Friday, December 7, 2018

Speaking Ill of the Dead

I finally finished "Partners Three" the other day. A middling book, I'd say, but mildly entertaining. Most interesting to me was the author's language -- given that it was published in 1928, you can imagine that it was full of lingo we wouldn't dare use these days. There were repeated references to the relative weakness of the female character, for example, and a curious and blatantly racist nickname (which I won't repeat) for tussocks of tundra grass.

I didn't see any of George H. W. Bush's funeral this week. His death made me recall how I felt about him while he was president. In retrospect, he seems capable and dignified, and I suppose he was, compared to what we have now.

But back then, I was not a fan. I had plenty of issues with Ronald Reagan, his social conservatism and trickle-down economics and scare-mongering about "welfare queens" and, above all, his appalling refusal to address the AIDS crisis. I saw Bush -- not wrongly -- as an extension of Reagan. I campaigned for Michael Dukakis when I was in college, in 1988, and was bitterly disappointed when Bush won on the back of Willie Horton. Later, I was opposed to Operation Desert Storm -- the first U.S. incursion into Saddam Hussein's Iraq -- so that didn't endear him to me, either.

When I was a 25-year-old reporter I covered one of Bush's presidential re-election campaign appearances. My journal entry from March 4, 1992:

Today was interesting -- I got to meet George Bush! Well, I didn't really meet him, but he came to the Strawberry Festival in Plant City and I covered it, and I was only standing about 4 feet from him or so. I could have shaken his hand, but I didn't want to since I think his politics are completely reprehensible. Still, it was kind of neat to see him. I got an OK story out of it, though it was all crowd reaction. The prez himself didn't really do anything except smile and shake hands.

I no longer seem to have a clip of the story, so apparently I didn't like it enough to save it. I'm sure I was professionally objective, but it's telling that I saved silly clips about, for example, a baby named after a gas station (true story) but not my one encounter with a sitting president.

A friend who wants to remain nameless took this picture in the early '90s. While Bush was announcing Desert Storm, my friend wrote on the TV screen over Bush's forehead and photographed the result. It may seem kind of mean now that Bush is dead, but I've always loved this picture and I'd say it concisely captured our feelings at the time about the Reagan/Bush era.

(Top photo: Hampstead Heath, last weekend.)


  1. Mr Bush Senior should be remembered for authorising the US invasion of Panama (Dec 1989 to Jan 1990). We will probably never know how many innocent civilians were killed but it was certainly more than the US military estimate of 1000. Some estimates within Panama itself are over 3000 dead and many more than that injured. Still, Bush got his way. What a swell guy!

  2. Gregg said the same thing the other day when we heard about Bush dying: just because he turned into a kindly old grandfather, that's no reason to pretend he didn't do a lot of vile shit. Of course, Americans are so hungry for civility from our leaders these days that it's easy to act as if he was a wonderful person...and compared to the current occupant of the white house, I suppose he was. :(

  3. I totally agree! II've been astonished at how rarely Bush 41 is held accountable for the terrible things he did as President, some of which you and Mr. Pudding have cited. His first Gulf War was evil, first for its idiocy in protecting Kuwati oil fields for Europe and Asia, and then for stopping short of invading Baghdad and leaving Saddam Hussein free to murder his own people and a million Kurds. So what if he was nice in his old age? He irresponsible for a lot of suffering. I do not know were all this fawning is coming from...except as a way to razz Trump.

    I am determined to live long enough to see Trump's funeral, just so I can go spit on his grave (along with about 60 million over Americans).

  4. we were wondering when they were going to declare sainthood. the man was a criminal.perhaps he became a better man after he was defeated but while in office he circumvented congress and sold weapons to bad people among other things.

  5. I couldn't stand him either and even in his grandfather years he was accused of grouping women. I really do NOT understand this deification of him now that he's dead. Sure, compared to Trump but really? We've set the bar that low?
    Come ON, people.

  6. During the nearly week-long homage to this former President I called my siblings daily to tell them that GHWB was indeed "still dead." I was never a fan, and it does seem that he was a richer character than he was a President, but I only knew of him in that role. He was not my favorite, and he is still dead.

  7. I so agree, desert storm scared me , intro into what we live now, immune to shenanigans now, but back then we were terrified...anyway, the thing that I really abhorred was his lack of connection with what was happening nationwide , the AIDS epidemic and the failure to address it or do anything about it until Hollywood got involved on a large scale. I missed the entire hoopla of him being dead ( at such a tender age) and the dragging his body around for days. What really pissed me off was the closure of the post office.

  8. Bush was a pretty crusty old guy but compared to today he looks great.

  9. Agreed, but what really caught me in this post was the technology your friend employed to manipulated the photo of Bush---she literally wrote on her TV screen!

    Now the addition of "666" would be Photoshop for Infants--the work of a moment...
    But the grainy TV photo with the superimposed streaky marker has an extra potency, for being hand done.

  10. Maybe Trump's legacy will be to make all other small minded presidents look so much better than they were.

  11. They really put a gloss on him at his funeral. As in the glossed over so much.