Former President George W. Bush critiqued current President Donald J. Trump and liberals are just loving it. The Trump administration is basically operating as the Freudian id of Bush / Cheney’s neoconservative agenda. Apparently, the fact he was an infinitesimal, near-meaningless iota less terrible than Trump is all W. needs to wag a finger and get people to listen these days. It’s become trendy to refer to Trump as a totally unprecedented phenomenon. “Don’t normalize him,” we’re told regularly. Well, sorry, but you can thank Bush—and fine, Obama too—for doing most of the normalizing groundwork before Trump even surfaced as a political figure. The Bush years prove Trump is hardly aberrant in his abhorrence.
His Royal Orangeness is a dime-store Dubya, living proof the marketing for heinous ideologies can always get worse. Gone are all the lip service platitudes about being at war with terrorism and not Islam, the fallacious aura of “compassionate conservatism” and the dopey lovableness even number 43’s most voracious critics have to admit he possessed. Trump is all the idiocy and immorality without any of the gift wrapping.
But let’s not have any illusions about this, there was hardly any gift wrapping anyway.
Bush and his cronies lied about why they needed to go into Iraq at least 935 times. Saddam Hussein, the secular Ba’athist autocrat, didn’t have connections to al-Qaeda and he didn’t have WMDs. The Pentagon confirmed this after the fact but it was already in dispute before the war. It didn’t stop President Bush from regularly using it as a talking point during the war and it doesn’t stop Dick Cheney, bless his cold, lizard heart, from still trotting this one out from time to time.
Of course, even if the war was initiated more honestly, it ended up being a FUBAR for all seasons. 14,705 civilian deaths were caused directly by US forces and, of that number, nearly 30% were under the age of eighteen. Nearly five thousand American soldiers were killed from 2003 to 2011. Conservatives and liberals alike agree Bush’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan are the source cause for the Middle East destabilization leading to our constant intervention in the region, the current refugee and migrant crises and the rise of ISIS. All because of, in the words of Arcade Fire, “”Lies, Lies.
There are also the direct similarities between Trump and Bush. President Bush was a deserter during the Vietnam War; Donald Trump dodged the draft entirely. Bush shrugged off an August 6, 2001 intelligence briefing entitled “Bin Ladin Determined to strike in US” as well as other important warnings about 9/11; Trump is currently skipping out on these same sorts of briefings. Both their successes in life are at least partially attributable to their fathers trailblazing the way for them.
As for the economy, Bush claimed his tax cuts would pay for themselves but the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Congressional Budget Office both disagree. They disproportionately benefitted the wealthy and pumped steroids into our income inequality levels as a whole. If you want a good laugh, remember The Heritage Foundation said these tax cuts would pay off the national debt by 2010. By the time he left office, Bush had added $5.849 trillion to the national debt, increasing it by 101% from the time he took office. In case you haven’t guessed it, Trump’s tax plan is even worse on these fronts and he’s expected to take our debt and deficit to record levels.
All of this just scratches the surface. There was Katrina, black sites, Guantanamo, enhanced interrogation, the PATRIOT Act, the Mission: Accomplished banner, further privatization of war / conflicts of interest with Halliburton and Blackwater, bad environmental policy, No Child Left Behind, people planted in press conferences to throw Bush easy questions, the near-total collapse of the world economy. Even with all that, there’s still plenty more to critique and complain about.
Full disclosure: it’s harder for me to hate Bush than it is to hate Trump. His verbal slip-ups and lovable-doofus aura make it more difficult to become viscerally upset than Trump’s brash amorality and condescending stupidity. So yes, it’s a sign of just how bad things are that even George W. Bush thinks Trump is a bad president. But he doesn’t have the moral high ground over Trump by anything but the absolute slimmest margin, if that. Anyone who thinks he does is not worth your time or mine.