Who We Once Were

They couldn’t, alas, be more different. The beloved, late George H.W. Bush and the loathsome, still-among-the-living Donald Trump. Both presidents for their times.

One presided over the end of the Cold War, the military removal–with an international coalition–of Iraq from Kuwait, and also yearned for a “kinder, gentler nation.” His resume included Phi Beta Kappa from Yale, war hero, congressman, envoy to China, ambassador to the UN, RNC chair, CIA director and two-term vice president before being elected president. He had a working, honest relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev. He was married to the same woman for 73 years. He was respectful and respected. He loved writing personal letters and notes. He had a sense of self and a sense of humor that even allowed for friendly banter with Dana Carvey, his “SNL” satirist. The most regrettable thing he ever said was: “Read my lips; no new taxes.” That and Ross Perot cost him re-election.

There was no Oval Office sense of presidential ego, recalled Bob Martinez, the former Tampa mayor and Florida governor who served as Bush’s drug czar. “It was always about ‘we’–not ‘I.'”

He was a statesman and a gracious gentleman who also understood the world–and that having class mattered. He elevated the country as well as the presidency.

The other has disparaged America around the world, befriended sinister authoritarians and polarized the U.S. by demonizing those–from judges to reporters–who haven’t fallen in line with white nationalism, protectionism and climate-change cynicism. His resume includes a bone-spurs deferment, inherited money, bankruptcy filings, a fraudulent “university,” “branding” fees and reality-TV fame. His mentor was Roy Cohn. He has a suspicious, weirdly deferential relationship with Vladimir Putin. He is a manifest misogynist and serial philanderer. The most unregrettable thing he ever said was: “Grab ’em by the p***y.” It cost him nothing with his basket of deplorables.

He’s also a pathological liar as well as a practicing narcissist. He tweets to attack others, defend and exalt himself, and remind his cult followers that he determines the news cycle.

He’s a bombastic, largely unread charlatan with no sense of history and no pertinent preparation for the presidency. He’s motivated by anger and grievance and ego. Gentility and dignity are beneath him. He has mocked Bush’s “thousand points of light” reference.

The juxtaposition couldn’t be more stark living through this “Make America Great Again” charade. It’s sad and tragic that we’re not trying to make it more like the Bush 41 America.

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