Opinion: Missing George H.W. Bush

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Anyone who takes government service seriously had to be moved by the tributes to our 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush. His life was an embodiment of patriotism and truly exemplified fidelity to our constitution and our laws. Of course, that does not mean that we agreed with every policy decision he made as president. But one cannot question his determination to do what he felt was best for the country, and as Abraham Lincoln said, “with malice towards none and charity for all.”

 The contrast with the 45th president could not be more poignant. Donald Trump more and more speaks like a mob boss. He demands unquestioned loyalty from his associates even to the point of praising those who refuse to discuss what they know about the circumstances that occurred during the 2016 presidential campaign. He has been effusive in his praise of those who refuse to assist the Special Counsel Robert Mueller like his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who has already pleaded guilty to multiple crimes but is undercutting the investigation of Russian involvement in American elections. But to those who have spoken candidly to Mr. Mueller, he has nothing but scorn and threats. He tweets that his enemies should be jailed and seeks to exact retribution.

Just last week, we learned that contrary to Mr. Trump’s long assertion of no involvement with the Russians, it is now revealed that even as he made those declarations his company was pursuing a billion-dollar building opportunity in Moscow with the direct knowledge of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Could that relationship be why Mr. Putin wanted to help Donald Trump become president, and why Mr. Trump has never uttered a cross word about Putin? Trump has inexplicably dismissed the findings of all our intelligence agencies that in fact there was an organized effort from the Kremlin to aid the candidacy of Donald Trump. Mr. Trump can yell “no collusion” all he wants but increasingly the facts are saying otherwise.

 And what of Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the assessment of his own CIA that the Saudi Crown Prince was intimately involved with the murder of journalist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi? Does the Trump business organization or his family also have financial ties to of Saudi Arabia in such a way that Mr. Trump is unwilling to say or act upon what seems obvious to every intelligence-gathering agency in the United States and the world? These are very weighty and consequential matters. All the while Mr. Trump continues to refuse to divulge his income tax returns which would surely shed light on these questions.

 This is also a president who flees from facts. He has made the United States virtually the only country in the world to reject the Paris Accords, which tackle the monumental problem of climate change that literally imperils the world. He dismisses reports of his own agencies, which state that climate change is manmade and is real and needs to be dealt with now. Why does Mr. Trump refuse to acknowledge science? Is the cost to his array of companies and those of his big corporate friends more important? Or is it just ignorance?

 The President’s refusal to lift a finger to ban the sale of the most lethal weapons meant only for battlefield combat, or confront his campaign donors from the NRA is a craven display of political cowardice. Just arm teachers, clergy and cashiers at shopping malls. That seems to be his answer to each recurring mass shooting atrocity. This is leadership?

The appalling and juvenile rhetoric towards his detractors is endless. The name-calling and intimidation of those who dare criticize him needs no repetition here. Only to say that the American public is becoming numb to this aberrant behavior. But we dare not consider it the new normal.

 I did not always agree with President Bush, but I always believed him. Sadly President Trump has squandered all of his credibility through the torrent of lies uttered by him and his administration so frequently and casually. Special Counsel Robert Mueller will soon issue his report. If Donald Trump does not find a way to suppress it we may learn the answers to the many questions about what motivates Donald Trump. We are likely to discover that Mr. Trump as a candidate and president has only been loyal to himself and those who can help him make more money or win elections.

George H.W. Bush was a man of honesty, humility courage and principles. Let’s hope that honor and decency in government were not buried along with him, to be replaced with a crop of politicians who only value avarice and ambition.

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