Has The Fool Fooled Us Again? (Guest Voice)
by Spencer Johnston
2017 was undoubtedly one of the most chastening and revealing years for the entertainment industry and Hollywood in particular, which had previously held itself up as a beacon of virtue and civil harmony. What remains to be seen is whether or not these abusers are going to pay the price for their actions, whether a chance of redemption will be provided to them, or whether their careers will indefinitely remain in tatters. This is one of the questions to which, we will simply have to wait and see.
Judging on the basis of history, it might only be a couple of years before alleged abusers such as Weinstein and Spacey are back in the forefront. Mel Gibson for an example, a man who called an Africa-American policeman a ‘n*gger’ and supposedly referred to Jews as ‘oven dodgers,’ starred in the most financially successful comedy of 2017. And what about Roman Polanski? A man who raped and drugged a 13-year-old girl and then fled the country to avoid jail, yet still works with some of the biggest, most activism engaged stars in Hollywood? Even John Lennon! A man whose music feels almost engrained in our bloodstream was a horrific sexist, a repeated ridiculer of the disabled and an occasional wife beater, yet he is held up to be a symbol of peace?
Forgiving predators and perpetrators of heinous crimes seems to be something that takes the backseat, if the predator or perpetrator possesses the ability to entertain us. And who in recent memory reiterates this point more so than anyone else? The 43rd President of The United States, George W. Bush, a man who in my opinion, and the opinion of many, was one the most corrupt and unfit Presidents America has ever seen, a man whose charm appears to have sheathed his wrongdoings.
When lamenting Bush on his many transgression and poor judgements, perhaps the hardest thing to decide is where to start; due to the indefinite and immeasurable consequences his decision making has had and the sheer scale of his seeming felonies. From the election, where conspirators believe Bush manipulated connections in Florida to win the crucial swing state, until the very end, the Bush administration was embroiled in malfeasance. But I guess it makes sense to start with the bedrock of Bush’s failure, The Iraq War.
We’ll never really know why Bush decided to invade, and subsequently start a war in Iraq. Was it upon the rationale the administration claimed, that Sadaam Hussein possessed WMD’s, which he intended to use against the United States and its allies? Was it an emotional response against the largest attack ever by foreign powers on American soil? Was it the fact that Dick Cheney, the Vice-President under Bush who many believed to the Puppet Master of the administration, and his company Halliburton stood to gain between 16-40 billion as a result of the war?
Was an act of vengeance against the people who “tried to kill his daddy”? We’ll never truly know, but what we do know is that the war violated the UN Charter and international humanitarian law, and to many was inarguably, and by definition, an illegal war. The war created a fictional enemy, and led to the toxic xenophobia and Anti-Islam rhetoric that festers in the heart of many Americans to this date. It made George W. Bush responsible for the deaths of nearly half a million people in counting, destabilising the Middle East and directly influencing the birth of Isis.
One of the lesser known, and perhaps one of the more surprising malpractices of the Bush administration, was the Bush’s treatment of military personnel, both home and abroad, former and present, as well as the wellbeing of their families. In tandem to funding the trillion dollar wars, he proposed cutting combat aid by 33%, aid to their family by 60% and opposed a bill to give veterans over a billion dollars more in healthcare benefits. To an extent, I can sympathise with Bush needing to make cuts in a time fraught by destitution, but for someone who by his own definition was a “War President” who “feels a special kinship with our military personnel, veterans, and their families,” it seemed like an extremely deceitful act.
Even outside of the role of presidency, Bush’s duplicity concerning his treatment of American soldiers and the public image he purports continues… In fact to this day he profits off the men he wrongfully sent to combat. In 2015 Bush charged $100,000 to speak at military veterans charity, a move former marine Eddie Wright who served on the board and last his hands in Iraq claimed was “a slap in the face For him to be paid to raise money for veterans that were wounded in combat under his orders.”
And then there was the financial meltdown Bush caused, the worst financial meltdown since The Great Depression. Perhaps it’s painting with a broad brush to state Bush was the sole cause of the crash; many people credit it to Clinton and his deregulation of finance and welfare reforms, but to say Bush didn’t handle the situation responsibly would be one of the understatements of the century. His inability to act upon the housing crisis bubble, which many had predicted, accompanied by large tax-cuts, a trillion dollar war and the second most costliest natural disaster in American history were decisive factors in causing The Great Recession and the economic deprivation man are still reeling from to this date.
The sight of George W. Bush comically dad-dancing onto the set of the Ellen Show, and proceeding to charm his host and audience, was particularly perturbing to me. Why would Ellen DeGeneres, a supposed leading advocate of LGBT rights, behave so cordially towards Bush? Even in spite of the aforementioned calamities, this was also a President who opposed gay marriage and took the classic, unhelpful neoconservative position of presenting himself as a gay-sympathizer, all the while whilst appeasing evangelical states and allowing them to evolve their anti-gay agendas.
This was one of many appearances by the former President that exemplifies his success in cloaking the atrocities and economic prosperity he subjected the masses too, both home and abroad. The ‘misunderestimated’ President’s charm, humour and ability to self-denigrate, an alien concept to Donald Trump, seem to be the traits now most attributed to an undeniably corrupt man, who entered the country into one of the most illegal and vilified wars in recent history. A war in which thousands of American soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, died for reasons still unbeknown that will cause debate for years to come.
As Donald Trump’s populist, bigoted agenda continues to augment the state of hyper-partisanship within America, and monger fear across horrified supporters of egalitarianism and civil rights across the world, Bush Jr., the last Republican in office, has barely veiled his disappointment towards the chief in command. The denouncement of his controversial successor, accompanied by the entertainment factor Bush undeniably brings to the table, has seemingly normalised a man who will probably be responsible for more deaths and civil unrest on a global scale than Trump is ever likely to cause.
“Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone and provides permission for cruelty and bigotry” and “Nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America,” were amongst a number of implicit and unmistaken denouncements of the current chief in command, made by Bush in a speech in October. This along with revelations from Mark Updegrove’s book ‘The Last Republicans’ that Bush didn’t vote for Trump in the election have led Democrats, left-leaning media institutions and entertainment stalwarts alike to welcome Bush as one of their own, with CNN even coining a headline titled “George W Bush, Welcome To The Resistance.”
When he left office, Bush’s approval rate was polling at 7% with Democrats… A recent poll from YouGov claims that 51% of Democrats now view George Bush in a favourable light… 16% in a very favourable light.
The denouncement of his controversial successor, accompanied by the entertainment factor Bush undeniably brings to the table, has seemingly normalised a man who will probably be responsible for more deaths and civil unrest on a global scale than Trump is ever likely to cause. When leaving office
Bush appears in many ways to be a very personable, pleasant man; his sudden appeal makes sense in the face of one of the most morally repugnant, unpleasant Presidents in current history. He’s the kind of guy you’d want to have a beer with. But in the eyes of many, including myself, he is a war criminal. And undoubtedly, he was an awful President. Which begs the question; How fickle are we that dancing around, making a bit of a fool of yourself and depreciating a highly unpopular President, who although a bigot and buffoon has been less detrimental, is enough for us to celebrate one of the worst presidents in history?
Our penchant of letting entertainment outweigh reality is synchronous with, and has supported, the vindication of a man that will eternally have the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands, and we should be ashamed for taking the bait. As an old saying in Texas goes, ‘Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.’ Well whatever Bush meant by that, it seems he has been able to fool us once again.
Spencer Johnston is a freelance writer, charity worker and activist. He is passionate about civil rights, social egalitarianism and the uphill struggle he believes they respectively face under the Trump administration.
Photo: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=126709