This year the 40th President of the United States’ 100th birthday was on February 6th. There was a week-long celebration of adoring tributes to Ronald Wilson Reagan. The Grand Old Party went all out – using the occasion to give a platform to their party’s 2012 presidential hopefuls. Every potential GOP candidate from the obscure Senator John Thune to the reality show mainstay Sarah Palin spoke at the Illinois Republican Party celebration. Plus there were festivities at the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara and the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.
It was a parade of current conservatives claiming that everything they are for, Reagan would naturally cosign. According to them, the man who gave amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants is now against it. He raised taxes nearly a dozen times but he’d now be against it. He, of course, increased the national deficit when he was in office, but now he’d be against that too. Everything conservatives agree with, Reagan now is. It was a jellybean induced sugar coma of neo-con sweet nothings. Much like a movie based on a true story, it was nicely polished for viewing pleasure.
Reagan is conservative sacrosanct. Even Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, who’ve disagreed with Reagan in obscure YouTube clips, would never disagree with him now.
There was notably a lack of veneration and participation from the most recent Republican president, one George W. Bush. Who knew that a president who spent 499 days of his tenure clearing brush would ALSO do so little after leaving office.
Yes, the current GOP doesn’t mention his name. To them Bush is a four-letter word, unless you’re talking about Jeb. Then maybe only when you hit your thumb with a hammer.
When recently asked what he plans to do in the future Bush said, “Being out of the press…is somewhat liberating, frankly.” The GOP doesn’t hate him for his freedoms.
This omission was strategic - a great idea on the part of the GOP. The week the Great Communicator turned 100 was the same week the Decider giving the go ahead to torture detainees turned nine.
Now that Bush is in our rearview, he’s also nestled into our blind spot. While Americans no longer discuss the far-reaching implications of “enhanced interrogation techniques” the rest of the world still does. Mr. Bush announced he had to cancel his first trip to Europe since he published his memoir and admitted to authorizing waterboarding. There were calls for large protests and threats of investigations, so Mr. Bush opted (as always) to stay in Texas.
So, we ignore him. The GOP doesn’t mention him. And the rest of the world wants to lob a giant shoe at him.
To make this all worse, the only person who seems to be toeing the line for Bush is…Barack Obama. Yes, Obama, who within hours of being sworn in signed an order to close the black eye of a legal grey area, Guantanamo Bay. One of his first acts as President was to try and stop this blight on our human rights rep. But so far, the strict no torture policy of the Obama Administration, has been by some accounts not adhered to. And Guantanamo Bay, the prison camp with indefinite detention of suspects without trials, is still open and operational.
This week, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s lawyers used Guantanamo as an argument against their client being extradited. We used to be a leader in human rights…now we have a gulag.
Why hasn’t this changed with a new administration? There was an attempt. The right wing had a circus freak field day claiming Obama was a peacenik terrorist appeaser. In that way the GOP won the battle to normalize what used to be called war crimes.
So as long as Obama continues quietly with Bush’s War on Terror policies, the GOP can quietly never mention the existence of another Republican president besides Reagan, Eisenhower and Lincoln.
Now that is a shellacking.