Politics & Policy

Bush 41’s vote, &c.

George H.W. Bush at the 2008 Republican convention (Reuters photo: Shannon Stapleton)
On a presidential ballot, a House committee chairman, a Chinese airport, and more

In an indiscretion, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend revealed that the first President Bush was going to vote for Hillary Clinton. He had confided that to Townsend.

My brother Jim Geraghty had one reaction to that: Bush has a bad habit of trusting Democrats. He should never have shared a confidence with Townsend. That is certainly one reaction.

There is also this: If Bush thinks that he cannot support the presidential nominee of the Republican party — that he has to vote for the Democrat instead — does that tell us something about the GOP and its top man?

Bush is a lifelong Republican. I doubt that he has ever voted for a Democrat. Also, he knows something about the world. He was a Navy pilot in World War II — apparently the youngest pilot in the Navy. He was a congressman. And U.N. ambassador. And envoy to China. And CIA director. And vice president. And president. He has had some intelligence briefings in his lifetime. He knows what the dangers in the world are, and he knows what America must do to combat them.

I think I know why Bush can’t support Donald Trump. I will do some sketching out.

The slogan “America First” is probably smelly to him. As are cries against “globalism.”

He probably thinks that NATO is important. And that alliances with Japan and South Korea are important.

I’m sure he thinks that trade is important.

He knows that Saddam Hussein was a friend to terrorists, not their foe. Two of the most prominent were Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas.

In addition to portraying Saddam as a scourge of terrorists, Trump has minimized and trivialized his crimes against humanity: “Saddam Hussein throws a little gas. Everyone goes crazy. ‘Oh, he’s using gas!’” Bush, on the other hand, knows what those crimes mean.

Trump asserts that the second President Bush lied us into war — the highest treason that a president can commit. Bush 41 knows this is untrue.

Trump believes that Bush 43 should have been impeached, and holds it against Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic Congress that they did not do this. Bush 41, obviously, disagrees.

Bush must not think it’s right to seize Middle Eastern oil.

He must not think it’s right to order U.S. officers to act outside the law. “They’re not gonna refuse me,” said Trump. “Believe me.”

Bush knows that Putin is bad news. He knows that Putin’s actions in Ukraine were unlawful and dangerous. He does not go in for a false moral equivalence. An interviewer pointed out to Trump that Putin has his political opponents killed. Trump replied, “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also.”

In another interview, Trump refused to condemn the horrific crackdown by the AKP in Turkey. “When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.” That is not George Bush at all.

Trump has been endorsed or otherwise praised by Putin, Orbán, the Le Pens, Mugabe, and Kim Jong-un. Bush knows that this indicates no good.

He has always been a “realist,” but he values freedom, democracy, and human rights. He, indeed, values American and Western values. Trump does not even pay lip service to these, as far as I can tell.

So, yes, I can understand why Bush can’t bring himself to support the presidential nominee of his party. Republicans can condemn him as a traitor and rat. Or they can ask themselves, “What have we done, to lose George Bush? Is it right?”

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‐Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican, is hot on the trail of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. He is the sheriff in town when it comes to that scandal. The badge he wears comes courtesy of his committee chairmanship: He is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Chaffetz has been in the news lately.

I remember reading about him several weeks ago. Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast, formerly of National Review, had a story about Stephen Bannon, who had just been named CEO of the Trump campaign.

She quoted some e-mails (speaking of those) that were sent between Bannon and one of his reporters. Bannon was running Breitbart at the time. And Jason Chaffetz was about to become chairman of the committee he now heads.

To see Betsy’s piece, including the e-mails, go here. Chaffetz was “a sniveling little sh** and deserves to have his a** kicked in the conservative media.” There are many other choice words and phrases. If I quoted them all, I might run out of asterisks.

It has long been complained by the Trump Right that Republicans in Congress are either timid about opposing the Democrats or actively colluding with them. Chaffetz has never seemed to me either timid or Democratically inclined. The Utah delegation is pretty reliably conservative (at least in the pre-Trump sense of “conservative”).

In any event, I have not seen complaints about Chaffetz in recent days — not from the right — and the congressman himself has endorsed Trump. So: How do you like him (Chaffetz, that is) now?

‐A young colleague of mine, Rachel Levine-Ramirez, read a piece I wrote about Taiwan in 2012. She e-mails me the following:

It reminded me of an experience I had re-entering China. I was standing in the “Other Passports” line at the Shanghai airport, and one of the security guards started shouting instructions, indicating that Chinese nationals should move to the “Chinese Passports” line.

Two elderly women behind us held up their Taiwanese passports and asked, jokingly, “Can we go in that line?”

Says a lot, that little anecdote.

‐You don’t expect Hollywood to treat Barack Obama the way it does George W. Bush, to cite just one (Republican) example. You expect Hollywood to treat Obama as it does in Southside with You. This flick is about the future president’s romance with Michelle. The movie goes “so far past Authorized Flattery,” says Armond White, writing at this website, “that it resembles a hustle — one of those advertisements shown to the assembled throng at the Democratic National Convention: a romance for political idiots.”

White is an eminent critic, and part of his eminence derives from his candor. He says what others do not, even if they think it. Here he is in that same review: “Idolators always overlook Obama’s humanity, instead proffering black identity as his foremost trait, whether soliciting whites’ condescension or encouraging blacks’ vanity.”

May there come a time when Americans grant Obama’s humanity, warts and all. Even Hollywood?

‐Got an e-mail from a friend out West. I must have written about singers and their looks in some review or other piece. Looks make a difference in opera (for better or worse, often worse).

Anyway, my friend writes, “One of the very finest singers from the Jazz Age was Mildred Bailey. She was also frumpy, and suffered throughout her career for it.”

Well, she sounds like a million bucks — as you can hear in “Georgia.” Thanks, and see you later.

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