One week ago exactly, we said the following about the extent to which Donald Trump has single-handedly managed to transform the legacy of George Bush:
First of all, you should note that Donald Trump has once again done the impossible. He has managed to turn George Bush, easily the stupidest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, into a regular Abraham Lincoln by comparison.
As a reminder, here’s Bush delivering what amounted to an anti-Trump manifesto at a George W. Bush Institute event in New York last Thursday:
Well for his part, Rich Benjamin thinks maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves when it comes to letting ol’ “Dubya” off the hook. In fact, Benjamin notes that the seeds for this were actually planted during Bush’s presidency.
Here are some selected excerpts from a longer Op-Ed by Benjamin for The Washington Post…
Excerpts from “George W. Bush is not the resistance. He’s part of what brought us Trump.” by Rich Benjamin for WaPo
A newfound love for Bush springs from a growing distaste for the current occupant of the Oval Office. And the comparison that many progressives and establishment Republicans itch to draw between Bush and Trump makes the Texan seem like Lincoln. But a more careful look at Trump and Bush’s records shouldn’t elevate Bush; it should remind us that the two presidents have more in common than they care publicly to admit.
For starters, just think about tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, suppressing the black vote and Bush’s penchant for denigrating facts and expertise. Our country’s historical amnesia be damned; the roots of Trump’s reactionary agenda were planted in W.’s West Wing.
In his recent speech, Bush claimed that bigotry “is blasphemy against the American creed,” referring to Trump’s politics. But Bush’s own Svengali, Rove, was simply more sophisticated and soft-spoken in his bigotry than Trump’s past and present cabal, Stephen K. Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.
In Bush’s post-presidential glow, it’s easy to forget that he and Rove were the crown princes of wedge issues. Having championed a historically unprecedented move to change the Constitution to bar same-sex couples from marrying, Bush and Rove then helped get 11 initiatives to ban same-sex marriage on state ballots in November 2004, the better to draw conservatives to the polls to support his reelection.
While drawing conservatives to the polls, Bush, Rove and Gillespie worked diligently with Republican state legislators to put voter-restriction laws on the books, the better to keep blacks and college students away. Despite no worthy evidence of voting fraud in 2000 or 2002, John Ashcroft, Bush’s attorney general, put the issue at the top of the Justice Department’s agenda. After federal prosecutors came up with nothing for years, Bush’s White House became defensive and aggressive. In an unprecedented move, Bush had his attorney general fire seven U.S. attorneys. Ultimately, the Department of Justice’s own inspector general concluded that some of the dismissals were motivated by the fired prosecutors’ refusal to go after trumped-up voter fraud cases.
And as Trump sells his tax plan, the country should beware of deja vu. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 delivered the top 1 percent of earners an average tax break of more than $570,000 between 2004 and 2012. Bush boosted that top 1 percent’s already high after-tax income by more than 5 percent each year. To what end? Even Bush’s chief economist on the Council of Economic Advisers, looking at the results from 2001 to 2007, found “no first-order evidence in the aggregate data that these tax cuts generated growth.” Despite Bush and Rove’s promises, the tax cuts did not demonstrably improve economic growth nor pay for themselves.
Just as they flouted sound economics, Bush administration officials espoused an anti-intellectual stance, quite eager to disparage experts and information-gathering and dispute settled facts.