November 01, 2004


The Brain is channelling Nordlinger on Reagan, on how he's loved now, sure, because he's dead. But back in the day, would Axis Sully have supported him in, say, 1984? No.

Which leads to perhaps the most bizarre of all endorsements of Kerry that comes from the twisted mind of Thomas Friedman. Vote for Kerry, see, because he's the true heir to.....wait for it.....wait for it......George H. Bush.

The more I look back on the elder Bush - Bush 41 - the more I find things to admire and the more I see attributes we need in our next president.

You know, someone's going to write a book in about ten years or so which will be a comparative biography of the Bushes and the Adamses---the only father/son teams to be president. I have a sense, based on Friedman's piece, that George H. Bush's reputation is going to undergo a renaissance much like that John Adams' has undergone recently, thanks primarily to David McCulloch's masterful haigiography. What remains to be written tomorrow is whether the Bushes will follow true to form of the Adamses: will the son win reelection after losing the popular vote in controversially decided election? Fair enough analogy.

Let's start with domestic policy. The elder George Bush was the real uniter, not divider, the real believer in a kinder, gentler political dialogue. Yes, he had a Democratic Congress to deal with, so he had to be more conciliatory, but it came naturally to him. In 1990, the elder Bush sided with Congressional Democrats to raise taxes, because he knew it was the right thing for the economy, despite his famous "Read my lips" pledge not to raise new taxes. While that 1990 tax increase contributed to his re-election defeat, it laid the foundation for the Clinton tax increases, which, together with Mr. Bush's, helped to hold down interest rates and spur our tremendous growth in the 1990's and the buildup of a huge surplus.

And what exactly did that get him? To be derided in the last week of the campaign by Bill Clinton for running an unethical administration.

And who exactly is responsible for rehabilitating Pat Buchanan? When the hell did the dinosaur media decide to let him back in to sit at the grownup table of pundits?

On foreign policy, the elder Bush maintained a healthy balance between realism and idealism, unilateralism and multilateralism, American strength and American diplomacy. He believed that international institutions like the U.N. could be force multipliers of U.S. power. Rather than rubbing Mikhail Gorbachev's nose in the dirt, the elder Bush treated him with respect, and in doing so helped to orchestrate the collapse of the Soviet Union, the liberation of Eastern Europe and the reunification of Germany without the firing of a single shot. The nonviolent unraveling of the Soviet Empire ushered in a decade of prosperity and an era of unprecedented American power and popularity.

The alliance that Mr. Bush, Brent Scowcroft and James A. Baker III built to drive Saddam out of Kuwait had so many allies it virtually turned a profit for America. Mr. Bush chose not to invade Baghdad in 1991. Right or wrong, he felt that had he tried, he would have lost the coalition he had built up to evict Saddam from Kuwait. He obviously believed that the U.S. should never invade an Arab capital without a coalition that contained countries whose support mattered in that part of the world, such as France, Egypt, Syria or Saudi Arabia.

The elder Bush rightly understood that it was not in Israel's interest, or that of the U.S., for Israel to be expanding settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The Madrid peace conference convened by the elder Bush paved the way for both the Oslo peace process and the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, which ended Israel's diplomatic isolation with countries like India and China. It was also the elder Bush who laid the groundwork for the Nafta free-trade accord, completed by President Bill Clinton.

You know, reading this, you can practically see Bill's glasses steam over. That's right: Bill Clinton's foreign policy successes a result of George H. Bush's spadework.

In short, the elder Bush understood the importance of acting in the world - but acting wisely, with competence and preparation. His great weakness was his public diplomacy. He wrongly antagonized American Jews by challenging their right to lobby on behalf of Israel. He could have given more voice to the amazing liberation of humanity that the collapse of the Soviet Union represented and to the American anger over the Tiananmen Square massacre. Although, in his muted response to Tiananmen, the elder Bush kept China-U.S. relations from going totally off the rails, which kept China on a track to economic reform. Although he raised taxes, he never really explained himself. So his instincts were good, his mechanics were often flawless, but his words and music left you frustrated. Still, the legacy is a substantial one. Over time, historians will treat the elder Bush with respect.

That's right, we lost out on his expertise in guiding American foreign policy in those critical lost years of the early mid 1990s because the press thought it was more important to focus on 1.) the fake story that he had never seen a supermarket checkout scanner; B.) Bill Clinton could recite the price of milk in every state; III.) George H. Bush looked at his watch in the "town hall" debate.

So as we approach this critical election of 2004, my advice, dear readers, is this: Vote for the candidate who embodies the ethos of George H. W. Bush - the old guy. Vote for the man who you think would have the same gut feel for nurturing allies and restoring bipartisanship to foreign policy as him. Vote for the man you think understands the importance of facing up to our fiscal responsibilities for the sake of our children. And vote for the man who has the best instincts for balancing realism and idealism and the man who understands the necessity of using energetic U.S. diplomacy to make Israel more secure - by helping to bring it peace with its Arab neighbors, not just more tours from American Christian fundamentalists.

Yes, next Tuesday, vote for the real political heir to George H. W. Bush. I'm sure you know who that is.

That's right, support Kerry.....because he's more like George H. Bush? I mean, after all, he's the one who cites Reagan more than any other president as a definitive influence, right?

Posted by Steve at November 1, 2004 10:43 PM | TrackBack
Post a comment

Remember personal info?