We lost former President George H.W. Bush last week. Bush 41 - not to be confused with his son, Bush 43. Almost immediately, Bush 41 was hailed as a truly decent man and excellent leader, contrasted sharply with the crude, amoral current occupier of the White House.
What constitutes decency? Merriam Webster's dictionary for learning English says:
polite, moral and honest behavior and attitudes that show respect for other people. That is perfectly acceptable for the context of this exercise.
41's legacy of decency was discussed by every network and most commentators from both parties. Twitter was alive with tweets extolling the decency and virtues of Bush 41. and even President Trump, who has blasted Bush 41 i n the past, restrained himself. Can there be a red lineeven Trump will not cross?
Bush 41 history is well known - born into substantial wealth,the youngest aviator in WWII, graduated from Yale University, successful businessman, elected to the House of Representatives twice, Ambassador to the United Nations, Chief of the Liaison Office in China, Director of Central Intelligence, Vice President and finally President.
As happens with most politicians, Bush 41's position on various issues, among them abortion, evolved over the years. Bush could reach across the aisle and work with Democrats. almost unheard of in these days marked by some of the most acrimonious political times in history.
Bush 41 was a Republican - make no mistake about that. He was loyal to the cause but respectful to the other side. When Bush 41 spoke of reaching across the aisle he was serious about doing just that. There is very little of that today.
Bush 41 likely was not elected to a second term due to his famous "No new taxes" comment and then raising taxes. Bush 41 did what was right at the time, not the most expedient, and he paid a hefty price.
Many people are astonished at the friendship that developed between Bush 41 and Bill Clinton. Clinton is certainly not known widely as a decent human being and his connections with/to known pedophile Jeffrey Epstein (also a pal of Trump's) certainly have been seemingly ignored - as have Trump's ties to Epstein. Hillary Clinton? Her actions regarding Epstein and others are equally disqualifying for a decency award but Both Clintons are widely respected for their political savvy. Trump and his actions are an embarrassment but some of his policies have been well received so clearly being a decent human being is not a requirement to be an effective leader, though I would argue it is desirable.
And then there is Bush 43 - the self-proclaimed compassionate conservative. Bush 43 aka "W" is one of the most widely mocked people to serve in the White House. I consider him to be the Yogi Berra of politics. And, like Yogi, I believe W to be a truly decent human being - as is IMHO his brother Jeb, the former governor of Florida. I suggest their inherent decency came from their father and how he lived his life and the example Bush 41 and his wife Barbara offered their children. It is no surprise that the Bushes were much more welcoming to immigrants than their party today. Decency in and of itself does not necessarily dictate policy - it merely affects how policies are implemented.
Bush 41's presidency included military action dictated by foreign policy. Military action in Panama and the Middle East, and the Berlin Wall came down. Operation Desert Storm was a huge success.
When you add up the successes and failures in George H W Bush's lifetime it is clear he was a successful man and by extension a successful leader so yes - given the right set of circumstances a truly decent man can be an effective leader. I have no doubt the same holds true for a truly decent woman. But real decency is no guarantee of effective leadership.
That's my take on this week's topic.Be sure to check Ramana's Musings for Ramana's take on the subject.