Former First Lady Barbara Bush passed yesterday, leaving behind an amazing life and legacy. She served as First Lady and Second Lady for twelve years, was mother to a President and Governor, and is herself the descendant of former national leaders. I don’t want to whitewash the obvious negatives of the Bush family, herself included, but Barbara Bush was a giant onto herself. She started the Barbara Bush Foundation, which concentrated on literacy. She was, surprisingly to many, a supporter of a woman’s right to choose. She was a mother who lost a child to cancer. She was easily her husband’s better half. There is a good reason we hold her up as a symbol of a more civil, classy American politics- because it was true.
It would be fair to say that the current White House has not taken a page from her. Melania Trump seems to be either a prisoner of the Trump White House, or complicit in it’s worst behavior. I think it’s largely unfair to criticize her, as I don’t think she either wanted this job or believed it would happen, and it’s not my place to judge her decision to marry the President. It’s not unfair to criticize the Trump White House though, a place so classless that their leader, the President, has been in public spats with a porn star, Lavar Ball, actors and actresses, and even members of his own administration, usually via Twitter, and almost always via taunts and insults. Find me anything similar in Barbara Bush’s long public life. You won’t.
I started out in politics criticizing Barbara’s son, George W. Bush, particularly for the Iraq War. The Bush family has had millions of critics like me, and has taken some huge public falls at our hands. George H.W. Bush left office a defeated man in 1993 after one term, George W. Bush left office as one of the least popular Presidents in American history in 2009, largely due to the economic meltdown and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Jeb Bush was utterly humiliated in the 2016 Republican Primaries. Despite all that, the Bush Family has maintained their public class- a public class that I attribute largely to Barbara, the woman who steered the ship in that family through the good and the bad.
In 2016, America elected a President who’s only shared quality with the Bush Family was his political party. I would offer the current President has lowered the bar on decency far below the level set by Barbara Bush. I would also offer that many of his voters wanted exactly that. It’s disappointing to watch. Personal failings are something we all have to accept and forgive in our national leaders- they are merely our fellow people. Making a habit of getting into the mud is not something we should accept.