I have been watching the coverage of George H.W. Bush’s funeral, and reading the glowing tributes delivered to the late president by scores of commentators. He is lauded as a genuinely great man …perhaps, indeed, a great president…whose time at the White House benefited America and the world.
And this is strange, frankly, because not that long ago you would not have heard such comments. Even a few years back, the Progressive Left would have said quite different things. We would have focused on the Gulf War, which (in the end) caused us so much grief, particularly after his son took us back into the conflict for no particularly good reason. And, we would have mention the infamous Willie Horton advertisement, with which H. W. Bush managed to tar Dukakis, and, worse, move American political activity decisively toward race as an issue. And then, of course, there the military actions in Panama and Somalia. And we mustn’t forget that, somehow, this man managed to be Ronald Regan’s vice president, surely not an easy thing. (As I recall, Doonesbury did a series where Bush put his “manhood in trust” that he might have the VP slot.)
Yet, almost none of that surfaced in the last few weeks. Oh, yes, here and there, now and there, you’d see a somewhat churlish piece that would dwell on these things (“Bush’s legacy: war crimes and racism!”). But those articles seemed graceless at best, and, at worse, useless and irrelevant in the modern age.
Instead, we all of us have lined up to do homage to H.W. Liberals, Progressives, Moderates, and even a few conservatives are united in their admiration for the former president. The former president’s funeral was, thus a remarkable gathering at which men and women of all political bents (except the Trump supporters) were represented…and at which real grief was expressed.
The obvious reason for that grief is that George H.W. was the anti-Trump. For whatever his failings, he was a decent man, who did the very best he could during his time. He meant well, and to a surprising extent, he did well. And Trump is…none of that. Trump is without virtue, and beyond redemption.
Thus, as I watched video clips of the funeral, I wondered something. To wit, I wondered if the grief I saw there, the regret and the sadness, was wholly for the man himself.
It was for him, of course. He was admired and will be missed.
But, also, I suspect, the grief is for the Republican Party.
I think the grief expressed was for an honorable man, but also for what the GOP used to be, when it was decent, and good, and flawed but nevertheless, not corrupt beyond measure. As opposed to today, when the Party is little more than a criminal enterprise, and profoundly vulgar, making the crudest of appeals to race, and hatred, and fear.
So it is, I think, that the funeral of George H.W. Bush was many things. It was the time when we said goodby to him.
And also, when we wept…in the knowledge…of all that we had, and all that we lost, with the death…