I never thought I would miss President George W. Bush, our 43rd president, and I’ve never much thought of him as a great or even a good speaker. But the speech he gave at a conference convened by the George W. Bush Institute was simply eloquent, excellent, thoughtful, and compelling. After keeping a low profile for the past eight years, he spoke up to decry the fact that “bigotry seems emboldened.”
Bush said that “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.”
Why did George W. Bush choose to speak so forcefully, in a speech that did not mention “45,” but was at least partly directed at him? Perhaps it was the violent protests in Charlottesville. He and his father, President George Herbert Walker Bush, issued a joint statement denouncing White supremacists, something that it took “45” forever to do. The younger Bush was blunt when he said, “Bigotry or White supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”
I knew that I would miss President Barack Obama (44). Like his predecessor, he has kept a low profile since leaving office, stepping out very briefly to campaign for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam and to reflect on the challenges we face in our democracy. Like President Bush, President Obama did not refer to “45” by name, but his speech in Virginia was a repudiation of virtually everything that our prevaricating current president stands for.
“Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed,” said Obama. “That has folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st century, not the 19th century. Come on!”
Seemingly scolding the current administration, Obama said, “Instead of looking for ways to work together to get things done in a practical way, we’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up, because it provides a short-term tactical advantage.”
Watching Presidents Bush and Obama reminded me of how far the quality of our nation’s leadership has fallen. I saw two men who, with absolute class, reminded us of our nation’s values and everything that is repugnant about the current administration. The contrast is the persistent crassness of “45,” an ill-spoken, bumbling, coarse, and classless individual. He never met a fight he could not pick and escalate, never met an opposing viewpoint he could not demonize. He has belittled everyone he has disagreed with, from his own inner circle to football players he does not even know — calling them “sons of bitches.”
In his entire eight years of service, President Obama never disparaged his predecessor, President George W. Bush, even as he cleaned up some of his messes. In his several months of leadership, “45” has missed no opportunity to criticize President Obama. If I had a dollar for every time President Obama critiqued President Bush, I’d barely have enough money for a fast-food meal. If I had a dollar for every time “45” disparaged President Obama, I could dine at the nation’s best restaurants for a full week!
Class is visiting Walter Reed Army Medical Center to look in on wounded soldiers, or hosting White House luncheons for Gold Star families. Crass is calling widow Myeshia Johnson and never mentioning her deceased husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, by name, telling her “he knew what he signed up for.” Class is refusing to disparage either predecessor or successor. Crass is trashing anyone and everyone, including his predecessor. Class is disagreeing with dignity and civility. Crass is name-calling, challenging people to IQ tests, making fun of ill and disabled people, and making fun of war hero and veteran Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) for being shot down and captured during the Vietnam War.
To be sure, I don’t think that “45” maliciously called Myeshia Johnson in an attempt to cause her pain. I think he simply does not know how to talk to people, and we have plenty of evidence. The recent book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President (Macmillan, 2017) explains that the sociopathic narcissist we elected is so fundamentally flawed that he could easily imperil our very survival by pushing us into war.
“45” told Myeshia Johnson “he knew what he signed up for.” So did nearly half of our nation’s voters when they chose crass over class.
Julianne Malveaux is an author, economist, and founder of Economic Education. Her latest book, Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy, is available to order at Amazon.com and on her website.
Thanks to Julianne Malveaux and NNPA for sharing this commentary with us.