Wow, the Bushes and Cheneys Have Become the “Reasonable Right”
Oh, now we like Dubya? And the Cheneys? How quickly we forget the past. The media has held both families up this week as respectable old-guard traditionalists — masked and responsible — celebrating their outspoken defenses of democracy against the modern GOP crazies: Trump, Boebert, Cruz, Taylor Green, and the rest. I am not the first one to say it, by any means, but I may be the first one to say it on your screen today, my friends. I call bullshit. This is dangerous. These people are just an inch north of crazy themselves. They’re also responsible for getting us here.
Yes, I understand that the left has gone further left in the last ten years, and so the right has gone further right — so far right that they have attacked their own Capitol. It is not that simple, neither is it really chicken-or-egg, but it is, in fact, the new lay of the land. Even Biden, now president, has shifted further left than anyone expected. His speech last week to a joint session of Congress (don’t call it the State of the Union) has the Fox crowd (my father included) apoplectic. Sanders and AOC, of course, sit even further left. And while none of us on the left actually think anything Biden said was so radical, the Democrats do finally seem intent on embracing the core values of the party.
In context, the Bushes and the Cheneys now seem like the reasonable right. They join Mitt Romney, who this week was booed by his own party in his own state. Thanks to a media more than happy to put Dubya’s daughter on a major morning show (this used to be called nepotism, by the way; I hardly think Jenna Bush Hager was America’s hardest-working and most-deserving journalist), and to applaud as the former president shares his newfound love of painting, Bush has been re-branded in retirement as sweet and lovable. The re-brand was helped no doubt by his on-screen love affair — er, friendship — with Michelle Obama. I love the Obamas, but the rom-com candy-sharing is painful to watch.
Let us not forget, though, that George Bush left the country on the verge of collapse in 2009. The economy was in tatters. No one went to jail. The financial crisis was not just a problem on paper. People’s retirement accounts were nearly wiped out. Families lost their homes, their livelihoods. There was great suffering in this country. This was after he spent his presidency lying to the American people, waging an illegitimate war in the name of 9/11, draining the country’s coffers, and demonizing gays and lesbians. Most of which was architected by Dr. Evil himself, Dick Cheney.
Yesterday, George W. Bush, in a podcast interview with The Dispatch, expressed his fears about the current state of the Republican Party, worrying that “if the Republican Party stands for exclusivity — you know, it used to be country clubs, now evidently it’s White Anglo-Saxon Protestantism — then it’s not going to win anything.” This comes on the heels of the opening of his Dallas exhibit featuring portraits of immigrants and an editorial in the Washington Post re-affirming his stance on the value of legal immigration. Suddenly, Dubya has a soul. Yes, he pushed for immigration reform while he was president, but please let’s not hold him up as as a paragon of diversity and rational politicking.
Same for Liz. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, who is about to be ousted from her leadership role in the party, has consistently held that Trump crossed a line by inciting the Capitol Riot, and by trumpeting The Big Lie. I agree. That line is dark and clear, and crossing it is egregious. What we all saw, with our own eyes, on video on January 6, was a disgusting spectacle. But the Cheneys have crossed many a line in the last 20 years in this country. They moved the line.
Not only was Dick architecting and doctoring (see above), but Liz, herself, threw her own sister under the bus during the marriage equality debates, excusing her lack of support for her sister’s marriage as simply a “disagreement” — as if policy doesn’t have real-world effects on people’s lives. In 2009, she was such a strong advocate for torture, that it is one reason she became a rising star in the party. She may be the more approachable Cheney, but she is a Cheney nonetheless.
I am sure Mitt is happy to have company on the Reasonable Right as the Bushes and the Cheneys try to hold the center and prevent the party from freefall. (Aren’t we kind of there already?) But let’s not — in conversation, in the media, online, and elsewhere — hold these people up as heroes. They may be speaking out now to save their party, but if we excuse them their own serious offenses, we’ll be looking at a post-pandemic political field where Democrats and Republicans are suddenly on the same moral plane. The Bushes and the Cheneys watered the soil in which Donald Trump and his new brand of extremism have grown. We may forgive, but we ought not forget.