Former U.S. President George W. Bush speaks at a forum sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute in New York, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
George W. Bush’s presidency is an interesting period to reflect back on. By a certain sect of Republicans, Bush is held up as a good man that did the best he could in a difficult time. There’s some truth to that characterization in so far as the challenges after 9/11 were real.
As time has passed though, Republicans at large have taken a more critical eye at his myriad of missteps, not just on foreign policy (the ramifications of which we are still suffering today), but also in his inability to accomplish much of anything for the conservative cause in his eight years. When one thinks of his “signature” achievements, the mind is more likely to go to his expansion of Medicare than any conservative victory. Is John Roberts as the new swing vote on the Supreme Court really a decisive win at this point?
But perhaps the thing that bothered some Republicans the most was all the wasted political capital. For eight long years, Republicans rallied around Bush and his failures, supporting him even when he wouldn’t speak out to support himself. He was given the benefit of the doubt when he probably didn’t deserve it. In the end, he left the party in shambles, ushering in the era of Barack Obama.
Despite all the defenses expended on his behalf, Bush couldn’t be bothered to return the favor. He spent most of his post-presidency palling around with Bill Clinton and painting pictures. He refused to speak out as the Middle East and North Africa burned the ground. This left many Republicans disillusioned. Where was the reciprocity for all those years of support?
Apparently, Bush has found his tongue again though, because he’s speaking out against Trump’s pull out of Syria in a comment that can only be described as facepalm-worthy.
George W Bush takes a direct shot at Trump: “An isolationist United States is destabilizing around the world. We are becoming isolationist and that’s dangerous for the sake of peace.”
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) October 16, 2019
After nearly a decade of refusing to say a cross word about Obama’s policies, the moment Trump steps out of line and becomes too “isolationist,” he’s ready to talk again. It’s this kind of thing that produces so much of the angst from mainline Republicans toward the establishment figures in their party.
We’ve seen this same thing with Mitt Romney. When Republicans needed voices to speak against Obama, Romney was nowhere to be found. When it’s Trump and it may benefit him personally, he’s ready to talk again though. It’s opportunism at its worst and it makes Republicans feel like their own leaders don’t have their back. In short, it’s how you got Trump.
The easiest thing in the world to do right now is criticize Donald Trump. There’s no bravery in that. It’d have been much more impressive had they been willing to withstand the onslaught that would come by criticizing Obama when Republicans needed their voices.
Further, the topic in question is something Bush should sit out for the rest of his life. His track record on the Middle East simply does not lend him the credibly to speak on the issue any longer. It’d be like Donald Trump criticizing someone for having an affair. It just doesn’t make sense.
I’ll end emphasizing that when the Obama administration propagated a civil war that led to 500,000 dead people, Bush didn’t speak up. When Ben Rhodes helped orchestrate the disastrous Arab Spring, Bush had nothing to say. When ISIS formed in the rubble of it all, Bush had more pictures to paint. But now, all of a sudden, he finds his voice to go after a fellow Republican president? Come on.
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