A couple years into the existence of the Tea Party, I started to wonder where George W. Bush was. In my naiveté, I thought that any minute, he would emerge from his post-presidential slumber and come out in support of this grassroots real-America movement that was finally, finally taking hold against the odds. After all, Bush was no longer president, so what did he have to lose? Especially since there was no love lost between him and his detractors anyway—and wealth he had already, so no big deal if it costs him some speaking gigs.
To me it was a puzzling silence; I’d stubbornly believed that, despite the big-government stuff he’d signed (surely only because of congressional blackmail!), the man had been in earnest: someone who loved this country and searched his soul before making any decision (as he had when he came up with his impressively complex embryonic stem-cell compromise, or when instead of courting Yasser Arafat—who under Clinton made more visits to the White House than Monica Lewinsky–he essentially told him, “Give me a call when you stop being a terrorist”).
If Bush didn’t prosecute the Clintons—many speculated he would—it’s because Democrats threatened to block all his initiatives; if Saudi royals were airlifted out of the country upon 9/11, it had to be because they weren’t involved; if he said Islam was a religion of peace, it’s because he was using power of suggestion; if he sent troops into Iraq, then that’s what needed to be done—and of course the body bags kept him up at night. (Besides, didn’t everyone used to say, “Bush Sr.’s mistake was not finishing the job”?) I even bought the “Mission Accomplished” doll.
For, this man—seemingly the opposite of a Clinton and even an apple that fell a little way’s from the Bush–would never put politics, money, or saving his own skin above country. In my estimation, he wasn’t just another Washingtonian plunderer, even if the family he came from was.
But he turned out to be a club kid after all. The Republican club. The Washington club. And more darkly, the Clinton club. Though I still believe George W. Bush of 2000 did try to be a departure from what he was brought up in, at some point after reelection he threw his arms up and plunged head-first into the Establishment abyss, by 2006 bringing much of the Clinton cadre into consultancy; by 2008 hoping for a Clinton victory; and by 2013 showing his paintings to Mama Clinton for approval.
Now, many have tried to crack the enigma of the “unlikely” Bush-Clinton friendship, a façade the elder Bush maintained even as Bill said his son “embarrassed the country.” Short of the obvious, cynical answer—that the two families are flip sides of the same corrupt coin (plus have dirt on each other)—the Bubba-Dubya dynamic reminded me of certain high-school friendships, in which you can tell that one friend is sort of the boss and the other just goes along. While the bossy friend freely dumps on the pushover one and boasts how he’s better at everything than the twerpy friend who can’t do anything right, the bully pal knows he can count on the wimpy buddy to get him out of trouble if called upon. Whereas if the less popular latter were to get in trouble or in jail or impeached, the jock pal would be laughing it up over beers with his cooler friends.
One would think that, no longer needing the friendship charade (and a charade it must be, or the Bushes would have been at Bill’s star-studded, simulcast 65th birthday bash in 2011), Bush would—after getting over the Donald-Jeb spat—offer some “I was that guy” moral support to a president dealing with the kind of undeserved vitriol he himself knows all too well.
But instead of using his post-political freedom to admonish his erstwhile abusers who’ve moved on to abuse the next guy, Bush—perhaps unwilling to sacrifice his establishment and dynastic creds—became one of them; victim becomes abuser.
The first rumblings were at Trump’s inauguration, when Bush’s take to the cool kids among whom he sat was, “That was some weird s—”; then in March, when Trump and the press were at it again, Dubya gave a basic lecture on the importance of media, as if even he can’t make the distinction between the media in theory, and the occupied media in practice (a free press isn’t free if it’s enslaved by ideology); and in August, father and son issued a virtue-signaling joint statement after the Charlottesville clashes.
But Bush’s speech in New York last week—in which he regurgitated the kind of mainstream feel-good pabulum that comes from our “Free to Be You and Me” Democrats–was a consummation of his embrace of everything that was used against him. As usual for this era, race and Russia figured prominently when he recited, “People from every race, religion, ethnicity can be full and equally American…bigotry and white supremacy, in any form, is blasphemy against the American creed…” He went on to channel Hillary and “the intelligence community” when he said, “The Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other” with its “attacks on our democracy.”(No chance Russia was exposing just how hijacked our democracy really is so that we might vote accordingly.) He also said Russian cyberattacks amounted to a “sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions,” and that Russia’s true aim was to sow “doubt in our political institutions.”
I didn’t know whom to give the award for Best Student of 2016 DNC Talking Points—George Bush, or Eminem.
Little wonder that the ultimate political hybrid, John “Putin-is-a-bigger-threat-than-ISIS” McCain, tweeted praise for the “important” speech by “my friend” George W. Bush, whom McCain spent eight years sabotaging at every turn. As Steve Bannon tweeted, “George Bush learned from John McCain that he better start bashing Republicans if he wants the media to forgive him for his sins.”
Like Trump, George Bush Jr. and Sr. too presided over a divided country, but now they join the unification against the current victim in the White House. Because they’re part of the Machine. I once thought the Force was strong with young Walker, but now I have to ask: How long has he been working for the Dark Side?
Views expressed in op-eds are not the views of The Daily Caller.