With the passing of former President George H.W. Bush, much of the nation has reflected upon his life and accomplishments. It was hard for many of us to not make comparisons between Bush 1 and our present chief executive. The things that pop to mind are deliberative vs impulsive, empathetic vs narcissistic, and truthful vs not so much, to name a few.
I was not a real Bush enthusiast. In 1988, I co-chaired the Bob Dole for President effort in Idaho, along with my dear friend Lydia Justice Edwards, who was then the State Treasurer. When Bush won the nomination, I was certainly behind him.
President Bush made mistakes just like the rest of us (Willie Horton, Clarence Thomas), but all-in-all he conducted himself with honor and dignity. It is impossible for me to envision him cavorting with porn stars, continually uttering falsehoods, stoking unfounded fears, and casting aspersions on our justice system.
A couple of significant differences come to my mind. One of HW’s best performances was his efficient ejection of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in the First Gulf War. After Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, Bush set about forming a 35-country coalition to defeat the Iraqis. It took hard work and meticulous planning. Bush worked with our friends and allies around the world, all of whom trusted and respected our President, and the job got done.
Bush knew that the world order set up by the U.S. after World War II worked to our country’s great advantage and he fostered and maintained mutually beneficial relations with our allies. He knew America could not go it alone in a dangerous world.
Contrast that deliberative approach to our current President’s preference for a seat-of-the-pants approach to foreign policy–essentially making decisions on the spur of the moment and announcing them on Twitter.
For instance, Trump impetuously cancelled the Trans-Pacific Partnership, disheartening our Pacific allies, while handing a great gift to China. That treaty addressed a number of our trade disputes with Canada and Mexico, but was much more—a strategic partnership to strengthen America’s Pacific defenses. The President has also weakened our strategic position in the western hemisphere by continually provoking our NATO partners and European allies, much to the glee of the Russian Federation. It will take coalition efforts to counter China and Russia, but we are creating ill will with our strongest allies.
As a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Bush knew our national security depends upon effective intelligence gathering. He helped the CIA build itself up after troubled times. He would have been appalled by the unrelenting attacks by our current President on that vital agency. The President makes it publicly known that he does not trust the U.S. intelligence establishment on issues related to Saudi Arabia, Russia, and North Korea. Denigration of dedicated agents who routinely place their lives on the line for their country is tremendously harmful to our national security.
When he ran against Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bush correctly labeled the trickle-down economic theory–that tax cuts for the rich and powerful would pay for themselves by increased revenues–as “voodoo economics.” He later backtracked as vice president and then gave his imprudent pledge of no new taxes when he ran for president in 1988. When it turned out during his term that taxes had to be raised, he did the correct, responsible and courageous thing by raising taxes. He was well aware that doing so would possibly doom his reelection chances, but he put the county’s fiscal well-being over his own self-interest.
Last year, my old party and its President readopted the idea of handing a large tax cut to big business and the wealthiest Americans, claiming it would be revenue neutral when they knew it wouldn’t. The result was entirely predictable–no increase in revenues and a deficit for the current fiscal year of over one trillion dollars. President George H.W. Bush correctly called it voodoo.