SYNDICATED COLUMN: George H.W. Bush Hagiography is the Elites’ Finest Accomplishment

Image result for highway of death

Even by the recent can’t-believe-your-eyes-and-ears standards of American elitist hagiography this week’s over-the-top-of-the-top praise of George H.W. Bush was astonishing.

What separated Bush41apalooza from such previous pseudo-griefathons as those for Ronald Reagan and John McCain was that there was so little to work with. Not that it stopped the media.

I knew this was an insane historical benchmark when a major network interrupted its coverage of the G-20 summit with the BREAKING NEWS that George W. Bush had issued a statement about his dead dad: “George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for.” Stop the presses!

When a right-wing Republican like Bush dies you can count on a Democrat to deliver his most fulsome praise. “America has lost a patriot and humble servant,” said Barack and Michelle Obama. “While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude…George H.W. Bush’s life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey.”

Trump lies constantly but it took the death of Bush 41 for American “leaders” and their media mouthpieces to fully commit to speaking an English language whose words have no meaning whatsoever. In this dystopia I’d call Orwellian save for the fact that old George’s prophecy didn’t anticipate its hilarious absurdity, a man who ran for president three times qualifies as “humble.” A commander-in-chief who ordered the massacre of tens of thousands of innocent people in one of the most gruesome war crimes ever recorded—the “Highway of Death” following the ceasefire that ended the Gulf War—is described as having great character—yet no one upchucks all over the camera lens as if it were a Japanese prime minister.

A steward of the economy who refused to stimulate a tide or raise any boats in the middle of a brutal six-year-long recession can be called many things but not—before the Obamas—“joyous.” Preppy, I’ll give you. Joyous, no.

John Sununu, Bush’s chief of staff, explained in 1991, that doing “tremendous good” was actually contrary to Bush’s governing philosophy: “The President feels very strongly that the free-market system operates best when it does not have its hands tied by government, is not shackled by a system that erroneously thinks it can improve it by command and control.” Bush chimed in: “I do not want to see the government pick winners and losers.” Except his government did create losers: his refusal to fund AIDS research killed tens of thousands of gay men.

I’m in favor of behavioral change,” Bush said to justify his policy, a brazen sop to the Christian Right. “Here’s a disease where you can control its spread by your own personal behavior.” Memo to gays: don’t have sex. So “joyous.” So much “tremendous good.” Guess we’ll never get that apology now.

Fawning over dead presidents and the occasional dead presidential candidate is always repugnant considering they’re such a callous and bloodthirsty lot of greed-dogs. But Bush 41—his death dance is different.

Like him or not, Reagan was a consequential person with undeniable political acumen. Even under Democrats Clinton and Obama we have continued to accept the Gipper’s redefinition of the social contract from a culture of looking out for one another to every man for himself. His easy aw-shucks vocal delivery made the most liberal voters sleep through eight years of budgetary, tax and military mayhem—no easy feat.

Likewise John McCain was a deeply—mostly—flawed man who nonetheless had enough of an engaging story, his experience as a POW in Vietnam, for the hagiographers to blow up into a fairly credible heroism narrative, overcoming the uncomfortable fact that the war he volunteered to kill in is understood to have been immoral and illegal.

Bush, on the other hand, has always been a former president universally understood to be a do-nothing failure. Screwed up the economy, set the stage for his son’s Iraq War, refused to turn post-Cold War Russia into a friend and ally, preferring to watch the former USSR plunge into chaos and mass starvation so his big banker backers could swarm in and loot state-owned enterprises. You could call him the Republican Jimmy Carter but Bush—unlike Carter—was never rehabilitated by history or the electorate. Whereas Carter (actually humbly) dedicated himself to Habitat for Humanity during his long post-presidency and so earned respect, Bush 41 just—what? Showed up for presidential reunion photo-ops? He just nothinged. Even Republicans didn’t much care for him.

Were you surprised that Bush died because you didn’t know he was still alive?

There was once a time when, when presidents died, you imagined that at least some of the network news talking heads believed some of what they read to you, that some of the mawkish tributes were heartfelt. No more.

The fakery is so phony they don’t even bother to hide it anymore.

Like Winston Smith at the conclusion of “1984,” the bullet in the back of the rotting head of BS American democracy comes almost as a release.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)




  • alex_the_tired
    December 3, 2018 4:53 PM

    I’m watching the ABC News coverage and what I find most surprising is that I haven’t thrown up in disgust. Everything Ted said, and more. Seriously, Ted, we could really use a pre-death obitruthary of Dubya, Clinton, (Bill, not Hillary who is besties with the war criminal Henry Kissinger), Obama, and Trump.

  • The fakery is so phony they don’t even bother to hide it anymore.

    Who says that things aren’t getting better and better ?!! Faking the past before the cataclyism….


  • American Teacher
    December 4, 2018 2:00 AM

    The Hell in which we are all living today, the New World Order, was masterminded by Bush.

  • HenryWallacesForceGhost
    December 4, 2018 7:54 AM

    Trump may be a lot of horrible things, but in my estimation, he’s nowhere near as evil as H.W. was. Trump’s evil stems from his narcissistic megalomania; he craves adulation, and, as that’s his primary motivation for existing, the horror he allows is passive in the sense that he’s not actually trying to make the world worse. He’s just a boob looking in the mirror. George H.W. Bush was actively turning the machinery of oppression throughout his life, from his Skull and Bones days to Big Oil to the CIA to the War on Drugs, “Voodoo Economics” etc. etc. I guess it’s ironic that he’s so overlooked by the right, because he truly was a piece of shit, and was mostly very good at being one.

    • HenryWallacesForceGhost
      December 4, 2018 7:57 AM

      Also: how much blame do you think Dana Carvey deserves for sanitizing him?

      • The wooden duck decoy media deserve much blame for normalizing and humanizing inhumanity.

      • Even as a kid, I felt Dana Carvey’s impression of Bush Sr. was a whitewash and disservice to the actual evil of the man. It was a play on some vocal tics and that was it. It didn’t speak to the deeper institutional pathology that Bush represented. I feel SNL is doing almost the same thing with their impressions of the Trump kids. They base the Eric Trump impression off his doofus-y face and make him out to be a juvenile moron. He is much more evil as an actual human. It humanizes and makes him sympathetic. The douche bag kills elephants and cuts off their tails. He manages part of Trump’s disgusting enterprises. They should have made him less sympathetic.

      • HenryWallacesForceGhost
        December 14, 2018 9:49 AM

        It’s an interesting conversation to have. For Carvey’s part, he’s just a comedian milking what appears to be working. How cognizant of sociopolitical issues should we expect performers to be? Where exactly is the line between righteously lampooning an evil person and whitewashing him? I’m trying to think of a better example there…

  • “There was once a time when, when presidents died, you imagined that at least some of the network news talking heads believed some of what they read to you, that some of the mawkish tributes were heartfelt. No more.”

    Most of the above mentioned network news talking heads have been the real “fake news” since the ’70s and plenty of ‘Merkins have become angry because I dared shake them from their American Dream.

    A company I worked for when H. W. Bush was elected (in part, because of his Flag Worship Campaign) announced that all employees would face the flag on the Veterans Day after his election for a little flag worship session accompanied by music and oratory.

    I managed to spook management that a group of veterans decided we were going to go to the front of the auditorium so that the employees could salute our veteran asses under the flag. Those were still the days when some Vietnam veterans remained who were likely to assert themselves instead of suicide themselves.

    Right before the announced session another management announcement was made cancelling the first.

    When H.W. Bush celebrated the end of the Vietnam Syndrome after the start of Gulf War I, I made a promise to myself that the assholes in charge would have to kill me before I’d let them make cannon fodder of my son.

  • The prequel is also juicy.

    Son (“scion”) of the equivalent of a U.S. aristocratic family ties to Yale, investment banking, etc., “started his own company” in the oil sector. Lost a bunch of elections. Got picked for a series of cushy government posts (I’m sure family connections and financial contributions were accidental here). Made head of the CIA. Lost the primary to Reagan who had the wits to pick him as running mate after which he inherited the presidency after facing a lackluster Democratic challenger.

    The U.S. electorate apparently must have a uncommonly strong confidence in the stability of democracy by shoehorning in a person who has one foot in the security apparatus and another in the business elite.

    However jaded I have become over the years reading Ted ;-), I cannot quite fathom seeing headlines like “The head of the British MI5 is now challenging May for leadership of the Tories” or “The head of the German BND just threw his hat into the battle for Merkel’s succession”. At the very least this would be a major topic of contention.

    This is not normal.

    • «This is not normal.» Nor should it be, Andreas ; have you forgotten that the US, by divine dispensation, is exceptional ?… 😉


    • A wise man once observed of dynasties that the patriarch is smart and ruthless, his heir is merely ruthless and his heir is neither.

      Prescott Bush was smart and ruthless.

      So was Frederick Drumpf, for that matter. If you shine a flashlight into DJTJR’s ear he makes an excellent jack o’lantern. That’s just what I heard. Sad!

      • The quote is very fitting 😉

        I was thinking of Joseph P. Kennedy myself – who made his money with spirits plus then turned his family’s financial capital into cultural capital. Still, JFK and RFK retained some smarts between them, plus the mandatory ruthlessness.

        So your example works much better. The Drumpf clan make even W seem positively eloquent in hindsight ;-).

        The Clintons and Obamas both have eligible children, yes? (ducks).

    • alex_the_tired
      December 5, 2018 8:15 AM

      Bush’s death is interesting as a metaphor. Look who’s left for surviving Republican preznits. There’s Dubya, a drunken simpleton who laid down the bottle and coke spoon too late. Then there’s Trump. Jesusmaryandjosephstalin.
      Picture the 2020 elections. With Bush the Father still alive, there was a protocol loophole. As High King of the party, but too infirm to participate in the media circus, the media could avoid using the Idiot Son via a psychological handwave. “Dubya doesn’t want to ‘kill his father’ by assuming his place. Let’s use Cheney and the rest, and get Trump’s Twitter feed on the big board.”
      Now? Senior’s death marks the death of the party as something that its members don’t have to be embarrassed by.
      As long as Hillary (Henry Kissinger the war criminal is one of her best friends) Clinton’s gang at the dNC doesn’t screw over Sanders, we can all look forward to single-payer in 2021. Maybe even some jail time for the business elite.

      • «Maybe even some jail time for the business elite.» A consummation. Devoutly to be wished. But of course, you’re kidding, aren’t you, Alex ?…


      • alex_the_tired
        December 6, 2018 6:52 AM

        Actually, I don’t see a way around it — short of sending Sanders to Dallas. Jailing the business criminals will be unavoidable because they simply can’t stop misbehaving due to their own psychological flaws and the nature of neocapitalism.

  • oh barf, it’s the Bush funeral wall-to-wall coverage! Turned off radio and put on Jeremy Scahill’s Intercepted podcast. At least he is calling bullshit.
    NPR hourly news bulletin kept running the quote(past 2 days??) of some guy in line to see the casket saying how Bush was a decent man.

  • conveniently not mentioned was the propaganda operation about the Kuwaiti babies thrown out of incubators. Also, the Panama invasion.

  • And for this Day of Mourning, no mail delivery!!

  • Why NOT hagiography for “pappy”?

    After all, one of his premier hench-assholes is now the darling of “the Resistance.”

    Chris Floyd reminds us that “pappy” used the BCCI/BNL global criminal network to funnel cash to Saddam Hussein (remember he was our best pal … up to the moment he became the current devil incarnate). Saddam used funds to purchase arms, chemical and other WMD materials.
    Floyd article

    When the BNL case broke, pappy moved to throttle the investigation. He appointed to top Justice Department posts, lawyers from arms companies that had sold to Saddam. From there they supervised the officials investigating their old companies.

    “The U.S. Senate later found that the probe had been unaccountably ‘botched’ – witnesses went missing, CIA records got ‘lost,’ all sorts of bad luck. Most of the big BCCI players went unpunished or got off with wrist-slap fines and sanctions.”

    >>>The probe was directed by Justice Department investigator Robert Mueller.<<<

  • Let me here, note, Ted, that it is not unreasonable to assume that dear Heinz Alfred Kissinger will in the not too distant future provide an occasion for editorial pundits in the US and elsewere to engage in even more repulsive hagiography. You ain’t’ seen nothin yet….


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