Paul R. Hollrah
Goodbye, George Bush
"Few presidents have entered the Oval Office with as much opportunity
for positive change as did George Bush. Certainly, no previous president
ever ascended to the presidency with the future of the country so
critically in the balance. Yet, Bush left the White House having failed
to lead the country, having failed to grasp the opportunities that lay
"As leader of his party... Bush had an obligation to bring into the
national spotlight the next generation of national Republican leaders.
Not only did he fail, utterly, in that responsibility, he has left in
his wake a youthful Democratic administration that may well dominate the
national political scene for the next sixteen years...”
George W. Bush? No, those paragraphs are excerpted from a February 25,
1993 op-ed column that I wrote for The Tulsa Sentinel, expressing
my views on the outgoing president, George H.W. Bush.
Early in his presidency, George H.W. Bush attempted to continue the
Reagan policy of less government spending and reduced taxes. And when he
failed to get the necessary cooperation from House and Senate Democrats
he agreed to an "economic summit” on neutral ground at Andrews Air Force
Base. At that meeting, congressional Democrats agreed to spending cuts
if Bush would agree to some limited tax increases... mostly increases in
federal user fees.
When they came to his desk Bush signed the tax bills and sat back to
await the spending cuts, but they never came; the Democrats reneged on
their end of the bargain. In spite of his many years in public life...
as a member of Congress, as Ambassador to the United Nations, as
Chairman of the Republican National Committee, as Director of Central
Intelligence, as U.S. Envoy to China, and as Vice President... Bush
apparently learned little about the true nature of Democrats. Like his
son, George W., he actually believed that there were honorable men and
women on the Democratic side of the aisle who could be trusted to honor
When Bush ran for reelection in 1992, Democrats added insult to injury
by flailing him with his 1988 "Read my lips... no new taxes” pledge. And
while he had a perfect response available to him, he simply ignored the
story of the Democrats’ economic summit treachery. True to the Bush
family motto which says that, in politics, points are awarded for being
nice to the guy who’s trying to destroy you, he simply turned the other
cheek... and lost the election.
The Bushes apparently fail to understand that, when they are viciously
and unfairly attacked, all those who’ve supported them and stood by them
feel just as grievously injured.
After eight years of Clintons in the White House, George W. Bush won the
2000 Republican nomination by insisting that he was a "compassionate”
conservative... further evidence that, not only did he not understand
what conservatism was all about, his years of exposure to his father’s
brand of "conservatism” failed to inform him that true conservatives
would be insulted by the implication that they were somehow not
compassionate human beings.
Bush entered the White
House in January 2001 with the opportunity to do great things, not only
for the people of America, but for the Republican Party as well. He
performed well in the global War on Terror and for eight years he kept
us safe from terrorist attack, although his efforts to rally the people
to what is a noble cause in Afghanistan and Iraq were half-hearted, at
He made two exceptional
appointments to the Supreme Court, with the inexplicable Harriet Myers
fiasco sandwiched in between. Unlike his father, who contributed the
liberal David Souter to the Court, George W. left the Court more
conservative than he found it.
When Hurricane Katrina
struck the Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi Gulf coasts, the Mayor of
New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana, both Democrats, failed
miserably in their roles as first responders. And when tens of thousands
of New Orleans residents were left to fend for themselves by a corrupt
mayor and an incompetent governor, Democrats charged that it was Bush
who had abandoned them... ostensibly because they were mostly black
Democrats. Bush tacitly took the blame and fired his FEMA director as
proof of his remorse.
Having worked cooperatively with Democrats in Austin during his years as
Governor, Bush was under the misapprehension that he could do the same
in Washington. Unfortunately, he had not stared evil in the face until
he met the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Bush apparently felt
that Reid would be very much like other Mormons: kind, decent, and
honorable. It never occurred to him that Harry Reid was living proof
that even rattlesnakes can be Mormons.
And although he enjoyed Republican majorities in both houses of Congress
for most of his two terms, he was plagued by the most incompetent sort
of leadership... particularly in the House of Representatives where
Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) presided over a Republican majority that
worked very hard at making themselves indistinguishable from Democrats.
In refusing to use his veto pen on the GOP spending binge, Bush failed
to provide the political leadership necessary to force or cajole
congressional Republicans back into line with traditional Republican
But the greatest sin of the Bushes, father and son, is what they have
done to the Republican Party. During the Clinton years, few major
decisions were ever made without first considering the impact on the
Democratic Party. During the Bush years, the fortunes of the party that
elected them were rarely, if ever, a consideration. And when the
political rough-and-tumble demanded toughness... an eye for an eye...
there was no fight in them. When faced with the sheer malice of
Democratic opposition they simply slinked away, their tails tucked
firmly between their legs.
The Bushes and the Republicans in Congress inherited a strong
conservative tide, created for them by the determined activists who
nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964 and who shepherded Ronald Reagan all
the way to the White House in 1980. A reader in Texas has described the
Bushes and today’s congressional Republicans as being like lazy cows in
a pasture who eat all the lush green grass, leaving behind only... the
Watching the Bushes, one gets the impression that it’s always just about
them... party interests be damned. When asked to take ten minutes out of
his schedule to pose for a photograph with the eight Oklahoma electors
of the 2000 Electoral College, Bush refused. These were 8 of the 271
electors who gave him a slim two vote margin in the Electoral College;
whose names, addresses, and telephone numbers were published on the
Internet; but who lived up to their electoral oaths despite months of
obscene middle-of-the-night phone calls and death threats.
The Bushes are Ivy League elitists in ten-gallon hats who never seemed
to know, or care, who their friends were; they were both nice guys,
playing in an arena where being nice to the likes of Harry Reid and
Nancy Pelosi doesn’t count for much. So is it any wonder that, because
of their failure to lead, politically, they leave behind a party that is
dispirited, a smoldering ruin, a party that not even the most ardent
Republican partisan is able to defend? That is their legacy.
defending the Bush record it is not enough to say that they did some
things right, when in fact there were many more things that they could
have accomplished... but didn’t. So goodbye, George Bush... and let’s
all hope that Jeb doesn’t get any bright ideas.