Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Bright Side of Bush

Today on my Facebook feed I saw a picture that showed George W. Bush and Barack Obama with caption that read, "I'll take Bush on his worst day over Obama on his best day, share if you agree" or something to that effect.

I honestly don't understand what Obama did to deserve so much hatred. I mean, it's thoroughly ingrained in the South that he's ruining America somehow, but you can trace nearly all of those criticisms to baseless fabrications by conservatives trying to smear his reputation. Sometimes blatant racism, too but, honestly, in the South it's a far greater crime to be a liberal than to be black.

In any case, this hatred of an individual and utter refusal to see anything positive in him unsettles me deeply. I shouldn't be surprised by humanity's capacity to dehumanize others, but it never stops bothering me. I never want to believe that another person is truly irredeemable (which is kind of what my faith is all about).

Given that, I'm going to purge this bile by listing some of the positive things George W. Bush accomplished.

I mean, sure, I could list a bunch of President Obama's accomplishments pretty easily since, unlike some progressives who may have expected a revolution during his presidency, I think he did a lot of good with what he was given.

Bush, on the other hand, is not someone I agreed with very often. He did an awful lot of things that irk me: he invaded Iraq, created the TSA, enacted No Child Left Behind, signed the Patriot Act, allowed the torture of suspected terrorists, and so on.

That said, he's a man who, though I disagree with many of his actions, was not doing all of these things while twirling his mustache and cackling at how foolish everyone was for electing him. And I don't believe he was necessarily a puppet whose strings were controlled by his father, the oil companies, and major corporations either. I think he was genuinely doing what he thought was right, and many people agreed with him. He got reelected in 2004, after all.

I don't just want to acknowledge his humanity, though. I want to find some specific things he's done that I feel are genuinely worth celebrating.

1) He captured Saddam Hussein.

Don't get me wrong: invading Iraq was ridiculous. We had no good reason to go there, no good reason to believe they had nuclear weapons, and even if they did we probably had no right to invade anyway. Sure, the Iraqi people were living under a brutal dictatorship, but Hussein was hardly the only dictator at the time, and he wasn't even the worst. We're not really in the business of toppling dictatorships. In fact, we've set several of them up ourselves.

That said, once we were in there the die was cast. President Bush pushed our troops in and took over the country, eliminated a dictatorship, and vowed to stick with the country until it became stable. In short, Bush didn't simply roll over Iraq; he took responsibility for it. That took more maturity than I think people give him credit for.

And, hey, one less brutal dictator in the world doesn't hurt.

2) Medicare Part D

Bush's Medicare reform was a hard-fought, bipartisan effort. As a result, many Medicare beneficiaries got to have their prescription drugs subsidized by the government. This was a big deal, and even now fiscal conservatives grumble at the expense. It's not a perfect system, but it made a huge difference to many people struggling to afford their prescriptions.

3) President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)

Early on in his presidency, Bush was focused on making Africa a large part of his foreign relations plan. After a few years of working with Congress, they passed the Global AIDS Act in 2003 and began investing billions of dollars toward AIDS treatment and prevention in Africa. Through these efforts, millions of people have received treatment, and hundreds of thousands of children have been born without HIV despite their mothers being HIV-positive.

It's one of the most massive humanitarian aid efforts in history. Obama kept it going, and I think he would have had a lot of trouble starting something like this (which would no doubt have fueled the birther conspiracies).

4) George W. Bush tried to stem the tide of anti-Muslim sentiment in America after 9/11.

Less than a week after terror attacks brought down the World Trade Center in New York, George W. Bush got up on stage and tried to quell the resentment already building toward Muslims in general, and especially Muslims living the America. It didn't help much, of course, but the fact that he made the effort at all, actually quoted from the Qur'an and commented on the beauty of its language, and chastised people for even thinking about discriminating against Muslims says a lot about this man.

Like most Republicans, George W. Bush is not a bad man. He has a good heart, and I hope his retirement is treating him well.

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