Op-Ed: Stop Excusing George Bush


Theki Chang

In the aftermath of the January 6th Storming of the US Capitol, no one could have been happier than George Bush. Once regarded as the worst president in recent memory, Bush’s reputation was in need of serious repair. Following the Presidency of Donald Trump, Bush may have received the push he needed to salvage his public image. With so many egregious stories emerging from the Trump White House, Bush’s presidency began appearing reasonable to most Americans. This phenomenon can best be observed through the reversal in Bush’s approval rating since he left office in 2009. According to a 2018 poll conducted by CNN, Bush’s favorability rating stood at 61 percent, 28 points higher than where it was at the end of his presidency. 

While the sheer absurdity of the Trump Presidency supported Bush’s quest to revive his image, another powerful entity abetted Bush on this journey of redemption: the mainstream media. With article titles like “President George W. Bush hails immigration as America’s ‘greatest strength’ in new book” or “Conservative George W. Bush is Now Too Liberal for His Party,” the media has painted George Bush as a moderate, sensible, conservative willing to embrace the diversity of modern America. Bush’s fall from grace was largely attributable to his awful response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As such, the decision by reporters to highlight Bush’s ideological clash with the Republican Party or his contemporary respect for immigrants would be acceptable, if properly contextualized, even if it contributed to a revival of Bush’s reputation. However, the issue lies in the fact that these narratives the media has created for Bush to take advantage of fail to properly educate readers on the history of the Bush administration’s policies which negatively impacted the immigrants he now claims to adore and which provided the foundation for the Republican Party we know today. 

For instance, most Americans were appalled by candidate Trump’s depiction of undocuments migrants as “rapists” and “drug dealers.” However, as President, George Bush viewed undocumented immigrants in a similar fasion, as evident through the Bush Administration’s classification of undocumented migrants as “dangerous criminal aliens” in the 2007 plan for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Furthermore, the USA PATRIOT Act passed under the Bush Administration in response to the September 11 attacks removed important protections for non-citizens. In this legislation, as emphasized by the American Civil Liberties Union, Section 412 of the USA PATRIOT Act permits the “indefinite detention of immigrants and non-citizens.” Therefore, by digging into the past we can find that the Bush Administration passed policies which created a treacherous climate in the United States for the same immigrants former President Bush now praises as positive contributors to this country. 

Everyone deserves a second chance. Nevertheless, the resuscitation of former President Bush’s reputation as a moderate, immigrant-loving, stand-up citizen is outright absurd. If the public is willing to forgive Bush after recognizing the cumulative impact of his policies as president, it would be more understandable. However, by focusing on the present and omitting the past, reporters have allowed Bush to revive his reputation through a facade that conceals the truth.

Image Credit: “George W. Bush’s official portrait, 2003″ by Eric Draper is Public Domain.