Monday, December 03, 2018

George H.W. Bush's legacy: Willie Horton, Dan Quayle, Clarence Thomas, Iran-Contra

Charles Pierce in Esquire:

...He could have refused to run a race-baiting campaign against Ralph Yarborough in Texas. He didn’t. He could have stood up for old-line Yankee Republicanism against the rising, brainless fanaticism that entered the Republican Party with Barry Goldwater and blossomed rankly through the victories of Ronald Reagan. There is no evidence that he ever did anything of the sort.

He was wise enough in the ways of the world to know that the Iran-Contra “enterprise” was both a criminal act and a completely loony proposition. He actively turned off any attempt at public accountability for it. He could have replaced a giant like Thurgood Marshall with someone other than Clarence Thomas. 

He could have picked someone else besides the puppy, Dan Quayle, to be his vice president. He could have beaten Michael Dukakis without hiring Lee Atwater. (Dukakis’s midsummer lead always was vaporous.) I don’t know what you say about someone who hires out the personal destruction of a political opponent, but “integrity” does not enter into the sentence.

As president, he is credited with bringing the Cold War in for a relatively soft landing and with running Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, both of which carried very little real political risk. 

In 1990, he signed the Americans With Disabilities Act, which had passed the Senate, 91-6, and which had passed the House, 377-28, and thus was approximately as controversial as the annual Easter Egg Roll. 

However, that same year, he vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1990 because some of the prion-infected yelled “Quotas!” at him. And then there was the moment of political cowardice that ultimately ended up being fatal to him, and that made him most complicit in the descent of his political party into irrationality and, ultimately, madness.

You will recall that, in 1980, he’d said the last sensible thing any Republican has said about the snake-oil that is supply-side economics. He called them “voodoo economics,” and he was dead-right. But he signed on as Reagan’s vice president anyway and, by 1988, he was getting up at the Republican National Convention and butching himself up by borrowing an idiotic line from an Arnold Schwarzenegger film: Read my lips. No new taxes!...

Then, in a kind of mad irony, economics circumstances forced him to raise taxes just a little because he had been right about the voodoo all along. All the rising forces in the Republican Party he’d tried to appease by being something he was not, or by outsourcing the work to reptiles like Ailes and Atwater, roared to life against him...

He could have been one of the most powerful voices against the slide of Republicanism into movement conservatism, religious fanaticism, and irrationality in general. Maybe nobody could have stopped it...But he could have tried...

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Thanks to Daily Kos

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