December 4, 2018

Remembering Bush 41

Former President George H.W. Bush died late Friday at his Houston home at age 94.

AP News

Both sides praise his foreign policy successes:

“Bush’s historic contribution was to use personal diplomacy to navigate the demise of the Warsaw Pact, the reunification of Germany, and the breakup of the Soviet Union... Reagan’s boldness and ideological conviction won the long twilight struggle, but Bush’s cautious temperament and long experience helped to negotiate a transition without firing a shot. Few empires in history have fallen in such peaceful fashion.”

Wall Street Journal

“He [also] gets high marks for the first Persian Gulf War, fought in 1991 after Iraq invaded Kuwait... His foreign policy team of Baker, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft was the best functioning in modern history. This was a culmination of decades of preparation by Bush to become a foreign policy president, starting when he was a naval pilot in World War II.”


Bush not only understood diplomacy, he reveled in it. Time and again, leaders from that era recall that it was George Bush’s personal contacts and his skill in using them which made success possible... [He] made history, not with vision, rather almost by instinct. Bush translated Reagan’s visions into a series of historic achievements that are still guiding events in the Western world, China and the Middle East.”


Both sides also praise his civility:

Former President Bill Clinton writes, “Given what politics looks like in America and around the world today, it’s easy to sigh and say George H.W. Bush belonged to an era that is gone and never coming back — where our opponents are not our enemies, where we are open to different ideas and changing our minds, where facts matter and where our devotion to our children’s future leads to honest compromise and shared progress. I know what he would say: ‘Nonsense. It’s your duty to get that America back.’”

Washington Post

“Bush fought hard on politics, but he tried not to let those fights define his relations with his adversaries... this man who dedicated his life to public service through the government knew that government wasn’t the heart of America. This politician knew that politics was a high calling, but it wasn’t the highest one. That's a lesson we need today.”

Washington Examiner

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The left is critical of Trump’s negotiating tactics, and argues that this deal will not solve the underlying problems with the immigration system.

“A Times editorial after his defeat called Mr. Bush ‘an incomplete president’ — good at some things but clumsy at others. Fate had dealt him one of the strongest hands in foreign affairs ever awarded a new president, and for the most part he played that hand cleverly and energetically. But when it came time to rescue a depressed nation, he had little to offer...

“Perhaps, in a second term, Mr. Bush might have found a clearer sense of direction on domestic issues. We will never know. But if he is measured by his leadership and choices on the global stage, historians will almost certainly treat him more kindly than the voters did in 1992.”

New York Times

Many look back on his presidency fondly, noting that “his empathy emerged in small, forgotten moments and in dramatic ones, too. As a congressman from Texas, Bush voted for the Fair Housing Act in 1968, essentially reversing his earlier position on civil rights. He suffered through boos at a rally back home but insisted that ‘a man should not have a door slammed in his face because he is a Negro or speaks with a Latin American accent’...

“After the 9/11 attacks, his first thoughts were for his son in the White House, but ‘a second immediate thought,’ he wrote in a letter the next day, ‘was that Muslims in this country were going to be abused.’”

Washington Post

Others, however, posit that “we’re seeing media pundits, advocates and popular historians promote a rosy view of his tenure as president.”

Huffington Post

“There has been much less talk... about Bush’s complicated political legacy, which includes, among so many other things, his veto of 1990’s Civil Rights Act... the infamous, dog-whistling ad condemning William Horton, and his handling of the aids epidemic... Power, in its soft folds and hard edges, is difficult to discuss in sound bites. Legacies are difficult to tie up with tidy conclusions.”

The Atlantic

The political calendar and Trump's approach could give grounds for optimism. Kim, who has presided over a limited form of economic development inside North Korea, is under pressure to deliver improvements in the lives of his people… So he has an incentive to try to seek economic benefits or aid from the United States and wants punishing economic sanctions lifted — a potential opening for US negotiators… Kim must realize that his chances of basking in this kind of legitimacy with a US President other than Trump are slim. So if he fears Trump could lose in 2020, he may reason the time may be ripe for a deal. And Trump wants nothing more than a big diplomatic breakthrough months before the election.”
Stephen Collinson, CNN

Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

From the Right

From the Right

Bush enjoyed “success in every role. The world was throwing life-and-death challenges at him before he turned 18 and kept it up for the better part of 50 years, adding more weight to them occasionally, and he shouldered all of it. People who achieve great success tend to develop character deficiencies in pursuit of it, sometimes glaring, like ruthlessness or cruelty to enemies, sometimes more mundane, like family neglect. Bush somehow avoided that.”

Hot Air

“Bush, and many others of his cohort of New England gentlemen, had their own kind of privilege theory, so many years ago. He knew that he had been gifted incredible wealth and advantages, but that was not the privilege. The privilege was the opportunity that these advantages gave him to serve his community and country... His generation’s sense of noblesse oblige is something to be admired, not mocked.”

The Federalist

“In sharp contrast to the ‘not my president’ mantra of the current left-leaning Resistance, George H.W. Bush considered each commander-in-chief to be ‘our president.’ By choosing to invite the current president (one who has mocked him in the past) to his funeral, Bush displayed a consistency that was a hallmark of his extraordinary life. His devotion to country, despite personal differences, served as a guide through the political mire.”

Washington Examiner

“It is hard to imagine Bush on the debate stages of 2016, or those that loom in 2020. It was a different era. And those who could not believe the country did not reelect the sagacious and gentle man in 1992 wonder about the national road not taken. We were blessed to have had him in public service for all those years, and we would be much better off as a nation had we re-upped for four more years. How much would be different today.”

Washington Post

“We should remember that getting reelected is not a necessary condition for being a good president. Sometimes we the people are so ‘itchy’ for a change that we fail to reelect a president who was in fact very good at his job. That was the case with George H. W. Bush.”

National Review

“If Joe Biden can win his way through the primaries, he’s almost lab-engineered to beat Trump. He doesn’t cause Republican panic, he has the potential to connect with white working-class voters in a way that Hillary couldn’t in 2016, and he has a potential to connect better with black voters than Hillary did… if Biden emerges from [this] crucible, Trump will face a very different challenge than he faced in 2016.”
David French, National Review

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“The fans who avidly followed the men’s tournament certainly weren’t doing anything wrong. And it’s hard to argue that each of them had a moral obligation to be exactly as interested in women’s soccer. Even if we could stop them from watching the men more than the women, should we?…

“It’s tempting to answer that the fan choices aren’t innocent, they’re sexist. But since we can’t peek into their hearts, to say that definitively, we’d have to assume that men’s greater speed, strength and endurance definitely make nodifference to the sport’s quality. Fair enough, but then why do fans prefer to watch Megan Rapinoe play instead of the sedentary elderly who could presumably use some exercise? Alternatively, maybe pay should be equalized precisely because biology is unfair. But that seems to be an argument for curbing the pay of all top-level athletes, who have to hit the genetic lottery just to get on the field. It might be easier to focus on the distributions across society at large, rather than every individual industry, especially when fundamental biology is in play.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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