BY SUSAN ESTRICH
I spent more than a year working to beat him. I thought his campaign manager was about the most unethical person I’d ever met. I knew that the fish rots from the head. I was not a big fan of George H.W. Bush’s.
Until I – and much of America – came face to face with a president who lacks everything we took for granted in him.
Nobody was afraid of a Bush presidency, which was one of the reasons he won. Compared with a relatively unknown liberal governor who let a black first-degree murderer out of prison and then rape a white woman, the vice president was the safe choice. And he was safe.
I don’t know a single soul who told me that they were actually afraid of a Bush presidency. He appointed judges I didn’t favor, gave tax cuts to the wealthy, played it cozy with the Saudis. But he was never scary.
You never thought, “My God, this guy doesn’t listen to everyone. He shoots from the hip, embarrasses us in the eyes of the world, creates all kinds of uncertainty, has no respect for anyone or anything, thinks he knows everything, makes everything personal and lost the House with a booming economy.”
George H.W. Bush respected the office of the presidency.
He respected the rule of law.
He surrounded himself with aides who were not chosen solely based on their loyalty to him.
He did not brag about manhandling women, did not spend his day watching television and actually believed in talking to Democrats.
He wrote nice notes to people [“nn”] – including people he disagreed with – not Twitter posts.
We were opponents, not enemies.
He cared about America more than he ever cared about himself.
And, of course, we took all those things for granted.
I was on a panel at the Ronald Reagan Library during the Clinton years right after the Republicans took over the House in the midterms. Speaker-to-be Newt Gingrich was riding high on a pretty harsh anti-Clinton tide. He was on the panel. The crowd was all his. I wasn’t even supposed to be there, but whichever woman was on the panel had been forced to bow out. I was doing them a favor.
I got my head handed to me. The first question to me was something about President Reagan and President Roosevelt. I said something completely noncontroversial about “respect for the presidency.” The crowd booed me – on C-SPAN, no less. Mrs. Reagan was in the first row, and she was openly appalled. She apologized and sent me flowers.
Reagan respected the presidency in ways President Trump could never understand.
I remember when it was standard political fare, particularly for Republicans, to try to turn support for civil liberties, or support for requiring congressional approval to go to war, into a test of patriotism. And then the Democrat would scream and yell about questioning his patriotism, because that’s just not allowed.
This time is different. This time we have a president about whom nothing can be taken for granted, including respect for separation of powers, American intelligence, the independence of the judiciary and a free press. Because Donald Trump has no respect for anyone and anything, including the Constitution, which he keeps ignoring or trying to rewrite.
Donald Trump is not bound by truth or by law. George Bush was a patriot and a hero, two words rarely associated with Trump.
And we have become almost used to it. Every day, Trump says or does something that none of his predecessors would have ever done, and then we forget because tomorrow will be the next outrage. We have learned to live with a president who simply lies – flat out – and then we forget because he lies every day.
George Bush had nothing in common with this president whatsoever other than his party affiliation.
May the passing of a former president who was everything Donald Trump is not remind us that patriotism and respect for the rule of law should never be partisan issues. And may our former president rest in peace.
– Susan Estrich’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer