I’m scheduled to do an interview on the topic of why George H.W. Bush pardoning the Iran-Contra gang wasn’t treated with the outrage that Trump pardoning any of his cronies would be. So, I’m looking at some of the swill that passes for journalism around here.
CNN’s Chris Cillizza tells us that Bush and Trump are “exact opposites.” He starts off with Bush leaving behind a nice note for Clinton, but Trump moving into the White House and lying about the size of his inauguration crowd. That sort of stuff works. But then Cillizza jumps to this: “Whereas H.W. Bush believed in the idea of America as a beacon of moral leadership in the world, Trump often seems to act solely from the perspective of financial interests.”
Times do change, and politicians with them, and vice versa. But moral leadership, for godsake? And with Saudi Arabia the topic of the next sentence after the one I’ve quoted? Moral leadership? Bush was responsible for Central American death squads, for killing thousands of people in an attack on Panama, for manufacturing a war on Iraq with grotesque lies and then bombing huge numbers of principally civilians and retreating troops and installing bases that would generate 911 by partnering with the brutal government of Saudi Arabia. Bush was responsible for ginning up new excuses for a permanent military after the Soviet collapse, for sending the vultures to exploit Russia, and of course for the October Surprise and quite likely a role in killing Kennedy, not to mention the fact that during World War II Bush’s father was doing profitable business with the Nazis — making references to Bush as a “hero” of World War II and representative of its whole “generation” a little odd.
Yes, there is now division within those in power. Media types hate Trump even though they’re happy to impose him on us for a profit. Congress may possibly vote to end a war. But the more militarist, bellicose, war-mad position on the Bush pardons of the facilitators of mass killings was to support the pardons, whereas on hypothetical Trump pardons in Russiagate it is to oppose the pardons. So, the position is the same in both cases. And Bush’s pardons help make Trump’s more likely. Bush’s wars make Trump’s wars possible. Bush’s appeals to racism have been seminal models for racist politicians ever since.
Trump has already pardoned a racist sheriff in Arizona and committed a long string of abuses of power, with top Democrats promising him immunity from impeachment. Would Democrats move on impeachment if Trump pardoned a bunch of his subordinates? Only if their own rhetoric left them boxed in. Their primary goal is to keep Trump around in order to be the people who are not Trump and to “resist” him. This was the Congressional approach to Iran Contra as well: denounce it, “resist” it, but keep it from becoming too big or too obviously impeachable. Then let the criminals go and focus on looking more war crazed than Michael Dukakis.