TL;DR – Don’t let your distaste for Trump justify war crimes.
I can’t believe I have to do this, but apparently some people are forgetting that George W. Bush was single-handedly one of the worst presidents in our nation’s history. And yes, while Donald Trump is awful, he is also nowhere near the travesty of the Bush administration.
Over the weekend, it began to trend on Twitter about neoliberals’ nostalgia for the Bush years, some of the most tumultuous and violent years in our nation’s history. It’s largely because of Bush’s The Call to Unite video, which criticizes Trump’s unity tactics.
The video attempts to tug at heart strings. I don’t know, maybe I’m callused. But it just comes The video attempts to tug at heart strings. I don’t know, maybe I’m callused. But it just comes off as platitudes, and hearing the word “solidarity” come from Bush’s mouth makes my skin crawl. Yet, it seems to have had an emotional impact on some.
It is the type of stuff that is truly brain-melting. It may be easy to forget, but the Bush years were equally as tumultuous to the ones we are currently facing. It may seem like whiplash -coming off of the Obama years, who at the very least put on the semblance of operating with responsibility — to the Trump era, where every day seems like a new crisis.
However, we cannot allow our disgust for the current administration to erase the very real and damaging policies of the Bush years. In many ways, Donald Trump’s administration is identical to to Bush’s. Remove the crassness and impulsiveness, and Trump is just another milquetoast Republican.
That’s because Donald Trump is just an extension of the Republican worldview. He is the natural conclusion of an ideology based on nationalism, xenophobia, and supply-side economics. An ideology Bush helped cement into American politics and the culture at large.
Yet, mainstream liberalism has always favored decorum over concrete policies. And so we must once again revisit Bush and remind that he was indeed awful. I will even argue that, removing decorum from the scenario, George W. Bush is an objectively worse president.
The Big Ones – 9/11 and Iraq
Well, after U.S. Intelligence misjudged the serious threat of Osama Bin Laden, we experienced one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in our history. In the following months and years, Bush and Republicans would abuse the tragedy to enable the War on Terrorism, one of the most disastrous foreign policy the U.S. has ever engaged in. It’s arguably the worst even than our egregious domestic policies.
I won’t mince words. Since the Bush administration began the War on Terror, over 500,000 people have been killed as a result. 268,000–295,000 of them were non-combatants or civilians, mostly in Iraq. These are only conservative numbers. Some estimates put civilian deaths in Iraq closer to one million.
However, these horrible figures are only part of the story. Thanks to the comprehensive military response, the U.S. and the world at large will have to deal with radical terrorism for decades to come. That’s because when you respond with violence, you only worsen the problem. Just look at the way ISIS sprung up as a direct result of the Iraq war.
Not only that, but the Afghan and Iraqi governments are now crippled without U.S. support. Iraq in particular was at least a stable nation, but the war has completely upended the nation, and they have been bereft with civil war ever since. To them, the Bush years are still alive and well, and the choices of his administration will echo for years and decades to come.
This is the legacy neoliberals are romanticizing.
In truth, I could end right here. The Iraq War is a trump card — a sure fire way to end any praising of Bush. But, to be thorough, let’s keep it up.
Bush Wasn’t Divisive, Right?
In the attempt to be fair, some of them aren’t waxing poetic. Some of them do feel that Bush was a better semblance of a leader, and that they miss the days of calming voice instead of Donald Trump’s erratic and derisive egomania. This is mildly valid. That is, if you completely ignore the ways George W. Bush was divisive, and ignore the oppressive policies.
But first, what does it mean to be divisive? To neolibs, it is saying and doing mean things that hurt people’s feelings. However, someone who is truly divisive creates and enforces systems that separate demographics of people and even individuals.
But to that end, Bush was equally as divisive as Trump. If anything, Bush was more divisive. Let’s take a look.
Remember when he supported a constitutional ban on gay marriage? A proposal that, if satisfied, would have likely set the equal rights movement back for decades, if not killed it entirely?
What about climate change?
The Bush administration sought to suppress critical climate change during his tenure in office. Had he not done so, there is a chance we could have made real progress and possibly avoided the effects of climate change we are already experiencing.
Bush wasn’t the first president to lie about climate change. That honor goes to his father. However, the actions of his administration contributed to and solidified a growing anti-science movement that has impeded progress on the issue ever since.
Or consider the ways he went after unions shortly after the election for not backing him? Pretty Trumpian, if you ask me.
The Republican Legacy
I said at the beginning of this post that I would prove Bush was worse than Trump, but that may not even be the point. Trying to weigh his policies and behaviors is better or worse is ultimately a game of petty semantics. The real point is this: the Republican platform is based on destructive polices, and every time we normalize the ideas they become worse.
Is Trump worse than Bush? Maybe in some ways. However, they are both bred from the same toxic ideology. And we will not move forward as a country if we continue to forgive and forget the destructive legacies of the Republican party.