Last night, George Herbert Walker Bush died the age of 94. His presidency is rightly remembered as a pivotal moment in American politics. His experience as director of the CIA and as Vice President under Ronald Reagan helped secure his election during the final years that the Soviet Union posed a threat to the globe. However, after riding the coattails of overwhelmingly popular Reagan to political victory, Bush immediately veered in a different direction.
"Compassionate conservatism" was born. In his acceptance speech before the Republican National Convention, Bush mapped out his new course:
"Prosperity has a purpose. It's to allow us to pursue "the better angels," to give us time to think and grow. Prosperity with a purpose means taking your idealism and making it concrete by certain acts of goodness. It means helping a child from an unhappy home learn how to read ... It means teaching troubled children through your presence that there is such a thing as reliable love. Some would say it's soft and insufficiently tough to care about these things. But where is it written that we must act if we do not care, as if we are not moved? Well, I am moved. I want a kinder and gentler nation."
Legend has it that, at that moment, Nancy Reagan leaned over to her husband Ron and whispered, "kinder and gentler than whom?"
The mainstream media was not kind or gentle toward President Bush during his term in office—a fact which makes their unanimous chorus of praise, today, ring hollow. The idea that there has been a massive change-of-heart is simply too incredible to believe. Rather, the praise seems to fit snugly into an ongoing policy that the media has observed for decades: "the only good Republican is a dead Republican... or an ex-Republican."
The media had no love for President Eisenhower. In fact, they still largely blame his actions for the mess in Iran. However, after his death, he became a great "elder statesman" standing in stark contrast to the "dangerous" Barry Goldwater. The media hated Barry Goldwater, too, while he was running for president. However, after Goldwater turned his small-government logic (which he once used to oppose the 1964 Civil Rights Act) against the "Religious Right" in a 1981 address to Congress, the media changed its mind. Goldwater now represented "principled conservatism" against a dangerous and theocratic Ronald Reagan. These days, the media can even be found praising Ronald Reagan, albeit typically by comparison. "Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan," argues several media outlets.
Sadly, this is the motivation for many (if not most) voices in the mainstream media, today, who are lavishing praise on the dignity and character of George H. W. Bush. That is sad because the late George Bush does deserve to be praised. In fact, he deserved it while he was still living—even while he was still president. Perhaps, if the media had shown the proper respect for the moral character of George Bush, we might never have entered the world of post-moral politics inaugurated by his successor, William Jefferson Clinton.