt he owed to Reagan. In fact, while he never bad mouthed Ron that I remember, he always seemed to view his two terms as vice president to one of the truly significant US presidents in history as a distasteful duty that he had to endure to get to the chair himself. He owed his presidency to Reagan. But once he got there he didn't try to build on Reagan's presidency. It was like " I'm here now, let's all be mediocre together." When the Berlin Wall came down George seemed confused and intimidated by the change in the established order of things.
George was never a leader. He was a manager. He was a truly great bureaucrat(and in this context I don't mean that as an insult) but when he had to think on his feet he always got lost. I remember reading a book about the American Revolution and this line sticks in my mind: "Lafayette was fine as long as he had George Washington to tell him what to do." Bush 41 always struck me like that.He was the guy who was great at keeping an established system running. Reagan was the guy who knew what to do when the system got smashed.
Lastly, he always seemed like a guy who belonged at a country club. I can see him as one of the rich brothers in Trading Places. Everybody remembers "Read my lips. No new taxes" and that kinder, gentler nation bullshit but there's one incident that has always summed him up for me. To show how he was a regular person who related to we the unwashed masses his handlers took him to a supermarket once. It was a disaster. He allowed himself to be photographed staring in amazed awe as the checkout lady scanned the barcodes on the groceries. The last time he had actually been to the store was before barcodes. He stared like he was watching groceries be bagged by a 3-D holograph. He was not the guy who would tell tou to your face that you didn't belong in his club. He was the guy who told the board in closed session that you didn't belong and let somebody else tell you the news when he wasn't in the room.

Critch said...

Lot's of very good points here. I got to meet him in 1974 when he came to our air force base. He came in the NCO club with this entourage...we called those types "suits"..they came and went..this guy,,(and I didn't know who he was until someone told me), sat down with us, poured himself a beer and started talking to us...I was flabbergasted that he knew where my little hometown in the Ozarks was,,and that he had fished our river..a very smart and congenial person...but he always seemed a wimpy conservative to me...he probably should have taken lessons from his wife on relating to people. All in all I liked him, I served under him during Desert Storm...but he never quite lived up to his potential.

AndrewPrice said...

While the initial story has been how no one has anything bad to say about Bush because he had a Nixonian rebirth when he became friends with Michelle Obama is now being blasted in a series of articles accusing him of all the crap the left used to smear him over: he didn't cure AIDS! He didn't care! He didn't outlaw discrimination against disabled people until later in his administration! He didn't care! Racist. He didn't care! War for oil. He didn't care!

Liberals cannot stop themselves.

AndrewPrice said...

... and that's when they aren't writing articles attacking Trump for imagined crimes while bizarrely claiming that Trump was "politicizing" the funeral by making them criticize him.

tryanmax said...

GypsyTyger, the supermarket scanner story is evidence of how long the media has been hostile to Republicans, how well they distort the truth, and the staying power of their fabrications. Not that a correction matters anymore, but here's the real story.

For starters, Bush was not at a supermarket, but the National Grocer’s Association Expo, a showcase for the latest innovations in the exciting world of...grocing? More importantly, the NYTimes writer who broke the story, Andrew Rosenthal, did not himself attend the event. He picked up the event from a pool reporter and invented the rest. In a way, Rosenthal was showcasing the future of news reporting.

Contrary to being unfamiliar with barcodes, Bush was participating in a demonstration of a new type of scanner that could read mangled barcodes. You may recall the days of harried checkers frustratedly pounding in product codes when the bars were even slightly smudged. It's interesting to note that, though barcodes were commonplace by 1992, the AP still thought it necessary to include a brief explanation of a UPC in their report.

Bush's reaction to the demonstration was a cordial, "Isn't that something?" Clearly, he didn't fully appreciate the profound advance in image recognition he had just witnessed. Think of Bush the next time you use your fingerprint to unlock your phone. He later told the grocers that he was "amazed by some of the technology." The media seized on his "amazed" remark and paired it with a 7 second clip of him orienting a milk carton to foist the image of a cushioned elite.

For what it's worth, there was no checkout lady. Rather, there was a salesman in a pinstriped suit. It just goes to show the power a narrative can have over your own recollection. LINK

Anonymous said...

tryanmax; I'll be damned! I had no idea. Thanks for that insight. I obviously didn't know that. I still think though, that the reason I reacted to it the way I did was that it fit into the image of aloofness that I already associated with him. However, i appreciate that information. Fakenews for real!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I didn't know that either. Nice to know.

But as with GypsyTyger, by the time that hit, my opinion of him was pretty fixed and this was just minor confirmation to a flood of information, so I didn't bother investigating.

But even more, there was no way to investigate at the time. There was no real internet and nothing of today's magnitude. So when it was reported, the only way to know if it wasn't true would have been for Bush to push back... which he never did.

And to be clear, this wasn't a "Republican thing." Reagan pushed back all the time. Newt pushed back. Most Republicans did. Bush never did... not once. Tell me how the public is supposed to ignore the smears if no one can investigate and Bush won't push back?

tryanmax said...

For sure, the supermarket smear would've never worked if it didn't attach somehow to Bush's persona. But there's something about everyone that can be exploited that way. Andrew is right, the problem is that he just laid down. The obvious move, in my view, is to press back that the reporter wasn't even there. I'm sure even then that could've been determined very quickly.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - I don’t believe Bush destroyed conservatism per se. He never was a conservative. Classic country club Old School Republican. Some would say there is no real difference between that and a moderate Democrat, of course. To me, his presidency was dominated by foreign policy events set in motion by Reagan, e.g. the collapse of the Soviet Union. Also the growing hegemony of Iraq. To me, Bush was much more comfortable in foreign policy, perhaps for the reason you point out. He was one termed due to the inevitable economic cycle. Every president deals with the cards delt. I don’t think he was a bad president, but suffered by comparison to the Gipper ss a communicator

ArgentGale said...

That definitely fills in a lot of the blanks from that time period that I couldn't remember on account of being a kid, Andrew. I remember Bush's popularity after the war and how seemingly everyone deserted him for Clinton not long after that. It does sound like he was a good man in the wrong line of work and unfortunately that had long-lasting negative consequences for Republicans and conservatives. It sounds like we're going to need another Reagan to get things moving in the right direction again but those are in short supply, sadly.

Also, a bit off topic but the Republicans prevailed in the Secretary of State and Public Service Commission runoffs down here in Georgia on Tuesday! The left is whining and projecting about how this means that we don't have a Secretary of State who cares about voting rights, of course. Glad to see they didn't get their way this time!

AndrewPrice said...


"how seemingly everyone deserted him for Clinton"

Make sure you under two things. When the primaries began, the Democrats were called "the Seven Dwarves" because they were all no-names or bit players. The big players all refused to run because of Bush's popularity. Bush's popularity collapsed later because of the budget deal (violation of "read my lips, no new taxes"), a sinking economy, and some fake scandals. Clinton had nothing to do with it. He just got lucky, as would have any of the other candidates.

Secondly, while it seems to be conventional wisdom that Clinton was this popular president, know that he never won a majority of voters. In 1992, he beat Bush 43% to 37%. In 1996, he beat the unlikable Bob Dole 49% to 40%.

ArgentGale said...

Andrew, I understand that now and things also make more sense now that I'm older and have better knowledge of the situation. I was just mentioning how it seemed to nine year old me back then. Either way I hope he's resting well.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Bush was definitely awash in the after-effects of the international changes Reagan made. I always had the sense he was more comfortable there.

AndrewPrice said...

Daniel, I hope so too. Like I said, I think he was a nice man, he just wasn't a good President.

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