Saturday, November 4, 2017

He Talks Nice, Still Does His Job

Just a brief return to George W. Bush and the speech that thrilled so many liberals.  I know that its fifteen minutes of glory have passed, what with so much new breaking news, but its time will come again, and one would do well to be prepared.

Readers may recall that one defense of Bush -- offered, let me stress, by liberal Democrats, not Republicans -- was that maybe he was a disappointment, flawed, less than perfect before, but he's clearly changed.  Was blind, but now he sees.  Hallelujah, he's seen the light!  Can't you hateful radicals believe that people change, and should be given a second chance?  And so on.  Here's why I don't find this persuasive.

Early in Barack Obama's first term as president, John Caruso wrote a post criticizing a speech Obama gave in Cairo, setting out his stance on the Middle East.  He followed it up with another in which he claimed to have changed his mind, quoting passages from the speech which showed Obama to be not just a visionary on foreign policy but a rather daring one, even ready to put real pressure on Israel.  He quoted several passages to illustrate:
We have great respect for the commitment that all Muslims make to faith, family, and education. And Americans of many backgrounds seek to learn more about the rich tradition of Islam. [...] I have asked young Americans to study the language and customs of the broader Middle East. And for the first time in our nation's history, we have added a Koran to the White House Library...

Our country's citizens come from diverse backgrounds and cultures, which has enabled us to realize the vision embodied in our first national motto: "E Pluribus Unum," meaning "Out of many, one." ...

Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop. And the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognize boundaries consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. [...] Israel should also show a respect, a respect for and concern about the dignity of the Palestinian people who are and will be their neighbors. ...

To overcome dangers in our world, we must also take the offensive by encouraging economic progress, and fighting disease, and spreading hope in hopeless lands. Isolationism would not only tie our hands in fighting enemies, it would keep us from helping our friends in desperate need. We show compassion abroad because Americans believe in the God-given dignity and worth of a villager with HIV/AIDS, or an infant with malaria, or a refugee fleeing genocide, or a young girl sold into slavery.
Having made his case, Caruso then admitted that these bold, idealistic sentiments were not Obama's at all: they were George W. Bush's, expressed in speeches he gave before American Muslim leaders at the White House on October 17, 2005; proclaiming Irish-American Heritage Month in 2002; in the Rose Garden on April 4, 2002; in his State of the Union message to Congress on January 31, 2006.  that first one, by the way, was for an Iftar dinner marking the end of Ramadan; Bush gave one every year of his presidency, continuing a practice begun by the Clinton administration "for which we have to thank a teenage Chelsea Clinton," who'd been studying Islamic culture.  Obama followed suit.  This multicultural sensitivity didn't stop either Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barack Obama from killing lots of Muslims, most of them civilians.

The point is that Bush hasn't changed; hasn't reformed; hasn't repented of his previous sins.  He's still as ready to emit gaseous platitudes as he was while committing his many crimes as President.  What has changed is that he no longer has the power to commit those crimes.  If he did, he'd no doubt still be bombing, torturing, invading, just as he did from 2001 to 2009.