Michael Arceneaux, Contributing writerWed, September 15, 2021, 9:43 AM

George W. Bush.
George W. Bush. Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock

Even if delivered by a fool, it was nice to hear someone of some political stature express the truth about former President George W. Bush.

I’m not in the habit of quoting someone I’ve long loathed, but former President Donald Trump was on to something when he said in a Monday statement that Bush had “a failed and uninspiring presidency” and shouldn’t be “lecturing” Americans about the threat posed by domestic terrorism. Trump was responding to a thinly veiled shot made by Bush towards the Trump-idolizing insurrectionists during a speech at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Without explicitly naming Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, Bush compared “violent extremists at home” to the terrorists who had hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001, and crashed them in New York City, Arlington, and Shanksville, killing nearly 3,000 people.

“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” Bush explained. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols — they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them.”

This was enough to get Trump, presumably seething for attention anyway, to attack Bush via dictated statement.

“He shouldn’t be lecturing us about anything,” Trump said. “The World Trade Center came down during his watch. Bush led a failed and uninspiring presidency. He shouldn’t be lecturing anybody!”

Multiple things can be true at once. Trump was a terrible president. He is also correct that Bush was a terrible president, too.

Trump is also not wrong to highlight that the terrorist attacks happened on Bush’s watch. It’s a fact too many folks seem to forget. That, coupled with the two disastrous wars he started in response to 9/11, should have resulted in Bush’s invitation to any commemorative event being rescinded. But our media tends to be forgetful. As much coverage as the pullout of Afghanistan recently received, it still boggles the mind that so many Bush administration alums and military leaders of the era were given free reign to opine on Biden’s apparent faults without even acknowledging they created the problems in the first place.

All of these people — especially Bush — should be hanging their heads in shame.

On what planet does Bush have any right to condemn anyone else for “their disregard for human life?” The man lied about two wars that resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives being lost, oversaw an administration that tortured people and imprisoned hundreds without charges in a human rights abuse from which the U.S. is still trying to extricate itself. What his administration failed to do for the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina should have also made him a pariah. Then again, I am a 37-year-old Black millennial from Texas, so I suppose I should be used to the continued sanitization of this scion whom former Texas Gov. Ann Richard once described as “some jerk who’s running for public office.”

I still know what Bush is, though. He wasn’t just the son of a man who used racism to get ahead professionally (though, in fairness to his dad, it was a GOP tradition by that point), he did the same thing with dashes of homophobia mixed in. When he gained power, he wielded it to benefit the most fortunate among us, in an economic project that was punctuated by the Great Recession.

That’s why I’ve never quite understood many of the willing participants in the rehabilitation of Bush. I understand professional courtesy, but I don’t find Bush’s friendship with former first lady Michelle Obama as charming as others do. Just when I think their passing of candy at funerals is kind of cute, I remember people still think Bush should be charged with war crimes. Or how many folks I know who never got back to New Orleans. Or the people in Texas whose lives he ruined decades ago. Ellen DeGeneres finds him charming now, too, but Southerners vary on their tolerance of those who exploit homophobia to win elections. So much forgiveness has been extended to Bush simply because people find him amusing.

Trump is a vapid, narcissistic, vile cartoon villain of a president. Trump is also a liar. Still, regrettably, the most indecent man imaginable is the only president decent enough to take umbrage with “Dubya” trying to lecture anyone. As depressing as it is, I’ll still take it.

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