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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bush the first was ok

Parade, the tabloid magazine in Sunday newspapers, is usually superficial and trendy. For decades I have skimmed it, but occasionally it carries something worth reading carefully. Two weeks ago it ran a good interview with former President and First Lady George and Barbara Bush.

I toed the party line in 1988 and voted for Michael Dukakis, but I wasn't upset by the election of George H. W. Bush -- or plain George Bush, as we said then. I respected his broad background in military service, business, and government. I'm just left of center, and I can tolerate politicians just right of center as long as they don't offend my libertarian sensibilities. Most of the time, Bush represented what I call the respectable Republican Party. Even respectable Republicans favor big business over the little guy, but let's give respectable Republicans their due. They brought us the Environmental Protection Agency, Amtrak, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and similar governmental operations that are anathema to the right-wing Republicans who began taking over the party in 1964. It's the Goldwater-Reagan Republicans that I dislike intensely.

The interviewer in Parade asked Bush what were the highlights of his presidency. The response was three-fold: the absence of major scandal, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the liberation of Kuwait. That's a good list, I think. Bush frustrated the Goldwater-Reagan zealots by raising taxes and temporarily banning the import of some semiautomatic weapons, actions that led to his defeat in 1992. Another factor in his defeat was the poor state of the economy -- which, ironically, was a lot better in 1992 than it is now.

Did I agree with everything that Bush did or tried to do? Of course not. Can his presidency be criticized? Sure. But in contrast to his successor, he behaved himself in office; and in contrast to his son, he improved international relations. Combine that with a few solid domestic accomplishments, and he gets my gratitude as a good president.