After H.W., Bush League

George H.W. Bush died Friday, and watching the various valedictories and retrospectives of his life and Presidency has provided a jarring contrast between our 41st President and the embarrassing, ignorant buffoon who currently sits in the Oval Office.

H.W. was the last President to have served in the armed forces; he was a decorated Navy pilot, shot down in the Pacific in 1944. (I can just hear Trump proclaiming that he prefers people who weren’t shot down…)

Evidently, H.W. didn’t have bone spurs…

Our 41st President was a skilled bureaucrat and diplomat, credited with (as the NYTimes put it) “a nuanced handling of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern Europe.”

I seriously doubt Trump could either spell or define “nuance,” and “skill” is a term that I’ve not ever seen applied to him (or for that matter, to anyone in his cabinet).

H.W. was far from a perfect President, but he was elected at a time when most Americans still valued relevant experience and admired, rather than disdained, knowledge and intellectual capacity. I met him once, during his Presidency, when he came to Indianapolis and met with then-Mayor Bill Hudnut and a small group of his advisors in the Mayor’s conference room.  Bush had no advance notice of the issues we would raise in our discussion, or the questions we would pose, but he fielded all of them with informed, thoughtful (and grammatical! and coherent!) answers. He was impressive–another word unlikely ever to be attached to Trump.

By far the greatest contrast, however– the greatest distance between the two–involves that ineffable quality we call “class.” H.W. was classy; Obama was classy. (Clinton was charismatic, and as often noted, George W. seemed like a guy some people –not I– would like to have a beer with, but neither displayed much class.)

Perhaps the best example of H.W.’s classiness and grace–and the most telling contrast between him and the petulant brat who currently holds office–was the letter he left for Bill Clinton, who had just defeated him, depriving him of a second term in a hard-fought political campaign.

Dear Bill,

When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.

I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.

There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.

You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.

Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.

Good luck—


The word “class” has fallen into disrepute, mostly because it has come to be connected only to class conflict, class warfare, and classism, but we would be well-advised to remember its other meaning, as a term denoting grace, maturity and human decency.

As I watched the various news shows discussing 41’s life and his Presidency, it was impossible to escape the contrast being drawn (in several cases, deliberately) between the good man we’d just lost and the pathetic, narcissistic wannabe who is defecating daily on our nation’s ideals.

Trump is bush league–but not remotely in H.W. Bush’s league.


  1. don’t make him a saint yet… learn about the Bush/Walker history… going back as the 1930ths…and inform yourself of the criminal history they have wrought.

  2. President H.W. Bush also had humanitarian values, a respect for other world leaders who have been our allies for many years and dealt with our enemy nations with diplomacy rather than sucking up to them. I remember his visit to Indianapolis vividly; it was the day 18 year-old Ryan White died of AIDS and many of us were grieving his loss. President Bush took time to add his condolences to Ryan’s family and friends. The day had turned very cold and his speech was outdoors on that gloomy day; my friend JoEllen Robbins provided closed-captioning interpretation of the entire ceremony. Trump believes all deaf people are retarded; President and his First Lady, Barbara, honored and supported all disabled. Trump used President H.W. Bush’s death at age 94 as an excuse to leave the G20 meeting early – for what reason other than a photo op because President Bush’s death and the Alaskan earthquake have upstaged him in all media the past few days.

    President H.W. Bush’s death is a loss to this nation, whether we agreed with his politics and his actions or not. We have another former president in their 90’s still living; President Jimmy Carter, he is still active and honored. Trump is still acting-up and dishonoring the presidency and this nation as more and more of his crimes come to light. Trump is an insidious cancer we appear to have no treatment for, let alone a cure.

    My true thoughts and prayers go out to the Bush family at this time; I’m sure Trump’s invitation to the funeral was nothing more than a Republican formality and his attendance will be an insult to the memory of President H.W. Bush’s administration and legacy.

  3. I’m sorry while I clean up the coffee that flew out of my mouth reading another attempt to whitewash a member of the Bush crime family.

    It goes back generations and the history of his presidency took place while Americans were happy with the media lying to their face.

    The only difference between Bush and Trump is George was a more polished liar. In fact, his lie to Russia after the Berlin Wall came down is EXACTLY why Russia is in our face today. And quite honestly, kicking our butts at every turn. “…not one inch to the east…”

    The USA used NATO to expand hundreds of military bases along Russia’s western border. George lied, the USA lied, and NATO lied. Why do you think the USA considers Russia a “hostile actor.”

    Truth be told, George’s presidency and his son’s, laid the Fascist framework allowing the rise of Trumpism into the White House. Likability on the television no longer matters. In fact, the more honestly grotesque a figure you are today, the more you’re liked by the hatemongers.

    The last thing we should be doing is adding sainthood to the Bush family for all the death and destruction they reaped on people of color occupying this globe. Their need to disrupt the Middle East so the US Oil Barons can steal resources is as transparent as it comes but the US media can shine up any turd and make it look presentable unless they no longer want to. 😉

  4. As usual, Todd is spewing his hot coffee over the points made by Sheila’s post today. Though it is true that GHW Bush was as much a prisoner of Republicanism and Reagan’s pathetic legacy, he DID exhibit grace and classiness befitting not only of the office of President, but as a dignified example for the people of America to emulate. Yes, his family was as corrupt and power-mad as are most blue-blood families (Barbara Pierce Bush was a relative of the late Franklin Pierce; also a former President.)

    Whereas GHW tried to make it on his own – after escaping from the draconian and martinet environment created by his mother – uncle Walker loaned him the money to begin his oil ventures in Texas, Trump was given his “seed money” from the time he was born. As Sheila points out, there is no comparison between GHW and the scum that currently occupies the Oval Office. Ultimately, the point is that the capitalism, that is so often reviled here, produces its own alpha and omega of good and evil, both within an individual and between two very different individuals.

    We’ve got to figure out how to elect more people like Jimmy Carter who are not so overly influenced by the worst angels of our nature.

  5. willemina and Todd; what would we find if we dug into your ancestry and your own past lives? Can’t we let this family bury their dead; the loss of their 2nd parent in 7 months? What did you two uncover about Barbara Bush’s ancestry and her past life, she was married to the man for 73 years? If you were paying attention; you would notice we are primarily comparing the PRESIDENCY of President George H. W. Bush and Donald J. Trump…I REFUSE to use the title “president” when referring to him. Tracking Trump’s ancestry has already uncovered his family history with the German regime during the same time period of the 1930”s.

    “The evil that men do lives on after them;
    The good that they do is oft interred with their bones.” William Shakespeare, from “Julius Caesar”

    No one is nominating President George H.W. Bush for sainthood; we are simply showing basic respect for “the good that they do” at a time of great loss to the family. Both Presidents Bush do appear “saintly” when compared to today’s sitting antichrist who was foisted on this country by the minority of the Republican Fascist, White Nationalist Electoral College.

    Todd Smeckens is our resident biased, anti-all who are positive on this blog; willemina is a new arrival who fired her fist shot at the Bush ancestry from 80 years ago. I sincerely hope those who know and/or know of your families histories are kinder to your survivors when it is your time to leave this earth.

  6. Perhaps Bush looks good for another reason unmentioned in the media – he looks good by comparison with another boob, Ronald Reagan, whose eight year regime officially ended the New Deal and the theretofore increase of wages in tandem with the Dow, a situation Bush did not attempt to correct either as an 8-year VP or a 4-year president, a situation still in progress and one that is my pet domestic peeve, to wit: wage inequality, the cancer on our economy and the chief reason the economy has underperformed since the union-busting era of Reagan. We could and should have followed the German example of how to construct a vibrant middle class long ago where workers make $35 an hour, sit on corporate boards etc., but we didn’t, and we now have to put up with Wall Street propaganda in the framing war to the effect that a miserly $15 an hour minimum wage will drive corporate America into bankruptcy, speaking of lies.

    I respect the good things the elder Bush did in public office, the years spent in military service, his being shot down in the Pacific in 1944. He was a genuine hero on that score. (Parenthetically, I was in the Pacific in 1944, too, but as a deckhand and not an aviator, and am no hero.)

    I respect his family’s right to grieve, as we all should, and offer the foregoing only to bring some historical perspective to the elder Bush’s record, which was both good and bad but doesn’t measure up to that of FDR, though far better than the record currently being made by the godfather of the criminal syndicate in the Oval Office.

  7. It appears Bush the Elder will have his reputation rehabilitated. The “Class” of Bush the Elder was a front. Some Americans need this front.

    Bush the Elder was up to his neck in the Iran-Contra Scandal, during the Ray-Gun Regime. Bush the Elder was the VP.

    President Bush the Elder pardoned 6 individuals in the Iran-Contra Scandal, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger — on the eve of Weinberger’s trial for perjury and obstruction of justice.

    “The criminal investigation of Bush was regrettably incomplete,” wrote Special Counsel Lawrence Walsh, a former deputy attorney general in the Eisenhower administration, in his final report on the Iran-Contra affair in August 1993.

    Walsh pointedly noted, “marked the first time a president ever pardoned someone in whose trial he might have been called as a witness, because the president was knowledgeable of factual events underlying the case.” An angry Walsh accused Bush of “misconduct” and helping to complete “the Iran-contra cover-up.”

    Some of you may remember the infamous “Willie Horton Ad”. As Bush campaign director Lee Atwater bragged, “By the time we’re finished, they’re going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis’s running mate.”

    How about the War on Drugs – “We need more prisons, more jails, more courts, more prosecutors.” – Bush the Elder.

    You can read more here about Bush the Elder, if you dare to challenge the fairy tale reputation now being spun.
    I seem to recall Bush the Elder’s sons Neil and Jeb were up to the hips in the Savings and Loan Scandal.

  8. OK, I’ll share my own Barbara Bush Christmas story.
    I was living in DC during H.W.’s presidency. At the beginning of the Christmas shopping season the stores at the city’s most exclusive shopping mall decided that they did not want the tacky Salvation Army bell ringers in front of their stores. This news made the Washington Post.
    The next day Barbara Bush got dressed and grabbed her favorite hand bag. She called for a car and the secret service to drive her to a nearby lesser mall. She made sure that the press was in toe. With cameras rolling, she walked up to the entrance where a bell ringer was stationed, took a twenty out of her purse, put it in the kettle and then turned to the cameras and said, “I like to shop at a store that welcomes the Salvation Army.” Then she went in and bought some stuff. The next morning every store at the fancy mall had a bell ringer out front.
    Barbara Bush did not scold, she didn’t bully, she didn’t wear a coat that told the world that she did not care. She had class that lady did… real class.

  9. Thanks for sharing the Intercept’s article on the senior Bush. I have no problem with people grieving for the loss of their loved ones, but this tradition of idolizing war criminals is sickening to me.

    And by all means, dig up my past and ancestors past. None of my family ordered the killing of millions in order to steal oil from the Middle East. Dubya was quoted as saying yesterday, “My father had high moral character.”

    Was does that even mean coming from another war criminal?

    Does it mean he stopped short of ____________ ?

    The Bush family was doing business with Hitler while the Jews were being gassed in chambers so if these people we hold dear are our moral beacons then why are you being so hard on Donald Trump?

    Trump is no different than the men from the Bush Crime Family. Once again, they present their polished lies much better than Donald. As for character, I’d say the Bush legacy embarrasses the Trump family in damage done globally.

  10. I don’t hold anyone accountable for the behavior of their ancestors. I do for their own behavior and somewhat for their predecessors. That, IMO, is the biggest indictment of the elder, now deceased Bush, he inflicted his son on us against a superior alternative, Al Gore.

    I never had to agree with every decision made by every President. I have opinions but they have responsibility and access to way more information than I do. I expect them to wander away from my opinions often and often for good reason.

    To compare Trump to any of the President’s over my 76 years misses the point. He is not in the same zip code of any of them in qualifications and ability to do the job. He is an anomaly. A random choice from the phone book could probably do better because they’d at least be aware that they were in over their head.

    Like John McCain who predeceased him, the elder Bush had a lot of qualities to be admired. He cannot be faulted by anyone for failure to serve his country. Perhaps he was from a dying era of American aristocracy but that didn’t hold him back from stepping up for what needed to be done.

    I can imagine a great, great country of Bushes. I can’t imagine anything more than a failing trailer park of Trumps.

  11. Compared to DJT, even the brutal despots who rule Russia and China seem civil and intelligent, and competent. But the mixed and mediocre legacy of GHW Bush should not be overlooked. Fine, let the family bury him and mourn his loss. I’m sure he had good qualities, and that he did some good things as a public servant. But he did many unsavory things and too often descended to expediency. Here are two articles that look at parts of his legacy:

    The evil that men do indeed lives after them, and continues to hurt innocent people.

  12. I am trying to avoid trash talk about our recently deceased president while his relatives mourn his passing, but yes, I know about Willie Horton and Iran-Contra, and I also know about Clinton’s triangulation and tepid efforts in stemming wage inequality. Right and wrong is a bipartisan exercise, but of course, both Bush’s and Clinton’s shortcomings pale by comparison with today’s presidential masquerader, who is on a mission to, among other things, destroy our democracy, and if that fragile framework for freedom and self government is gone, then we may have a dictatorship or a modern version of the medieval king-serf, not a country, since a country is defined by its values and institutions as well as geography.

    History (if we have one going forward) is going to judge the congressional Republicans harshly for their failure to muzzle their leader and we Democrats may be judged harshly as well for not more forcefully resisting this man’s attempts to destroy our democracy. I therefore think that with the New Year the House should pursue both impeachment and policy making simultaneously since we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

  13. hw bushhhh! anyway, he supported a afgan war between 1978/80 with allowing the import of hashish to buy arms, colt,ruger both had a waiting list during those years for the mini 14 and ar15′ federal law says that arms manf,do not have to account for the number of arms sold,to o.k,d arm sales to a friendly nation,via congress…bush was well aware where the money came from. as well as getting support for these arms sales by his budds in congress.
    move to central america, ortega had them out gunned from support by cuba.. so we couldnt by law supply arms or help,via, monroe doctrine 1812, coffee and bananas dont make country strategic. hense, the cocaine cartels found a friend in noriega,as a drop point for cocaine coming into the u.s. bring cash, your free to go, and please come back with more money. no one ever said where the momey to buy arms and support a war. bush obviously had just blended his afgan plans to the contras. no one ever said where the money came from,iran-contra. since mercinaries were not free of costs,niether was arms. we had a winfall of coke in los angeles back in 1980s that was easier to get than pot.. gary webbs story,via san jose mercury,atested to this money flow following the honduran ambassador around to planes that bought in coke from panama, and picked up,the money to buy arms..william casey,cia, secord,chief usaf, and many more were all involved in reagans tiffy..but bush didnt fail. as he promoted a drug war here,and manditory sentencing.. i did federal manditory sentance for growing pot,some of the people i met, were involved in flying drugs in.. most were just adrenalin junkies on a thril..hw bush and sonny, death merchants,liars,drug smugglers via proxy..good riddance

  14. In spite of a sketchy past (did anyone mention his CIA years?), GHW was a last Republican occupant of the White House to comport himself with some sense of dignity and statesmanship. Perhaps that’s damning with faint praise. After all, there was that vomit incident.

  15. Greetings Mr. Gerald Stinson. Being in the S/P in 1944 makes you a hero regardless of your job. If you are interested, look up an article written by one John. S McDonald regarding Pilot Bush. I just looked up Bush rescue and happened to read it. Irvin- Korea 1952-53 🙂

  16. Geo. H. W. Bush did many things with which I disagreed, but I didn’t dislike him BECAUSE of his class and humanitarian instincts. He also had the capacity to be a profile in courage. He passed and signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, infuriating the right wing and many in the business community. He also agreed to a tax increase to gain passage of a budget that was less likely to increase the deficit, knowing full well it would infuriate fellow Republicans all the more because of his previous campaign promise – ‘read my lips, no new taxes”. Newt Gingrich and Ross Perot jumped into the fray and exacted their political revenge on H.W. which enabled Bill Clinton’s subsequent victory. . Clinton’s presidency and the nation were more successful because of the tax increase H.W. signed into law. Both Clinton and Bush knew it.

    They could have continued bitter political opponents, but the families became so close that Geo. W. said Bill was like having another brother in the family. Asked to explain that closeness, H.W. said that perhaps Bill saw him as the father figure Bill never had. H.W.’s willingness to even consider being a presence in Clinton’s life is but another example of his grace and yes, class. I’ll always admire George H. W. Bush for those examples. He surely is resting in peace.

  17. Nancy Papas; thank you for your honesty and your ability to see beyond the times we disagreed with some of President George H.W. Bush’s unwise decisions and actions to see the full scope of the man and his seven decades of service to this country.

    Consider the fact that he served this country in many levels of government service approximately as long as Donald Trump has been alive.

  18. I have no great love for the policies of 41, but, he did have class, the ability to laugh at himself and was part of that generation of privileged white men who felt the duty to join the war effort, and good or bad, devote their lives to public service.

    Sheila is right in noting how many reporters and commentators are making pointed contrasts between him and 45. it is embarrassingly striking.

    At this time, with respect for the dead and more so for those who grieve, I will remember his war time service and that, as Sheila noted so well, George H W Bush did have class.

  19. I posted your comments on social media and said how much we should all reflect on the “class” of H.W. He was complex and I disagreed with some of his actions AND saw a person giving it a real shot. There is no way to get around the clear distinguishing characteristics of H.W. and 45. I just don’t know of another way you could have been less snotty about 45 in this terrific analysis of H.W. I really am saddened by 45 and the lack of moral center he demonstrates at every turn.
    I do understand your intent here and am just sorry we have to endure this for another 2 years.

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