At last...the present era. And now image and reality really start to war with each other:
George Bush, Sr.
Image: Confused, unintelligent, and ‘wimpy’—insufficiently tough to follow a genuine hero like Reagan …but
* Joined the Navy during World War II on his 18th birthday; became the youngest navy pilot
* Was shot down, rescued, and proceeded to fly a total of 58 combat missions; awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and a Presidential Citation
* Served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
* For a time was Adjunct Professor at Rice University
* Ordered the US military invasion of Panama
* Ordered the invasion of Kuwait and Iraq
Image: Classic big-government bleeding-heart liberal…but
* Failed to reform health care in the US (largely because of mismanagement by his wife—and since when do spouses assume executive roles?)
* Balanced the budget by following the advice of the Fed Chairman, and made the government fiscally responsible for the first time in decades
* Flung cruise missiles hither and yon, and dragged the US into war in the Balkans
* Dismantled the nation’s welfare system in a more savage way than any right-winger could have imagined
* Presided over an astonishing expansion of prisons and mandatory sentencing laws that gave the US the world’s largest prison population
* Encouraged the Drug Enforcement Agency to provide more of its own funds by seizing Americans' cars, houses, and bank accounts
* And, my favorite: Happily signed a bill that prevented anyone who had been convicted of a drug offense from ever receiving college loans. (Yep, that’ll help ‘em climb out of the ghetto…)
George W. Bush
Image: Archconservative tough guy…but
* Refused to answer questions about his drug use (unlike Clinton, who was accused of smoking marijuana—but, of course, didn’t inhale—George W. was a well-known drunk and reputed to be a cokehead)
* Is rumored to have enrolled in the National Guard to avoid Vietnam, and then not done his duty in the Guard; has done little to prove these charges false
* Vastly expanded federal powers (something most conservatives have long feared)
* Vastly expanded the powers of the Presidency (something most conservatives have long feared)
* Has furiously attacked States’ Rights whenever he happened to disagree personally with the issue at stake. (The pre-eminence of States’ Rights is generally considered to be a key plank in the conservative platform. States’ Rights haven’t suffered such a series of defeats since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.)
* Has—in violation of a cherished conservative principle—decided to engage the US in “nation-building” abroad
* Has spent money at an astonishing rate while cutting taxes, thus more than reversing the gains of the Clinton years, and has thereby crashed the dollar to an unbelievable low
* Has run the national debt up to $9.2 trillion, which is roughly $75,000 per household.
The Bushies may hate the Clintonians and vice-versa, but in fact the Bush Administration adopted all of its moves from the Clintons—spin control, the insertion of divisive and irrelevant issues into discussions, and blatant character assassination of anyone who stands in the way of the President. Since 9/11, Bush has been able to play the character-assassination game more freehandedly (the anyone-who-disagrees-with-us-hates-America approach), but I’m sure Clinton would have done the same if he’d had the chance.
The most curious thing is how the images of the person stick no matter what the facts of their life. (Just consider the case of 'wimpy' George Bush, Sr. compared to 'heroic' Ronald Reagan.)
Bill Clinton is perceived as a self-indulgent baby-boomer and a bit of a slacker. His actual life is a rags-to-riches, Horatio Alger, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps story that you’d think would have the conservatives coddling him. But facts don’t enter into it.
On the other hand, George W. Bush is perceived as a straight-shooting, pious, regular guy. He’s really a fact-dodging spoiled preppy frat boy who inherited his money and on his own wouldn’t be capable of holding down a job at McDonalds. But facts don’t enter into it.
My opinion? I’m not in the habit of quoting bumper stickers. But one a while back caught my attention:
Bill Clinton: No Longer the Worst President in History
I can hardly wait to see where November will leave us, how the actions of our next President will conflict with their image, and how people will manage to ignore it.