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Book of Matthew: I miss you, George W. Bush

Published: November 5, 2010
Section: Opinions

I was walking up the Rabb steps yesterday when I saw a sign that, I admit, I did not expect to see hanging anywhere on this campus.

On the sign was a picture of George W. Bush next to a caption that read: “Miss Me Yet?”

It’s something you might see pasted on a billboard near a Texas highway or as part of a conservative political TV spot. But not at Brandeis, where my unscientific research tells me that the average student would, if given the chance, pelt our former president with both their shoes.

Yet there it was, still in one piece despite the rainy weather. I stood at the top of the steps for a minute, looking it over and reading some of the comments penciled in by hecklers, and I realized something. I think I might agree with the sign.

I’m starting to miss George W. Bush.

Well, sort of.

It all started with the Tea Party movement: the cute, wanna-be revolution that will supposedly free us all from the tyranny of government if its members ever manage to win elected office. Oh, wait, they did. That happened on Tuesday, when Tea Partiers and traditional Republicans who tried to distance themselves from the Tea Partiers but still managed to parrot their same basic ideas swept through the House, took the majority of governor seats and state legislatures, and nearly captured the Senate.

Some people look at the results of the election and see the same old Republican Party, albeit with more members, positioned to enact the same old Republican agenda. I disagree. We have witnessed the ascendancy of the most conservative House majority and the Senate minority in generations.

These days, it’s fashionable for Republicans to talk about repealing the new health care law, or defunding it, or defunding the government, and then celebrating with a nice, healthy round of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Compared to the new kids on the block, Bush and his cronies were pretty tame. I would even go as far as to predict that Bush will be remembered as our last moderate Republican president.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably questioning my sanity. Bush misled us into two foreign wars, unnecessarily cut taxes and allowed the budget deficit to skyrocket. He did little to address global warming or our crumbing infrastructure, and we still need to figure out how to get Social Security and Medicare costs under control.

And you would be correct to mention any one of these things. Bush was not a great president, nor even a good one, and I certainly don’t want to see him anywhere near the Oval Office. As far as I’m concerned, he is more than welcome to enjoy his retirement and his book royalties. (Seriously, who ever thought he was literate enough to write an entire book? Are we sure no ghostwriters were involved?)

But, to Bush’s credit, he was no Tea Partier. Before so-called “big government liberals” entered the picture, Bush and his good ol’ boys were expanding the size of government at a rate that would (and probably did) make Ron Paul weep at night. Government spending skyrocketed—partially due to the wars, but also due to the creation of Medicare Part D, which was probably the largest expansion of American welfare since 1965. Everything’s big in Texas, I guess.

Sift through all of Bush’s mistakes and missteps and you will find that at the root of many of them was an ideology that was often flexible to the desires of his Democratic opponents. Unlike the rigid Republicans of today, he occasionally reached across the aisle. (Think “No Child Left Behind” with Kennedy.)

It’s that willingness to negotiate—however small—that I miss. It’s highly unlikely that we will see anything resembling it in the next two years.