After observing that "George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton will oversee the National Institute for Civil Discourse in Arizona, sparked by the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords," Kevin D. Williamson takes us on a trip down memory lane:
What’s so civil about the red-faced, rage-filled Bill Clinton? The guy tried to blame Oklahoma City on Rush Limbaugh. Using both the bully pulpit and his proxies, he constantly implied that his critics were either racists, sexual deviants, corrupt, or all three. His minions brought us such gems of civil discourse as: “Drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, and you never know what you’ll find.” Clinton had the gall to subsequently tout his own “moral fiber” while denouncing his critics as “sleazy,” telling Peter Jennings: “You never had to live in a time when people you knew and cared about were being indicted, carted off to jail, bankrupted, ruined, because they were Democrats and because they would not lie. So, I think we showed a lot of moral fiber to stand up to that.”
Of course, they were lying. Lying wagging one’s finger and flat-out lying also is not traditionally considered part of civil discourse. That GHW Bush is willing to lend his name and credibility to such an exercise illustrates why the kind of prep-school Republicanism he stands for is dead and unmourned.
Whatever one thinks of his behavior as president, Bill Clinton is also the person who, during the 2008 presidential campaign, slyly compared Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson and said that the notion of a black president was a fairy tale. Still, it's strange to indict George H.W. Bush for agreeing to be co-figurehead of an institute for civil discourse.
And let's take a moment to compare the "prep-school Republicanism" of George H.W. Bush to its GOP successor in the White House. Whatever the flaws Bush Senior, does Williamson really prefer the big spending, torturing, corrupt Rovian machine? Or the terrible team of John McCain and Sarah Palin? Given the disaster that's been the Republican Party since 1992, perhaps we should be mourning Bush Senior's fall.
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