I never met Barbara Bush who died last week at age 92. I did talk to her when she was a calling guest to a program I was doing for Fox. She watched the show frequently and knew full well that I was a liberal, but she could not have been more gracious. She talked passionately about the current polarization, a plague that has gripped Washington politics for 30 years since her husband George H.W. Bush left the White House In 1992.
She was disgusted with the level of discourse that had taken over politics, and could not understand why the two political parties could not find common ground on the many issues that were hurting the country. Barbara and George Bush were part of the Silent Generation, the men and women who had fought in World War II and saw America move into prosperity unmatched by any other country in the world. The Bush’s were from similar backgrounds. Both came from wealthy families, she went to Ashley Hall, a boarding school in Charleston, and he went to Andover where they met one another. The nonpartisan social causes she worked for — literacy and volunteerism — stemmed from the tradition of noblesse oblige that was part of her moneyed heritage. Her dedication to philanthropic work was also rooted in personal tragedy.
George H.W. Bush’s father was a US Senator from Conn and the son followed him into politics and became a congressman from Houston, Texas. He went on to be the Director of the CIA, Chairman of the RNC, Vice President of United States, UN Ambassador, and then in 1988 was elected president. Bush was fortunate to serve at a time when both the House and the Senate had a large number of moderate Republicans; people like Howard Baker, Jake Javits of New York and Everett Dirksen of Illinois. These were men who came to politics with a commitment to do the right thing and felt strongly about swearing on the constitution to do their duty. I was fortunate to have worked with most of these men in the 1970s when I was serving in the White House. With the help of these moderate Republicans, we passed the politically electric Panama Canal Treaties in 1978. But by ‘78 the Republican Party was already turning to the right. Barry Goldwater of Arizona was still in the Senate. After losses in the ’60 election and his defeat in ‘64, conservatism began to make a comeback especially in the West and South. The Bushes opened The White House to members of both parties, liberals and conservatives, even those who opposed Bush on the floors of the House and Senate. They understood politics and accepted adversaries and supporters alike.
This tradition carried forward with the Clintons, GW Bush, and the Obama’s especially. Then came Donald Trump who didn’t understand the concept of graciousness, who saw his opponents as people to be mauled and bullied. Dinners and meetings were never about civility, but were always transactional. He cut deals with the Democrats then promptly went back on his word. Trump treated his staff like a thug, firing them or forcing them out. Those left behind were the equivalent of mob bosses and organized muscle men. Trump lies on a daily basis. One newspaper has kept track of these lies and has them north of 3000 already. He has achieved nothing of substance in foreign-policy because he simply doesn’t understand foreign-policy. Trump is simply a hard edged New Yorker from Queens who got his start with his daddy‘s money, who by the way redlined his buildings so that minorities could not rent. He drove two casinos in Atlantic City in the bankruptcy. He built a few good buildings it on many refused to pay the full amount he owed his subcontractors.
He used illegal immigrants to work on those buildings, and is now prepared to send 1.5 million young immigrants who came to America as very young children back to countries rife with murder and civil wars.
Have heart. Trump and his gang of thugs will be gone, I believe sooner than later. Then the American people can be proud again of the Presidents house. The trash will be gone and class will return.