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George H.W. Bush American Statesman

George H.W. Bush’s (1924-2018) “Thousand Points of Light”—Demagogue Donald’s “Thousand Points of “Ego, Darkness, and Chaos” December 3, 2018

Yes, Narcissist -in-Chief, Demagogue Donald will attend the funeral service for George H.W. “Poppy” Bush on 12/05/2018 at Washington National Cathedral. I guess “Mr. Thousand Points of Ego” feels elated that he can now sit in the pews at this service after AZ GOP Sen. John McCain and H.W.’s wife Barbara specifically excluded him from their memorial services. Donald shouldn’t rejoice. The only reason H.W. allowed Trump to attend his funeral is because Poppy was known for his strong sense of New England Yankee propriety. H.W. did not want to break with tradition in which the present Oval Office occupant publicly mourns a former Chief Executive (See, Baker, P., nytimes.com, 12/01/18).

H.W. who died at age 94, on 11/30/2018, less than a year after his beloved spouse Barbara passed, lived a life dedicated to public service. That’s right, public service. From his days as a young WWII naval aviator, Congressman, UN Ambassador, Republican National Committee Chair, CIA head, envoy to China, VP, and President, public service drove H.W. He inherited this belief in public service from his father, former CT GOP Senator Prescott Bush, a fellow who opposed earlier than most one of America’s worst witch-hunting demagogues, GOP Senator Joe McCarthy (See “What It Takes,” Ben Cramer, R., 1992).

Public service is a concept deemed quaint today to far too many people, and, frankly, unknown by Demagogue Donald. As we all know, Donald has nothing but animosity for the Bush family. Donald repeatedly and brutally attacked H.W.’s key policy of creating a “thousand points of light,” volunteerism and public service that shore up our civil society. In 7/2018, at a Great Falls, MT rally, Donald nastily stated, “What the hell was that, by the way, thousand points of light? What did that mean? Does anyone know? I know one thing: Make America great again, we understand. Putting America first, we understand. Thousand points of light. I never quite got that one.” Two months later at a Wheeling, W.VA rally, Donald ranted, “But instead of having 10,000 people outside trying to get into this packed arena, we’d have about 200 people standing right there. O.K.? It’s so easy to be presidential. All I have to do is ‘Thank you very much for being here, ladies and gentlemen. It’s great to see you off—you’re great Americans. Thousand points of light.’ Which nobody has really figured out (Baker, nytimes.com, 12/01/18).” However, in his first statement released in the immediate hours after H.W.’s death, Donald stated, “President (H.W.) Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service—to be, in his words, ‘a thousand points of light’ illuminating the greatness, hope, and opportunity of America to the world (Baker, P., nytimes.com, 12/01/18).” After constantly trashing H.W.’s “a thousand points of light,” Donald suddenly finds this phrase meaningful and praiseworthy. As people would say in Dem. Sen. Leader Chuck Schumer’s Brooklyn about Donald, what “chutzpah (unmitigated gall and hypocrisy)!”

The Bush family was, rightly, never impressed by Trump. In 1988, when Bush was running for President, Donald mentioned his availability as a VP running mate to H.W.’s campaign manager Lee Atwater. Bush never took the idea seriously, deeming it “strange and unbelievable (Meacham, J., “Destiny and Power,” 2015).” Trump, of course, when running for the Presidency in 2016, regularly trashed H.W.’s sons, his opponent Jeb Bush and his brother former President George “W” Bush. H.W. refused to support Donald and voted for Hillary (Baker, nytimes, 12/01/18). Why? In 5/2016, H.W. called Donald a “blowhard.” H.W. rightly stated that Trump was not motivated by public service, but driven by a “certain ego (See nytimes.com, Baker, P., 12/01/18).” H.W. was horrified by Donald’s lack of foreign policy experience and poor knowledge in this key area.

H.W. was also influenced by his mother, Dorothy Walker Bush. She instilled in him humility and the idea of avoiding self-promotion. Dorothy Bush kept telling son H.W., “Nobody likes the big I am, George. Don’t be talking about yourself (Nagourney, A., 11/30/18, nytimes.com).”

Yes, H.W. was a strong GOPer and, as such, I clearly disagreed with many of his policies. These included his laissez-faire economic views and his backing right- wing President Ronald Reagan’s efforts to cut the budget’s safety net for poor and middle-class Americans. When Reagan ushered in a gigantic tax cut, H.W., a Texas oil millionaire, went around waving his wallet arguing that middle class Americans were getting a big break from this cut. Just as with Trump’s tax cut, they were not. When the normal “kindler and gentler” H.W. realized he was losing to Democratic presidential nominee Mass. Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1988, he unleashed, with the help of Roger Ailes and Lee Atwater, a campaign full of racist dog whistles. H.W, under Atwater’s guidance, made Willie Horton Dukakis’s “running mate.” Horton was a black MA prisoner furloughed by Gov. Dukakis. Furloughed Horton escaped to MD where he went on a crime spree that included raping a white woman.

Once elected, however, H.W. dismissed such demagoguery and governed like a gentleman, something Donald doesn’t have the ability to do. H.W. never held long-term political grudges. He had many friends on both sides of the aisle and worked to get legislation passed via compromise. He signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. After saying “Read my lips, no new taxes,” to get elected, he realized that in order to keep the economy from sliding into a severe recession, he would have to raise taxes with the Democrats’ help, and paid a political price for doing just that. He nominated David Souter, a Supreme Court pick who helped save the Roe v. Wade pro-choice case. However, his nomination of rigid right-wing accused sexual harasser Clarence Thomas was a disaster.

Foreign policy was H.W.’s key interest. The last President from WWII’s Greatest Generation, H.W. presided over the peaceful end of the Cold War, without rubbing in Russia’s face the breakaway of its E. European satellite states and the fall of the Berlin Wall. In his Secretary of State Jim Baker’s words, “the Cold War didn’t have to end peacefully. It could have ended with that nuclear bang we feared for forty years (Whipple, “The Gatekeepers,” 2017).” H.W. avoided that calamity. H.W. masterfully led a worldwide coalition to oust Iraqi aggressor Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991’s Operation Desert Storm. Unlike his son W, he realized that going all the way into Baghdad would have been a disaster. Although defeated for a second term by Bill Clinton in 1992 because of a poor economy, H.W. and Clinton later became good friends. They worked on many projects including worldwide disaster relief.

H.W. had the ability to grow and change his mind on issues, unlike Demagogue Donald. When elected to his affluent conservative Houston congressional district in 1966, he was against the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. When LBJ’s Open Housing Bill came before Congress, the “safe” course for him was to oppose it. Instead, he voted in favor of it. He received tons of hate mail and phone calls calling him an “N”-word lover. One letter threatened his family by mentioning his children’s names. Instead of caving, H.W. stated that after having seen black soldiers fighting in Vietnam, “how could he let them come back to a nation where they couldn’t live where they chose. How could he slam a door in a guy’s face, just because he was a Negro or speaks with an accent (Ben Cramer, R., “What It Takes”)?” Can one ever imagine Donald saying or believing this? H.W.’s attitudes on open housing gradually changed the Houston area he lived in. In 11/2018, the TX 7th Congressional District (CD), the descendant of the district that elected H.W. to Congress and was in GOP hands for five decades, went for Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (Barone 14 Almanac, Early Guide 116th Congress).

Reticent H.W. did not like to talk about many of his accomplishments. One of those was getting thousands of Jews out of the Soviet Union, Ethiopia, and even Syria. Ignoring the advice of his national security team in 1991, he was able to rescue 15,000 Ethiopian Jews, getting them to Israel. He convinced then Syrian dictator Hafez Assad to allow Syrian Jewish women to leave for NY where they could be matched with men from Brooklyn’s Syrian Jewish community. H.W. helped orchestrate a dramatic Passover Seder hosted by then Sec. of State George Schultz at Moscow’s American Embassy in 1987 that kept international awareness on the plight of Soviet Jews wanting to emigrate (jta.org, Kampeas, 12/01/18).

Although he tried to keep a “stiff upper lip” in public, his emotion sometimes broke through. Late during his vice-presidential years, he visited a children’s leukemia ward in Krakow, Poland. Thirty-five years before, H.W. and Barbara had lost their first daughter Robin to leukemia. Seeing a child in the Polish hospital sick with that same disease, even though it was then and now often curable, H.W. broke into tears. Barbara Bush credited Poppy with helping her through her loss of Robin and saving their marriage after that tragedy (Ben Cramer, R., “What It Takes,” Meacham, J., “Destiny and Power”).

When H.W. left office, he left a gracious letter to Bill Clinton who had defeated him. H.W. stated he wished Bill’s family well and said, “Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you (CNN, Karimi, 12/01/18).” H.W. sure was no Donald, still crying to “lock up Hillary.” When H.W. met with firebrand Congressmen Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Vin Weber (R-MN) in the spring of 1989, he stated, “I’m worried that sometimes your idealism will get in the way of what I think is sound governance.” Then Cong. Weber understood H.W.’s use of the word “idealism” to mean “extremism” or “partisanship (nytimes.com, Meacham, 12/01/18).” Of course, that’s exactly what happened five years later. H.W. was then back in TX while Gingrich and his radical conservative gang had just taken back the House. IMHO, their “tear down everything” ideology began the road that led to Trumpism.

Again, although we may have disagreed with many of his views, there is no doubt that George Herbert Walker Bush patriotically served his country. In this age of Demagogue Donald, it would be well for us to remember a person who constituted a true American statesman.

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