I'm old enough to remember the days when a thing called "the blogosphere" existed and seemed vital, largely because it wasn't polite -- the blogosphere, without hesitation, would tell you that the Emperor was wearing no clothes, unlike the mainstream press, which would ignore the Emperor's nakedness or would minimize it with euphemism. Blogging faded, but some of the blogosphere's sensibility began to seep into the mainstream media. And then Donald Trump came along and it seemed as if much of the media had finally left politeness and euphemism behind, because calling Trump a liar and a crook and a TV-addicted ignoramus seemed like the only possible way to report the straight facts.
So that's good, right? Our press is better now, isn't it?
I've been reading the remembrances of George H.W. Bush, who died last night, and I'm reminded of the old days. Poppy Bush wasn't as terrible a human being as the two Republican presidents who preceded or the two who followed him, and he wasn't as terrible as, say, Newt Gingrich or Mitch McConnell, but he should not be remembered exclusively as "an 'American great' committed to unity, diversity and generosity" (USA Today), or as a man whose "values and ethic seem centuries removed from today’s acrid political culture" (Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post). Here's Adam Nagourney in the New York Times obituary:
Tall, at 6 feet 2 inches, with an athlete’s graceful gait, Mr. Bush was genial and gentlemanly, except in the throes of a tough campaign.... He represented a “kinder” and “gentler” strain of Republicanism — the often-quoted words he used in his Inaugural Address to describe his vision for the nation and the world — that has been all but buried in a seismic shift to the right in the party.
I see -- he was "genial and gentlemanly, except in the throes of a tough campaign." Now, let's read what Erik Loomis says at Lawyers, Guns & Money about Bush as a campaigner:
Bush came to power using some of the most reprehensible tactics in American history. The hiring of Lee Atwater as a campaign advisor came with all the race-baiting one could imagine. The Willie Horton ad was utterly grotesque, an openly racist ad harking back to long American fears of black men raping white women. Bush can never be forgiven for this, not to mention Atwater, who at least claimed to want forgiveness on his death bed. That sort of toxicity has become central to Republicans strategies ever since. It’s interesting to me how the fact that George Bush used a white supremacist advertisement to win the presidency has largely been forgotten about in memories of him, with the blame going to Atwater.
And I agree with Amanda Marcotte, an ex-blogger, that it's not rude at this moment to remind readers of this:
Here's Tumulty in The Washington Post on Bush's Supreme Court picks:
Mr. Bush made two nominations to the Supreme Court. The first was David H. Souter, a federal appeals court judge, who was confirmed without difficulty. The second was Clarence Thomas, an African American who was a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Thomas was appointed to succeed Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the high court. Anita Hill, a former aide to Thomas, accused him of sexual harassment. After rancorous hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, the full Senate confirmed him by a vote of 52 to 48, the closest margin since the 19th century.
By contrast, here's Loomis:
Then there’s Bush nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Of all Bush’s actions, this is probably the most unforgivable. First, there was the slap in the face to the civil rights movement to replace Thurgood Marshall with someone as utterly unqualified and counter to everything people worked and died for as Thomas. Second, there was Thomas’ rank sexual harassment, not that this bothered many male Democratic senators at the time. The long-term implications of Thomas’ period on the Court have been truly horrible.... Thomas was a man well to the right of even Bush.... Bush naming Thomas to the Court is a huge blackmark on his legacy, one nearly equal to Andrew Jackson naming Roger Taney or Grover Cleveland naming Melville Fuller.
I understand that the mainstream press is being restrained in its treatment of Bush because he's newly dead and because he's seen as a representative of a kinder age. But I also fear that this is what press coverage of the GOP will be like as soon as Trump is gone from the scene. (The coverage of the anti-democratic monster Mitch McConnell, to pick one example, is restrained even now.) When Trump is gone, the seemingly unleashed mainstream media will go right back to the way it was. And when that time comes, it's hard to know what, beyond social media and a greatly reduced blogosphere, will be there to keep the MSM honest.
Republished with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog