Sunday, March 12, 2017
When former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, the public pushed the song "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" to number two on the UK singles chart, and many people who opposed her reign were open in their lack of remorse. Comparatively, when disgraced former president Richard Nixon died in 1994, most Americans were either remorseful or silent; the fact that he committed crimes and resigned in disgrace was whitewashed to the point that he was simply called "controversial". It appears that while America may never have had royalty, we are expected to respect the office of the president so much that ex presidents are treated that way, even criminal ones like Nixon. Just look at how Ronald Reagan has been held up as some paragon of presidential greatness, with the fact that his administration illegally sold weapons to Iran and then used the profits of those sales to fund an equally illegal war in Nicaragua almost never mentioned. And Bill Clinton's near impeachment was mostly forgotten and ignored by the press until his wife started running for president, and even then it was hardly seen as an issue.
This is manifesting itself right now in the rehabilitation tour that former president George W Bush has been going on; in the past few weeks he's been popping up on talk shows, showing off his paintings (which really are awful looking), and laughing and joking around, promoting himself as some kind of lovable grandpa figure. I find his self serving attempt to improve his image as utterly disgusting.
Has America forgotten that Bush led us into a an utterly disastrous war in Iraq based on charges of weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda? And how that war lead to the death of thousands of American soldiers, ten of thousands of Iraqi civilians and threw the region into such chaos that over ten years later the world is still dealing with the fall out from what was one of the worst foreign policy decisions in modern history? And what about the illegal wire tapping of Americans his administration carried out? Not to mention water boarding and other torture techniques being used on terror suspects? Is all that supposed to be forgotten because he's been out of office for awhile? How short is the American memory?
The image that bothers me the most is of Bush visiting the Ellen DeGeneres show and clowning around with the host. Has she forgotten that in 2004, Bush waged the most openly homophobic presidential campaign ever? Why would an out lesbian who has pushed for gay marriage do a friendly, outright fawning interview with a president who repeatedly stated that he wanted an amendment barring gay marriage enshrined in the constitution? And who packed the supreme court and the judiciary who judges who agreed with him? She couldn't summon up the strength to ask him one tough question about all this? Imagine Arsenio Hall giving a cute interview with David Duke!
History must not forget: when George W Bush left office, his approval ratings were lower than Nixon's during Watergate, in fact, his low ratings lasted longer than any other president ever. We must remember not just the Iraq war and his opposition to gay rights, but also his pathetic response to hurricane Katrina, and, of course, the economic policies he supported that laid the groundwork for the biggest economic crisis since the depression. When Trump haters look back on Bush's regime with nostalgia, they seem to forget all these things. While I think Trump has all the potential to be an even worse president than Bush was, he hasn't gotten there yet. Bush wants to improve his image as a terrible president and somehow absolve himself from stumbling into a horrific war. Let's not let him.
Saturday, March 4, 2017
Last Tuesday President Donald Trump made his first official address to Congress, and the fact that he got through a mostly positive speech without complaining about illegal voters or bragging incessantly was greeted with rapturous praise from much of the media: "he has pushed reset on his presidency", they exclaimed, "for the first time he seemed presidential" they gushed. Amazingly, some of this praise came from the very media outlets that Trump had earlier described as enemies of the people!
Honestly, the reaction to him getting through a teleprompter speech that he probably didn't even write any of is very similar to first time parents gushing with praise as a toddler learns to walk. Are the media so dispirited about the chaos and disorder surrounding the leader of the free world that they feel that any movement towards normalcy must be praised to the hills? Has this country really sunk to the level of giving glowing media coverage to the president just for showing up?
The sad answer to that seems to be a resounding yes. And just how long did Trump's reset of the presidency last? Less than a week. Yes, just after giving a speech in which he said that it was time for the country to move beyond petty squabbles, Trump entered into yet another one by embracing a conspiracy theory without proof on twitter, reverting to the same childish, whiny, bratty behavior he's shown since he first announced his candidacy. At 4 AM this morning, Trump tweeted this:
"How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"
Yes, the same man who held on to the idea that Barack Obama was not born in America for years, even after Obama's long form birth certificate was released, and who later accused Obama of being "the founder of ISIS", is now saying that the former president had Trump's phones tapped during the election. Just like his claim that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally in the last election, he offers no proof of this claim. And once again, his official spokespeople are silent, scrambling to come up with some kind of reason for why the president would claim to believe something so crazy without evidence.
So why is he saying this? Well, it's a conspiracy theory making the rounds in the conservative media that Trump is so fond of following, but like most conspiracy theories, it make little sense. Sadly, we are now living in a country where its chief executive believes whatever he wants to believe and spreads absurd rumors to his followers without any verification. And like we saw a few weeks ago when a lunatic shot up a pizza parlor because he believed a different conspiracy, they can have dangerous consequences.
And just for the record, it should be pointed out that the president is not just allowed to wire tap whomever he wants. If Obama's justice department did indeed wiretap Trump's phones, it could have only have been because they were able to obtain a warrant to do so by a judge. Which means that there would have to be a compelling belief that criminal behavior was being conducted on those phones. If Trump really thinks all of that happened, then is he admitting that there was reason for the government to believe that his campaign was up to something illegal. So his childish attempt to lash out at Obama may just wind up drawing attention to the fact that his campaign may very well have been up to something, like, say, coordinating email leaks with the Russians during the campaign. Will this latest crazy tweet wind up turning around and biting him? Well, Trump seems to be a man who can't shoot himself in the foot no matter how much he tries; sadly, it will probably fade into the fog of crazy that he has been projecting now for months. Somehow, time and time again, he gets away with saying and doing things that would sink any other politician. Hopefully, someday his lies will stick to him.