Earlier this week, President George W. Bush gave a speech in which he rebuked what is now being called “Trumpism.”
What was most striking about the speech was that he didn’t use President Donald Trump’s name while condemning his actions. Bush has stayed out of politics for the most part, famously taking up painting as a hobby and releasing a book of those paintings. He didn’t criticize President Barack Obama during his administration, and he didn’t criticize Trump as he lit the Republican Party as we know it on fire.
In the speech, Bush said, “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seem more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrications,” a seeming nod to the “fake news” culture we find ourselves drowning in. The anti-Trump sentiment became clearer as Bush went on to condemn white supremacism when the president would do so loosely.
“It means that bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means the very identity of our nation depends on the passing along civic ideals,” Bush said.
Bush’s indirect criticism of Trump is admirable, though in a way it would be more admirable had he mentioned the current administration specifically, but any Republican with a spine will do at this point.
Since Bush left office, his approval ratings have gone up. He’s gone from war criminal to affable goof in just a few short years. His approval rating sits at 59 percent, according to Gallup, a far cry from his 34 percent in 2009 when he officially left office. Retirement popularity is common for former presidents, and as they leave office, the approval ratings tend to skyrocket. Simply look at former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Barack Obama. These four men are still some of the most popular political figures in the country in retirement, even though each of them had major shortcomings in office. We always forget the bad things and focus on the positive. That is usually a good thing to do, but in Bush’s case, we cannot normalize a man who started a war based on blatant lies to the American people and committed human rights atrocities.
The Bush administration’s inhumane treatment of those they suspected of being terrorists as a part of Bush’s incredibly broad “War on Terror” cannot be forgotten. A piece by Charles P. Pierce in Esquire reports a single instance of treatment of an engineer in Iraq that had his fingernails removed with pliers, another was attached to wires and electrocuted as he hung from the ceiling. The horrors of this torture program are not limited to the above incidents, and though we do not have specifics of every single instance, the overall sense of inhumanity that these people and so many others were treated with remains disgusting.
The single-minded goal of hunting down Saddam Hussein (who had nothing to do with 9/11, though this is how it was sold to the American people) led to further destabilization of the Middle East in Afghanistan and Iraq, leaving millions dead. A 2015 Physicians for Social Responsibility report estimates that more than 2 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan from results of the War on Terror. This is a human rights violation of the highest degree, and Bush cannot be allowed to re-enter the spotlight as the “aw shucks” guy you’d love to have a drink with.
Condemning Trump is the right move, but we cannot forget the lives the Bush administration ruined both domestically and abroad.