For all of his personal decency and moderation, as well as his generally capable and cautious handling of foreign affaris, Bush can be criticized for many things, mostly regarding domestic matters. He opposed the Civil Rights Act at the time it was being considered, although he later regretted that. His campaign ran the infamously racist Willie Horton ad when he ran for president in 1988. He ignored his own warnings about how Reagan’s claim that he could cut taxes, increase defense epending, while reducing the budget deficit amounted to “voodoo economics,” to join the Reagan admininistration as vice president and then promise “read my lips, no new taxes” while running in 1988. Of course he damaged himself politically by violating that promise in a budget deal in 1990 that involed raising taxes, with this preceding an economic downturn that led to his defeat by Bill Clinton in 1992.
Mourning The Death Of The New World Order
Nevertheless, despite these and other flaws, the contrast with the current incumbent, and on some matters with his own son, George W. Bush, GWH Bush looks on many matters like the epitome of wisdom and caution. He did not crow as the Berlin Wall fell and the Warsaw Pact broke up and the Soviet Union came to an end. Rather he negotiated a reasonable nuclear SALT treaty with Soviet leadr Gorbachev as it wound down. He moved to support the entry of the nations coming out of the Soviet breakup into various international organizations. He quietly aided the reunification of Germany, which has turned out to be a peaceful power. He did not invade Iraq at the end of the first Gulf War. He agreed there is a problem with global warming and supported improvements in environmental legislation. He took a fairly even-handed position vis a vis Israel and the Palestinians and supported negotiations that would eventually lead to the Oslo Accord under Clinton. He supported negotiaions for expanding freer trade and the establishment of the World Trade Organizaion, again also completed under Clinton. He did not repeatedly lie or personally excoriate enemies or denounce the press as the “enemy of the people.” Indeed, even as he claimed not to be a “visionary” and merely competent and relliable (which he mostly was) he coined the term “New World Order” or at least advocated it, with this largely open and democratic order now apparently falling apart in a wave of nationalism and authoritarianism now spreading, with the apparent encouragement of our current president.
This new turn arguably started with the ascension of Vladimir Putin in Russia at about the same time that Bush’s son became president, although Putin’s authoritarian tendencies only gradually showed themselves over time. But Trump’s embarrssing and apparently corrupt fawning over Putin has highlighted the current state of affairs. China never stopped being nationalist or authoritatian, but power seems to be being centralized under President Xi even as China’s position rises in the world, with it playing at being the defender of at parts of that New World Order as Trump so blatantly runs from it with such moves as his withdrawing of the US from the Paris Climate Accord as well as his trade protectionism policies as well as various international nuclear agreements from Iran to the INF with Russia. Even as Trump will now face some limits on his activities with the Dems taking control of the House of Representatives in the midterms, and he seemed imostly solated at eh G20 summit, in many countries authoritarian nationalists resembling or even openly imitating him are comintg to power or increasing their power, including in Hungary and Poland and Italy, as well as Turkey, Sauddi Arabia, India, and most recently and dramatically Brazil, where Bolsanaro promises to follow the US in withdrawing from the Paris Clinate Accord as he plans to ignore indigenous rights while engaging in massive deforestation in the Amazon rain forest. Several of Trump’s strongest critics seem about to lose power or becoming serously weakened, including May, Merkel, and Macron.
Supposedly he has achieved a truce with China on his trade war with them. But the sharp decline of the US stock market yesterday shows that many realize that this may be a meaningless flop along the lines of his nuclear agreement with North Korea and his trade war truce with the EU. In both of these latter two we were supposed to get negotiations, but none have occurred yet, and it is not clear any well. Mostly what we have seen is the lowering of tensions that Trump himself artificially escalated. This “deal” with China looks to be no different: the removal of a dangerous threat Trump made with a promise of future negotiations along with a promise that China will buy more US soybeans, which was probably goint to happen anyway. Even his replacement deal for NAFTA seems in danger of coming apart, despite it being officially signed by Trump and Trudeau and Pena-Nieto (the latter on his last day as Mexican president), as it now looks as though the incoming Congress is not keen on approving it.
So the we see the widespread mourning for the late senior President Bush, as the world seems to be moving to being run by loudly nationalist and authoritarian leaders. Increasingly the danger seems not to just be trade war but war war. Let us hope that the worst of this will not come to pass, but that New World Order that the late President Bush supported seems to be passing for good, despite its various flaws and hypocrisies, and there is probsably good reason to mourn its passing.