George H.W. Bush, RIP

President George Herbert Walker Bush died on Friday, and given the rancorous political rhetoric of today we were pleased to see how very respectful all the obituaries and public comments have been. Even the news media that were most critical of Bush over his long career in public service duly acknowledged his many historic accomplishments, and all his past foes joined his many friends in praising the man’s patriotic character. This will probably be the last time we see any American sent off with such bipartisan praise, and we fear it marks the passing on era when that was not only possible but fairly commonplace.
Bush was born 94 years ago in a bygone era of genteel New England Republicanism, the son of a wealthy businessman and future Senator and a socialite mother, and was educated in the best schools that a wealthy New England family could buy. As a star student and promising athlete he was admitted to the elite Yale University, but against his parents’ wishes he volunteered for the Navy at the outset of World War II, became one of the military’s youngest aviators, and came back with medals never wore and heroic tales he rarely told about parachuting from a burning plane and being luckily rescued by a submarine that happened to be nearby. At long last enrolled at Yale, he was a Phi Beta Kappa student and the captain and star first baseman of the school’s championship-contending baseball team. He also wed the shy but attractive socialite Barbara Pierce, a descendant of President Franklin Pierce, and they stayed married and quite obviously in love for the rest of their lives.
Instead of taking his Yale education and distinguished war record to Wall Street or an academic sinecure or some other obvious choice for wealthy New Englander, Bush went west to a particularly barren portion of west Texas to make his fortune in the rough-and-tumble oil business, and wound doing quite well for himself and his growing family. By age 40 he figured he’d made enough money to let the investment income accrue, and with an old New England sense of noblesse oblige he commenced one of the most remarkable careers of public service in American history.
Bush started in the humble position of Harris County, Texas’ Republican party, and lost his first race for the House of Representatives shortly thereafter. He won the seat two years later, a rare feat for a Texas Republican way back in ’66, an in two terms earned reputation as a centrist who voted for civil rights legislation he’d earlier opposed and bucked the party’s position on birth control but backed President Richard Nixon’s controversial Vietnam policies. At Nixon’s urging Bush ran for the Senate in ’70, and lost to Democratic nominee Lloyd Bentsen — more about that later — but was rewarded with an appointment to be ambassador to the United Nations. He served as national chairman of the Republican party during the Watergate, somehow keeping his reputation intact, and was then head liaison to China just after Nixon famously normalized relations, and was then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
With such an impressive resume Bush was considered a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, but there was already an anti-establishment sentiment brewing in the party, and he lost to former California governor and far more forcefully conservative Ronald Reagan. Although it had been a hard-fought primary campaign by both sides, Reagan chose Bush as his running mate, partly to appease the still-potent establishment wing of the party, and partly because of Bush’s impressive resume. The choice worked out well for the Republican party, with Reagan winning two landslides and Bush earning a third term parties rarely win, beating the ticket of Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and the aforementioned Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. Even his harshest critics of the time now agree it worked out pretty well for the rest of the world, too, with Reagan’s aggressive policies winning the Cold War and Bush’s more cautious diplomacy successfully negotiating the peace.
Bush’s long experience of foreign policy brought other masterstrokes. Although it was controversial at the time, his decision to invade Panama and arrest its dictator after several provocations was carried out with stunning efficiency and looks good in retrospect, and no one in Panama is griping about it. When the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait in violation of international law and basic human decency, Bush drew a famous line in the sand, and enforced it with an undeniable brilliance. He won the approval of both Russia and China and the rest of the UN’s Security Council to fight the aggression, assembled an international coalition of nations that included all the keys players in the Middle East, then unleashed a near-perectly conceived military plan that drove the Iraqi army out of Kuwait before the first anti-war protest could be organized. Casualties were miraculously low, international law had been enforced, America’s world leadership was unchallenged, and Bush briefly enjoyed a record-setting 90 percent approval rating.
The public is fickle, though, and when the Reagan economic boom eventually ran into an inevitable recession Bush got the blame for the business cycle. The recession was relatively brief and mild by historical standards, and was largely over by the time Bush’s re-election day arrived, but he’d be hammered by the press for the pardons he issued to everyone involved in the unfortunate but now largely forgotten Iran-Contra scandal, and it was easy to caricature him as a well-heeled New Englander who didn’t understand the common folk. He had the misfortunate to run not only against “Slick Willie” Clinton, a Yale-educated snake oil salesman from small town Arkansa who could bite his lip and convince the common folk he felt their pain, but also the independent candidate Ross Perot, a megalomaniacal billionaire who told the anti-establishment sorts of Republicans who’d long distrusted Bush’s kinder and gentler conservatism everything they wanted to hear. Thus Bush became the most consequential and respected-by-history one-term president since John Adams.
Bush wasn’t one to seek revenge, but he got a small measure of it when his eldest son, George W. Bush, won the presidency after Clinton’s two peaceful and prosperous but scandal-ridden terms, becoming the first son of a president to win the office since John Quincy Adams. That’s a whole ‘nother story, as they say down in Texas, and it will continue to be rewritten long after the younger Bush’s obituaries are published, but the elder Bush’s popularity grew through his retirement. In keeping with the longstanding traditions that Bush always kept, he kept his political opinions mostly to himself through the Clinton and Bush and Obama administrations, and instead devoted his considerable energy to bipartisan good deeds. With no political opinions in the way people came to further appreciate his sunny disposition and impeccable manners, his love of God and family and country, and everything he embodied about the bygone era of noblesse oblige and New England Republicanism.
One of the endearing little details in all the respectful obituaries is about Bush’s friendship with the comedian Dana Carvey, who used to do a hilariously satirical impersonation of Bush on the “Saturday Night Live” show. Most politicians would have found it offensive, but Bush found it hilarious, and he invited Carvey to the shtick at the White House correspondent’s dinner and other events. After he lost his reelection bid he asked his friend to do the routine at the White House, and Carvey tearfully recalls it was because Bush though his staff needed some cheering up. The famous catch phrase of Carvey’s impersonation was “Nah, nah, not gonna do it, wouldn’t be prudent,” but as even The Washington Post duly noted, Bush’s greatest gift to America was his prudence, a quality currently out of style.
Even President Donald Trump is respectfully noting Bush’s death, and we’re glad to see that. Bush was the quintessence of the Republican establishment and the “globalist” foreign policy that Trump ran against, and he’d criticized the elder Bush’s decision not to topple Hussein and then falsely accused the younger Bush of lying America into a war to topple Hussein, and he’d ridiculed the “low energy” of another prominent Bush family member who sought the presidency. Trump isn’t one to let a family feud rest, but at least he seems to know better than to invite any comparisons at this moment in time.

— Bud Norman</p

The Students are Revolting

The latest of wave of student protests have claimed a couple of high-profile scalps at the University of Missouri and Yale University, which will likely encourage similar efforts elsewhere. By the time it’s all over, we expect, even the most exceedingly progressive and exquisitely politically correct professors and administrators are likely to be targets of the mob they’ve created.
Both of the most recent brouhahas have been beyond satire, as usual. At MU — we’ll continue to call it by its old Big 8 and Big XII acronym, even though the cowardly turncoats bolted for the Southeastern Conference some years ago — it all started with a claim by the president of the Missouri Students Association that someone in a pickup shouted a racial slur at him, then a claim by a group called The Legion of Black Collegians that another man who walked by their gathering also taunted them with racial slurs, which led to a general conclusion that the campus was suddenly a hotbed of racial slurring. All of which seems highly suspicious. Our experience of the contemporary college campus, even the ones in Missouri, is that racial slurs are now the only curse words that students and their professors don’t routinely employ. Although we don’t doubt that some redneck might have passed through and shouted something rude from his pickup truck, that hardly suggests “systemic racism” at a university where the president of the Students Association is apparently black. We also think it would take a most unusually badass white boy to taunt an entire Legion of Black Collegians with even the mildest of racial slurs and get away with it.
Still, the university’s chancellor took everyone at their word and responded with an announcement of mandatory online “diversity training” for all faculty, staff, and students, who were presumably previously unaware that racial slurs are now frowned upon in polite society. In recent years this would have satisfied the mob, but these days they’re emboldened to ask for more. A group calling itself Concerned Student 1950, with the number harkening back 65 years to when black students were first admitted to MU, quickly held a protest that blocked the car of the Missouri University System’s president during the homecoming parade, and later issued a list of demands that included the president’s formal apology followed by his resignation, “mandatory racial awareness and inclusion curriculum” to be “controlled by a board of color,” increasing black faculty and staff to a ten percent quota, and, more sensibly, “An increase in funding to hire more mental health professionals for the MU Counseling Center, particularly those of color.” A couple of days a later a swastika of smeared feces was found on a bathroom wall in an MU dormitory, which might or might not have been the work of some unhygienic racist, given the recent spate of hoax hate crimes perpetrated at colleges where students are all too eager to feed a narrative of “systemic racism,” then there was the inevitable hunger strike by a student who would rather die than live in a world where the stray redneck in a pickup truck shouted racial slurs, and when the administration refused to grant any of the previous demands the Concerned Student 1950 made even more extravagant demands, including the outgoing UMS president’s public admission of his “white privilege” and his culpability for a protestor allegedly being hit while blocking the president’s car during the homecoming parade, and his failure to prevent the police from intervening in the protest, as well as his failure to get out of the car and have a nice apologetic chat with the mob.
Even in this age the UMS president and the university’s chancellor might have weathered the storm, but then a large number of the school’s football players threatened to sit out an upcoming game against Brigham Young University if the demands were not met. In the Big XII or the SEC or any big-time football conference this is when a campus controversy becomes serious, even if Missouri’s football team is faring no better in the SEC than it did back in the Big XII days, and with a reported $1 million in gate receipts and television revenues on the line the president agreed to step down. Both seem to have spared themselves the indignity of the demanded groveling apology for their pallor, so it remains to be seen if their sacrifice will satisfy the mob and those all-important football players, but we anticipate that even greater demands will soon be made. Once the legions of black collegiate athletes realize their bargaining power, the current protest movement could even exceed its ’60s and ’70s predecessors in destructiveness.
As befits its more elite Ivy League status, Yale’s controversy is even more ridiculous. In Yale’s case there were no alleged racial slurs or swastikas smeared in feces, but rather a worry that some student or another might don an offensive Halloween costume. This dire prospect prompted the university to issue some official warnings, which in turn prompted an atypically sensible member of the Yale faculty to compose a widely-disseminated e-mail to the students of Yale’s aptly named Silliman College, with the endearingly old-fashioned salutation “Dear Sillimanders,” which duly noted her credentials as a lecturer on early childhood development as well as her “concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community,” then advised students to lighten up and respond to any offense by either ignoring it or politely raising an objection, put in a plea for free expression, reasonably asked “Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people?,” and humbly concluded “It’s not mine, I know that.” Such raw hate speech of course offended the refined sensibilities of Yale’s young charges, who responded with attacks on the author’s husband, who happens to be the “Master” of Silliman College, a title that had already caused some recent controversy at the university, and who has apparently failed to protect his easily-offended students from everything that might offend them.
A fascinating video posted on the essential YouTube site shows the “Master” being surrounded by a group of mostly black students at his college, which we hesitate to describe as a mob, while trying to get to his office, with one young woman shrieking curse words at him, telling him to “be quiet” when he tries to respond, contending that his wife’s e-mail requires that he quit his job, and shrieking that “This is not about a creating an intellectual space,” apparently without any intended irony. She’s presumably a student at Yale, which somehow retains a reputation as prestigious university, and we note that she’s rather attractive even when shrieking, so if she succeeds in mau-mauing the university to grant her a degree she’ll forever have a job-seeking advantage over any white male who was graduated from a more rigorous but less prestigious land-grant cow college, but apparently the Ivy League is somehow so rife with racist rednecks that she retains her victim status. This followed allegations that one of Yale’s fraternities had denied Elis of Color admission to one of their parties, we will concede, but even if that’s true we’re not sure why it’s problematic for progressives that the frat boys chose to sexually exploit only white women in their “culture of rape.”
In one of those coincidences that no satirist could ever get away with, the potentially offensive Halloween costume controversy occurred right around the time when then the university’s William F. Buckley Program was hosting its fifth annual conference on “The Future of Free Speech.” The eponymous Buckley launched his distinguished career as a conservative author with “Man and God at Yale,” which presciently described what would happen after the university abandoned its Christian roots in favor of a secular humanist approach to education during his years at the school, and free speech necessarily entails hate speech, so the conference was indignantly protested from the outset, buttwhen one of the symposiasts opined that people on campus were responding to the Halloween costume controversy as if the e-mail author “had burned down an Indian village,” which the mob took it as a callous joke about the genocide that he no doubt secretly desired. Protestors were hauled off by the ample security guards, panelists were spat upon, a “hashtag” campaign that “genocideisnotajoke” was quickly launched, and a group that we won’t hesitate to call a mob attempted to stop the free speech taking place.
We’re reminded of the student protests of our long ago youth, but we somehow recall that had something to do with a so-called “Free Speech Movement” launched at the University of California-Berkley, and that there was lots of talk of questioning authority and doing your own thing and dressing however the hell you wanted to dress even on Halloween, and as ridiculous as it was it made more sense the current “Revolt of the Coddled.” The more seasoned fellows over at the Powerlineblog site reminded us that back then there were still university administrators such as former San Francisco State University president S.I. Hayakawa, who defied black militant’s demands for open admissions and autonomous black studies departments and other efforts to undermine his institution’s mission, and was backed up by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, and who later switched his party affiliation to Republican and won a noteworthy term as a United States Senator. Since then all those “free speech” and “question authority” and “do your own thing” students have taken over the faculties and administrations of America’s colleges and universities, and it’s a safe bet they’ll go along with whatever speech codes and strictly enforced regulations and busybody limits on personal autonomy and Halloween costume rules their unruly students might insist on.
Those former questioners of authority who now find themselves in positions of academic authority would do well to consider the fate of their colleagues at Yale and MU. The beleaguered bureaucrats of those schools almost certainly thought themselves the very model of a modern academic, with a proper enthusiasm for mandatory online diversity  training and a considered concern for the cultural and personal representation and a willingness to have curses shrieked at them by coddled yet hysterical students, yet they all found themselves targeted by the mob. The protestors have even turned on the press, and  threatened to call the hated cops on them, which suggests they aren’t nearly so media-savvy as their ’60s and ’70s predecessors, so they’re likely to turn on anyone insufficiently enthusiastic about their brave new world. We don’t know if they still bother to teach about the French Revolution and the ensuing Reign of Terror at America’s universities these days, what with all the dead white males involved, but the rest of academia might want to bone up on the fate of Robespierre.

— Bud Norman