Partisanship and Presidential Pettiness

Several of our friends thought George W. Bush was a horrible president, but now tell us he’s been an exemplary ex-president. They admire that he’s hewed to the longstanding tradition of refraining from any criticism of a sitting president and avoiding partisan politics while devoting himself to non-controversial causes. We expect they appreciated a three-minute video released on Sunday urging Americans to put aside their political differences and help one another during the coronavirus crisis.
“Let us remember how small our differences are,” Bush said in the video. “In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”
Who could argue with that? Even President Donald Trump didn’t try, but he did use the video as an opportunity to take yet another swipe at Bush via “tweet.”
“Oh bye the way,” Trump “tweeted,” with his characteristic poor spelling. “I appreciate the message from former president Bush, but where was he during impeachment calling for putting partisanship aside. He was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest hoax in American history!”
As always, Trump believes that anyone who doesn’t rise to his defense on every occasion is guilty of partisanship, and that those who do defend him no matter what aren’t partisans but rather true patriots. Trump’s impeachment trial was one of those controversies that ex-presidents are supposed to stay out of, as all four living ex-presidents did, and Trump should be grateful that they kept their opinions to themselves. All four almost certainly believed that Trump was guilty as charged, and should have been removed from office, so their silence probably required severe self-discipline.
A few hours after his sneering “tweet” about Bush, Trump “tweeted” an unexplained and unsubstantiated accusation that President Barack Obama “was the one running the Russia hoax.” He then insulted Democratic California Rep. Adam Schiff, and once again threatened to withhold federal aid to states with Democratic governors who won’t cede to Trump’s demands on sanctuary cities, which is at slightly more specific than his threat to withhold states from Democratic-run states on general principle. Oh, and he also “tweeted” a boast about the golf courses he owns in Scotland.
It’s hard to see how any of this helps the country reach a bipartisan solution for the coronavirus problem, or somehow helps make America great again, but he clearly believes it serves his own political purposes. Trump has heaped scorn not only on Bush but also on the late Arizona Sen. John McCain and current Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who were the three previous Republican nominees for president, and except for an occasional nod to the “late and great” Abraham Lincoln — he apparently ads the “late” part just in case you haven’t heard the bad news — he doesn’t seem to have much respect for any pre-Trump Republican. At least he’s nonpartisan to that extent.
Trump’s die-hard fans have probably voted for Republican presidential nominees as long as they’ve been old enough to vote, but they probably don’t mind him trashing the more dignified party they once supported. “At least he fights,” they’ll tell you. That such vindictive grudge-holding only serves to make the President of the United States look small and petty to the rest of the world doesn’t seem to matter.

— Bud Norman

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