This Is What We're Up Against

On Twitter, Ariel Edwards-Levy notes that in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll [pdf], Democrats now have a 51/42 favorable view of George W. Bush, including 54 percent of 2016 Hillary Clinton voters.

That is one of the most depressing things I've ever seen.

The Republican Party has been working hard to rehabilitate George W. Bush for nearly a decade, and I'm truly morose and furious that so many liberals have fallen for their codswallop.

In March, I recalled Bush's presidency thus:
Despite the suddenly fashionable nostalgia for Bush, his presidency was a ceaseless nightmare. He was not the harmless goof with some objectionable policies here and there as which he's being remembered. He was then the Platonic Ideal of Modern Conservatism—a corporate shill with the demeanor of a country bumpkin, who could hold together the unholy alliance between Big Money and Big Religion.

And with a Republican Congressional majority and a never-ending stream of media mouthpieces willing to demonize anyone who dared to dissent, he tumbled headfirst into fulfilling every last one of the conservatives' wishes, like a malevolent genie pulled out of a bottle in oil-soaked Texas.

He was tasked with building conservatives' very own El Dorado, and, by the time Bush left office, there were more than twice as many billionaires in America as when the Supreme Court escorted him in, while the country experienced widespread unemployment, bankruptcy, foreclosure, and food insecurity. We saw towers fall because of his incompetence, and we went to war on two fronts. Thousands of Americans died; tens of thousands of soldiers came back injured; millions of Iraqis were killed, wounded, or permanently displaced. We watched an entire American city drown; saw those for whom conservatives have the greatest contempt turn to their government for help in a time of crisis and quite literally be left stranded.

Bush took this nation to war on false premises; played class warfare with gilded tax cuts; vengefully outed one of our own spies; played vicious wedge issue politics; demonized immigrants, people of color, LGTBQ folks, women, atheists, and liberals; enacted harmful educational and environmental policy; defunded social programs to fund defense; nominated appalling Supreme Court justices; promoted avarice above social conscience; relegated philanthropy and empathy to little more than cute, clichéd memories; held in contempt compassion for those in need; delighted in ignorance; reveled in xenophobic nationalism; pillaged natural resources in the acquisition of private wealth; sold the rights and privacy of We the People piece-by-piece in massive government-underwritten giveaways to Big Pharma and Big Energy and Big Agriculture; wrote more than 1,000 signing statements and used countless National Security Letters to undermine the rule of law; cast aside habeas corpus like day-old bread; treated the Geneva Conventions and our Constitution like suggestions.

All while calling people who disagreed America-haters; telling us that if we weren't with him, we were with the nation's enemies. His supporters wrapped themselves in the flag and declared themselves the True Patriots, the "Real Americans," so it was all but impossible for dissenters to express their abhorrence of conservative policy without seemingly attacking America itself—thus making it that much easier for a conservative president to turn America into a place the people they called the "America-haters" really, genuinely risked hating, by ridding it of everything that we love.

Does that sound familiar? It should.
The fact is this: There wouldn't be a Donald Trump presidency without a George W. Bush presidency.

And further to that, the Russia Reversal that is suddenly bearing down on Hillary Clinton wouldn't have been possible without a George W. Bush presidency.

Because you can't jail someone on optics alone, but the case for treason is actually largely one of optics.

And that's where the Bush administration's groundwork for this moment was perhaps most critical. Normalizing the idea that one's "gut" is the best way to determine if something is correct, and normalizing, in tandem, the idea that policy which makes us "feel" safe is just as good if not better than policy that effectively keeps us safe.

In their guts, the deplorables know Hillary is guilty of something. It just feels better to rendition out of public view anyone who doesn't want to get on board with Making America Great Again.

With us or against us. You can thank George W. Bush for that one, too.

Bush can give all the speeches he wants, getting credit for criticizing Donald Trump despite never even saying his name. But if anyone imagines that Bush is primarily motivated by genuine objections to Trump's authoritarian bid, they don't remember his own presidency very well — and don't understand how easily he can slide into rank hypocrisy he can rest assured will be greeted as wisdom, thanks to our habit of institutional forgetting.

Bush launched a war in Iraq to get vengeance on Saddam Hussein for disrespecting his father. And now he's launching jeremiads against Trump for disrespecting his brother Jeb.

That doesn't make Bush a hero. It makes him the petty little tyrant he always was.

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