Echoes

President Bush's predecessor, despite leaving office as the most popular two-term president since Eisenhower, left the country deeply divided.

The previous president was a man of enormous charisma who had presided over years of economic expansion and was beloved by a majority of Americans. But he was also deeply distrusted and hated by about a third of the country because of eight long years of demonizing attacks.

George Bush was elected, in part, because he campaigned on the promise that his presidency would unite the country after years of the office being hobbled by such polarizing attacks. Despite the fact that his campaign recycled some of the old venom, the American people hoped that his vision of a "kinder, gentler America" might become real, and so they elected George H.W. Bush president in 1988.

Skip ahead 12 years.

President Bush's predecessor, despite leaving office as the most popular two-term president since Eisenhower, left the country deeply divided.

The previous president was a man of enormous charisma who had presided over years of economic expansion and was beloved by a majority of Americans. But he was also deeply distrusted and hated by about a third of the country because of eight long years of demonizing attacks.

George Bush was elected, in part, because he campaigned on the promise that his presidency would unite the country after years of the office being hobbled by such polarizing attacks. Despite the fact that his campaign recycled some of the old venom, the American people hoped that his pledge to be a "uniter, not a divider" might be real and so nearly half of them voted for George W. Bush in 2000.

The parallels are remarkable, with one important difference: the focus of those demonizing attacks. During the Reagan years, the White House was the source of those attacks and the targets were everyone from poor women ("welfare queens") to environmentalists to unions. During the Clinton years, the White House was the target.

  • Scorpio

    …and because almost half voted for him, although his opponent actually got more votes. Don’t leave that out. He then proceed to act as if he had a landslide mandate instead of squeaking into office by a vote of 5-4.
    Scorpio
    Eccentricity

  • cs

    You’re right, history in a nutshell.

  • RealGenius

    I just wish you hadn’t used the word “elected”. I know you had to use it for 41, but still. Otherwise, the entire argument is beautifully constructed. Fabulous work.
    Oh, and the one preceding 41 did not preside over years of economic expansion, did he? Wasn’t the gigantic deficit he created the cause of so much bad later on?

  • anon

    I was with you right up to the last paragraph and then you pegged my bullsh*t meter. Reagan wasn’t subjected to demonizing attacks? Are you nuts or were you just not there at the time? Do you have to disagree with the attacker for it to be a “demonizing” attack? Don’t mistake this for gipper-fandom because I have never been a Reagan fan, then or now. But liberals demonized Reagan. I was one of them, and I remember how it was done.
    This one was, hate to say it, a cheap shot.

  • darms

    Uh, Anon, I too didn’t care for Mr. Reagan or his policies and made my opinions known to those around me but never once did I accuse him of murder or worse. If what we did was “demonize” Mr. Reagan, what do you call the treatment of the Clintons? Oh, and once Mr. Reagan left office, the attacks on him and his policies largely ceased. Would you say that the attacks on the Clintons have also ceased, almost four years after he left office?

  • anon

    darms,
    I’m not going to split hairs on where the “demonize” line is. We clearly don’t place it in the same location, though. I think that a good deal of what the opposition in any political situation pumps out qualifies as demonizing. I would include the way that the left treated Reagan, and yes, the way that the right treated Clinton. I have not heard much about Clinton since he left, so I guess I’d answer “yes” that the attacks on the Clintons have ceased. I spend a life largely bereft of talk radio, so if Clinton still gets reamed daily by Rush, it happens without my witnessing it.
    It is unfortunate that politics encourages us to readily depart from rationality. I rank the Vince Foster business as being right up there with Fahrenheit 9/11. Which means that I don’t think Bill had anything to do with the death of Vince Foster and that I don’t believe that Bush Jr. is really spending the lives of our soldiers on behalf of big oil cronies. For my part, I agree with those who think that, like Rush, Mr. Moore sounds more than a little paranoid.
    I think that mere character flaws and mistakes are more likely explanations of the tragedy of Iraq than conspiracies.


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