Class and crass

10/27/2017, 6:46 a.m.
I never thought I would miss our 43d President, George W. Bush. And I’ve never thought of him as a ...
Julianne Malveaux

Julianne Malveaux

I never thought I would miss our 43d President, George W. Bush. And I’ve never thought of him as a great, or even good, speaker. But the speech he gave Oct. 19, at a conference convened by the George W. Bush Institute was simply eloquent, excellent, thoughtful and compelling. 

After keeping a low profile for the past eight years, he spoke up to decry the fact that “bigotry seems emboldened.” 

“Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children,” he said during his talk.

Why did the former president choose to speak so forcefully in a speech that did not mention 45 by name but was at least partly directed toward him? 

Perhaps it was what happened in Charlottesville because President Bush and his father, 41st President George Herbert Walker Bush, issued a joint statement denouncing white supremacists, something that 45 simply could not bring himself to do. The younger Bush was blunt in his talk when he said, “Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”

I knew that I would miss Barack Obama, our 44th president. Like his predecessor, President Obama has kept a low profile since leaving office, stepping out very briefly to campaign for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam on Oct. 19, and to reflect on the challenges we face in our democracy. 

Like President Bush, President Obama did not refer to 45 by name, but his speech in Richmond was a repudiation of virtually everything our prevaricating “president” stands for. 

“Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed,” President Obama said. “That has folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st century, not the 19th century. Come on!”

Seemingly scolding the current administration, President Obama said, “Instead of looking for ways to work together to get things done in a practical way, we’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage.”

Watching President Bush and President Obama reminded me of how far the quality of our nation’s leadership has fallen. I saw two men who, with absolute class, reminded us of our nation’s values and that which is repugnant in the current administration. 

The contrast is the persistent crassness of 45, an ill-spoken, bumbling, coarse and classless individual. He never met a fight he could not pick and escalate, never met an opposing viewpoint he could not demonize. He has belittled everyone he has disagreed with, from his own inner circle to football players he does not even know, calling them “sons of bitches.”

In his entire eight years of service, President Obama never disparaged his predecessor, President George W. Bush, even as he cleaned up some of his messes. 

In his several months of leadership, 45 has missed no opportunity to criticize President Obama. If I had a dollar for every time President Obama critiqued President Bush, I’d barely have enough money for a fast-food meal. If I had a dollar for every time 45 disparaged President Obama, I could dine at the nation’s best restaurants for a full week!