This Land: A third Bush term would be preferable to Trump

I was a fierce critic of President George W. Bush. Following his installation by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, I penned a scathing column entitled, “Hail to the thief? I don’t think so,” in which I expressed my dismay with the court’s decision and my rejection of calls to rally around Bush after the ruling.

“At the moment, I cannot think of a single thing George W. Bush stands for that I agree with,” I wrote. “Not only that, but I think it’s absolutely pitiful that our nation’s president will win applause if he simply gets through a major speech without mangling too many words.”

I stand by that column, and history shows that the Bush Administration was as disastrous as many feared it would be. From the growing risk of al-Qaida that he ignored until the attacks on 9/11, to his decision to end engagement with North Korea to stop its nuclear program (which is why Kim Jong-Un now has nuclear bombs), to the unnecessary invasion and fumbling occupation of Iraq that will destabilize the Middle East for generations, to the deregulation of the banking industry that resulted in the financial crisis of 2008, Bush’s eight years in office was horrifically damaging to the people and interests of the United States.

But I would welcome George W. Bush back to the White House in a heartbeat if it meant getting the current occupant out.

Supporters of Donald Trump who, like Bush supporters back in the day, think all Americans should put the divisive campaign behind them and rally around the new president don’t seem to understand the nature of the opposition.

With Bush, the upset was that the election had essentially been stolen and the office handed to Bush by an ideologically divided Supreme Court. With Trump, opposition runs much, much deeper.

Yes, people are upset because of evidence that Russia interfered to try to sway the election toward its favored candidate. Yes, people are incensed that FBI Director James Comey tilted the playing field further with his unprecedented discussion of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server — and the even more unprecedented letter to Congress days out from the election raising the issue again.

Comey’s actions are even more enraging since he was aware of the investigation into Russian interference and possible contacts between Trump’s team and Russia yet decided Americans didn’t have as much of a right to that information as they did to his assessment of Clinton’s non-criminal behavior.

But the opposition to Trump runs much deeper than that. Trump is dangerously unqualified and ill-suited to the presidency. He proves that with every tweet and every self-aggrandizing speech. He is a narcissistic, thin-skinned, self-serving bully who does not have the temperament to serve as the leader of the free world.

Add on to that the innumerable conflicts of interest presented by his business empire — and his complete unwillingness to do anything substantial to eliminate them — and it’s clear that Trump is the most unfit president America has ever seen.

My opposition to Trump is not about ideology or party, and never has been. If he had run as a Democrat promising health care for all, a higher minimum wage and promised that Ruth Bader Ginsberg would be his model for all his Supreme Court appointments, I still would shudder at the thought of him in the Oval Office.

In the short time since his inauguration, Trump has already repeatedly demonstrated most of his worst qualities and how they can play out to damage our nation’s interests and the office of the presidency.

His fragile ego wounded by the abysmal turnout for his inauguration, Trump took time from a speech in front of the CIA’s Memorial Wall — its stars marking intelligence officers who gave their lives in the line of duty — to discuss his “running war with the media,” and allege that news organizations downplayed the size of his crowds. Not only that, Trump apparently brought along members of his own staff to cheer his remarks. That is absolutely abnormal.

He then sent his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to give an impromptu briefing in which he dressed down reporters for reporting factual information and then uttered a blatant falsehood, citing incorrect numbers about transit ridership on Inauguration Day and saying that Trump’s inauguration had the biggest audience in history.

Kim Jong-Un’s press secretary would have resigned in shame at having to utter such nonsense.

Then, he apparently spent the first 10 minutes or so of a reception with congressional leaders whining about how he would have won the popular vote if not for 3 million to 5 million votes from “illegals” — a claim he’s made before that fact-checkers say is completely unsupported by evidence. Now he’s even calling for a “major investigation” into the nonexistent voter fraud.

His staff is already leaking like a soaker hose less than a week in, passing on humiliating insights about how he has to be treated like an impetuous adolescent and how he gets bored easily and wants to watch television. Again, none of this is normal.

Of course, between his shocking election and Inauguration Day, Trump provided many more examples of why he should not be in office, among them an attack on an American civil rights hero. As a result, Trump entered office with historically low approval ratings for a new president (which he of course wrote off as “phony”).

So, yes, if I could magically bring back George W. Bush for a third time and oust Trump, I would take that deal and call it a bargain. As much damage as Bush did, as fragile a state as he left our nation in, I am convinced Trump will do much, much worse.

Radmacher is former editorial page editor of The Charleston Gazette and The Roanoke Times. This Land is a weekly column produced by Appalachian Mountain Advocates.