Sohn: Did compromise pass along with George H.W. Bush?

Sohn: Did compromise pass along with George H.W. Bush?

December 4th, 2018 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

President George H. W. Bush makes a point during his first presidential prime time televised news conference in the East Room of the White House on June 9, 1989, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Photo by Ron Edmonds

"Read my lips: No new taxes." Then there were new taxes.

"A thousand points of light." But not from the government.

Willie Horton. The modern-day beginning of a presidential candidate using identity politics and fear to win votes and favor.

The Gulf War for oil, which later — years later — brought us 9/11.

There were plenty of things about which we did not agree with George H.W. Bush, especially Willie Horton and the war.

But the 41st president was also known for his mentions of "a kinder, gentler nation." And we wonder now, if kinder and gentler ever existed in our politics, where did they go?

No president is perfect.

But each is president, and as such commands the respect at least of that presidential position, if not the person.

Bush, for all of the things we disliked about him during his four years in office, demonstrated that he could compromise, and he did so often with a Democratic Congress — on deficits, taxes, civil rights and the environment.

The greatest achievements of Bush 41 were a new Clean Air Act (the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment), the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (the one requiring an every-four-year climate change update report, one of which was released recently) and the Americans with Disabilities Act. All of those initiatives were broadly progressive and passed with Democratic support.

Would that we will see this kind of compromise and forward-thinking again someday, though it seems impossible to imagine in the era of President Donald Trump.

The New York Times' Peter Baker on Sunday wrote about how different today seems from the days when Bush shocked the political system by calling Bill Clinton a "bozo."

"[Bush] later made up for it by virtually adopting Mr. Clinton as another son," Baker noted. "Today, it often seems, there are no apologies when political figures go to war. Mr. Trump does not believe in 'kinder and gentler' politics, but governs through blunt force and Twitter barbs. His opponents are 'weak & dishonest,' 'wacky,' 'crazy,' 'goofy,' 'mentally deranged,' 'psycho,' 'sleazy' and 'corrupt losers.' His opponents do not think much of him either, calling him many of the same names and others like 'fascist.'"

But for a funeral — George H.W. Bush's funeral — Washington will make nice.

Monday we read that lawmakers, who can agree on nothing, along with Trump, now are talking of making a deal to extend by a few weeks the Friday deadline for a longer-term spending package Trump has said must include funding for a border wall. In all probability, we're just looking at a delay in the next government shutdown.

They can agree to a face-saving delay to pay homage to a former president, but not to govern.

Maybe we're all just nostalgic for the way we want Washington to be.

In any case, we send our deepest respect to the family of President George H.W. Bush — known these days as "Poppy" Bush.

He was our president.

And make no mistake, if we could trade him for the man in the today's Oval Office, we'd be all in.

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