Saturday, December 01, 2018

George H.W. Bush: Moderate Republican?

Start at 12:50

From Daily Kos:

The news this morning is full of praise for George H. W. Bush. He was once right about one thing, before he quit being right about even that.

By 1980, the 56-year-old Bush had been a Congressman, U.N. ambassador under Nixon, chair of the Republican National Committee, and Director of the CIA under Ford—with a few breaks in which he sat on the board of banks and ‘institutes’ always ready to give a Republican politician a soft landing outside of D.C. 

He decided to run for president years in advance and carefully attended every possible event to lay the groundwork, expecting to simply out-hustle his main rivals in the traditional wing of the party, including Howard Baker, Bob Dole, and John Anderson. 

When it came to upstart Ronald Reagan, Bush regarded him as a dangerous outsider to the party. Reagan campaigned on a platform of racism, talking about imaginary “welfare queens” who deliberately had more children so they could use the money provided them by hard-working Americans to buy a Cadillac. 

Reagan derided government not just as part of the problem, but the source of the problem, promising to slash regulations and run America “like a business.” He blasted environmental concerns, denied that acid rain was a problem, scoffed at efforts by Jimmy Carter to encourage conservation, threatened to destroy the Environmental Protection Agency, and promised to open public lands to more drilling. 

And Reagan ran on a radical new economic policy, one that said if only America would do more to reward rich people the money would “trickle down” to the poor. He promised that his policy would generate so much money that he would within a year produce the first balanced budget since 1969.

It was on the economics issue in particular that Bush stood up to Reagan. He declared the Laffer Curve — the napkin scrawl on which so-called supply-side economics was founded — to be a joke. He said flatly that the proposal to cut taxes for those at the top as a means of promoting the economy “will not work.” Most notably, he re-labeled Reagan’s mystical promise that allowing the wealthy to pay less in taxes would actually generate greater revenue “voodoo economics.”

...Bush won five more primaries, but the southern states were solid for Reagan racism. He had, after all, run not just on a platform of kicking lazy blacks off of welfare but “restoring” an American vision with racism at its core. 

Reagan would go on to open his general campaign by appearing in Neshoba County, Mississippi, site of the infamous murder of civil rights activists and a deadly church bombing by the KKK, to state flatly “I believe in states’ rights.”

By May Bush was so far behind that he dropped out, surrendering the race to Reagan. And that was the end of his career as a “moderate Republican.” Because in July, Reagan selected George H. W. Bush as his vice-president.

With that the man who had coined “voodoo economics” became a supply side adherent. The man who had run on ratifying the ERA, became an opponent. And on the racism, well, Bush had never really fought that in the first place...

"The new civil rights act was passed to protect 14% of the people. I'm also worried about the other 86%." — George H. W. Bush, explaining why he voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964

That vote was just one of several where Bush followed other Republicans down the road that had been laid out for them to capture the South through supporting white supremacy. Bush campaigned for Congress in both 1964 and 1966 with opposition to the Civil Rights Act—and particularly the public accommodations regulations that would allow African Americans to eat at the same restaurants and sleep in the same hotels as whites—as the centerpiece of his campaign.

And if Bush claimed to support the Equal Rights Amendment, it didn’t keep him from being incredibly condescending to Democratic candidate Geraldine Ferraro when they met in debate before the 1984 election. 

Though Ferraro kept her cool and answered questions with confidence, Bush was dismissive toward her throughout the evening, and ended the event by declaring “I tried to kick a little ass.” Following the event, the campaign provided “We kicked a little ass” buttons to commemorate the event.

Anyone thinking that maybe it was just the pressure of running for Congress in Texas, or the responsibility of supporting Reagan’s agenda that kept Bush from expressing more equitable positions, got disabused of that notion in 1990, when then-President George H. W. Bush vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1990. 

That bill would have set clear standards by which litigants could sue over both racial and sexual discrimination. It had been passed following a series of Supreme Court decisions in which Reagan-appointed justices whittled away at the protections of the 1964 law. The one that Bush had voted against. The 1990 bill passed the Senate with 65 votes, including the votes of 10 Republicans, but following Bush’ veto it never became law.

People for the American Way accused Bush of trying to please “Jesse Helms, David Duke and their followers in the ultra-right-wing of the Republican Party." And there’s no doubt that he did.

George H. W. Bush wasn’t Donald Trump. But he was all too much like the rest of the Republican Party in the presence of Donald Trump. Bush knew better. He knew that supply-side economics was “voodoo,” but he supported it anyway because votes. 

He knew that women were the victim of sexism and oppression, but he threw away his support for the ERA and joined the old boys club when he thought it was the right political move. 

And on racism, Bush had a long, sorry history of fighting against civil rights. Rather than lionize Bush, let’s hear from a lion: 

“He is more interested in appeasing extremists in his party than in providing simple justice for working Americans.” — Ted Kennedy

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home