Do you miss Republican presidents the way I do? Each new Republican leader has made me pine a bit for his predecessors. And I’m especially missing George W. Bush these days.

It’s not as though my eyes tear up as I gaze mistily through the history of Republican presidencies. But there is some (relative) good mixed in with the blatant bad of these guys’ records.

Ronald Reagan made me miss Richard Nixon, who established the Environmental Protection Agency and the Legal Services Corporation, proposed a guaranteed minimum income, and otherwise pursued some progressive initiatives.

George W. Bush made me miss not just his dad, but also Reagan, whose actions (thankfully) did not always match his ring-wing rhetoric to the degree that Bush’s did, and who, after initially slashing taxes, repeatedly raised them in response to budgetary realities.

And now, poll-leading, hate-spewing Donald Trump and his competitors make me miss W, whose stances on immigration and Islam were arguably the best aspects of his presidency. This fine Jamelle Bouie article from the online magazine Slate makes the cogent case that Bush kept “anti-Islam and anti-Muslim rhetoric out of national politics” by consistently preaching respect for the religion, starting with soon after 9/11. (It makes no mention about how Bush’s Iraq War ended up fanning the flames of religious hatred, but that’s beside the point of the piece.) Bouie goes on to assert that Bush could do his party and country a great service by speaking out today with the same message.

Bouie does sound one naïve note: “[Bush] needs to remind his party that there’s more to politics than winning—that some victories aren’t worth the cost to the country.” Fat chance of that happening. But Bush could still make a powerful political, factual, and moral case for tolerance, including that it’s in America’s and Republicans’ self-interest to reject anti-Islamic rhetoric and polices.

But I’m not holding my breath waiting for Bush to speak out. He’s been rather reticent about most matters since leaving office. And perhaps more to the point, W arguing against discrimination would conflict with his brother’s stance. Supposedly smart, sensible, and moderate (by today’s Republican standards) Jeb wants to allow only Syrian Christians and not Muslims to seek refuge in the United States.

Finally, I miss Will Ferrell imitating Bush. His latest bit is not just spot-on hilarious, but also quite the commentary on the folks competing to make me miss Bush even more. Check it out: George W. Bush Declares for Presidency.

Based in Oakland, California, Stephen Golub writes, consults and teaches about international development, with a particular focus on justice, democracy, human rights and governance issues. Currently teaching part-time at Central European University in Budapest and previously at the University of California at Berkeley, he has worked in over 40 countries and with such organizations as Amnesty International, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Ford and Open Society Foundations, the U.K. Department for International Development, the U.N. Development Program and the World Bank

Scroll Up