by Reggie Fullwood
In the old days of politics there existed dinosaurs called “statesmen.” Those dinosaur statesmen certainly played the political game, but there were rules, respect and an overwhelming sense of responsibility and perspective. Despite which side of the aisle you were on – it was about service.
According to Dictionary.com a statesmen is, “A skilled, experienced, and respected political leader or figure.”
Last Friday, we lost President George H.W. Bush or as I like to call him “Daddy Bush” at the age of 94. While I didn’t always agree with his views on various issues, Daddy Bush was truly passionate about this country and served with integrity and dignity.
I hate to make a contrast to our current president, but it’s almost day and night. President Bush was a man that respected the office and showed tremendous deference for his colleagues and his opposition.
It’s no secret that during the 2016 presidential campaign Trump constantly attacked Jeb Bush to the point where it got extremely personal. It’s also no secret that Trump has mocked and criticized the legacies of both Presidents Bush.
The elder Bush, the nation’s 41st president, confirmed in a recent book that he voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, and in that same book he says that Trump is motivated by a “certain ego” instead of public service. While Daddy Bush was a true Republican and subscribed to many of the GOP’s traditional philosophies, he realized the danger of putting yourself over the office of president.
The praise for Daddy Bush has come from leaders on both sides of the political aisle. Barack Obama, the 44th president remembered the 41st as “a humble servant.”
Daddy Bush certainly was no showman like the current president. He never embraced the reality that the presidency is a performance art. Bush the statesman was more into the service aspects of the office and not the personal fulfillment associated with it.
While the Bush legacy is set, it’s certainly not perfect. The one term president made many controversial missteps while in office. The statesman was still a politician and he fully embraced the GOP’s “Southern strategy” of using racism to rally white conservative voters to solidify their strong hold on the south.
Many don’t remember, but Bush was behind the infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad, which blamed his opponent Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis for a murder committed by a black parolee. It’s the exact same strategy that Trump has used in 2016 and 2018 linking racism and crime, which is a tactic used to fire up white conservatives.
As president, Daddy Bush also vetoed a civil rights act that would have prevented discrimination in employment, and a voter registration bill intended to register millions of minority voters. In fairness, it is important to note that some of these moves are purely political and need to be considered in the context of the time period, but vetoing a civil rights bill is just wrong.
And Bush also enthusiastically embraced America’s so-called war on drugs, a policy that had a disastrous and disproportionate impact on minority communities. That is also one of the criticisms that Bill Clinton faces as well.
President Bush’s career was a bit of a roller coaster ride. While he achieved much from his military career to his time in Congress and even in private business, his loss to Clinton in 1992 also defines his career. Think about how his political fortunes turned like a worm. Bush had a landslide victory in 1988 and then sky-high approval ratings in 1991, only to meet crushing defeat the following year.
But Statesman Bush didn’t take defeat lying down – he stayed active and engaged in politics and the community.
One of my favorite Bush moments was when he cheered up a young cancer patient by shaving his own head to match the child’s chemotherapy baldness. Wow. That’s powerful to me – this kid wasn’t a relative, but Bush wanted to show this child that everything would be OK.
George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924, and will be remembered as a man that was a statesman, patriot and unselfish leader.
Signing off from Washington DC,
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