Letter to the Editor

We can recapture George H.W. Bush’s standard for civility

Monday, December 10, 2018

Friday, December 7, 2018

At the time of his presidency, 1989-1993, George H.W. Bush’s reputation was bolstered by his strong leadership in foreign policy and tainted by a staggering economy.

He stared down Saddam Hussein in Kuwait and watched the Berlin Wall fall and the Soviet Union break apart. But he eventually reneged on a campaign vow by signing a tax increase into law, and he presided over a weak recovery from recession.

That was the George H.W. Bush we all knew. But today, another of his characteristics looms large.

Bush was a statesman in the finest tradition of the presidency. He was collaborative, civil and projected a goofy but endearing brand of dignity.

And his heart, as they say, was in the right place. He encouraged a kinder, gentler approach to governing domestically and to America’s global role.

No doubt, he was a shrewd politician. Anyone who rises to the office of the president must be.

But there was never a serious doubt about his sincerity and his motivation to do the right thing, according to his conservative political values.

Bush died Friday night and was laid to rest Thursday. The nation mourned the loss of a respected statesman and leader.

Five others who have governed from the Oval Office attended the funeral in Washington: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and George W. Bush.

Seeing them all in one place illuminated their differences.

There was the gentleman peanut farmer from Georgia, the charismatic politician from Arkansas, the progressive liberal from Chicago and the Texan chip off the ol’ block. All are noted, to one extent or another, for their diplomacy and civility.

And then there was the business tycoon and reality TV star from New York. Seeing President Trump alongside the others invoked the old Sesame Street segment and song “One of These Is Not Like the Other.”

Whereas the others focused on the issues and sought collaboration, President Trump’s style is to attack those who oppose his policies and actions. Though he has his better moments, he generally projects a posture of arrogance, defiance and combativeness.

But President Trump is not truly to blame for the nastiness, divisiveness and incivility that grip American politics today.

He has merely tapped into a national mood of intolerance that draws its energy from everyday Americans who are fed up with the political system and the ineffectiveness of government.

We can all change that — both the intolerance and the problems with government.

We can all listen to one another — and that includes those who loathe Trump listening to the president’s supporters to understand their perspective rather than dismissing it. And we can engage in issues-based discussions, without name-calling.

George H.W. Bush was certainly no fan of President Trump, but he made sure that Trump was invited to his funeral. Bush understood that it was the right thing — the civil thing — to do.