George W Bush speaks to Trump

GW Bush in his art studio
Photo NY Times

Many of my friends are upset by the thought of George W Bush offering advice for #45. I understand that really well; it was Bush’s opportunism in Iraq (body count, 1m and counting) that pushed his party onto my Never list. The man was a terrible president. And yet…

Not completely terrible. He was very specific about religious freedom, then and now, reminding Americans that Muslims are not the enemy. In contrast to his VP he was very quiet during the Obama years. He took AIDS very seriously. He did not attempt to shut down the press then and supports a free press now.

Do these things outweigh Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo? No. There is simply no absolution for what he did. But here’s a moral exercise for the rest of us: can we detect some good in a person whom we despised? Should we? Is there value in leavening words from a terrible president? Do those words place both Trump and Bush in some kind of perspective? There is no rule that a person who did an evil thing must go on doing evil or cannot accomplish some good.

Trump is literally an existential threat to our global civilization. Bush was not. He went into the presidency with certain ideological convictions that played out very badly. I have no idea what his convictions are now (and it hardly matters to his victims), but I am damn selective about who I honor, who I disdain, and who I actually hate. His voice in the GOP makes space for other Republicans to actively oppose Trump. That is not a small thing.


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Older technology guy with photography and history background