David Michael Green: What's Bush's dad really think?

Roundup: Historians' Take

[David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. ]

We'll never know whether Germanicus, the highly accomplished Roman general, was mortified by the actions of his spawn, the insane and insanely destructive emperor Caligula. Or whether he was even more humiliated that, on top of that particularly notable contribution to imperial history, his grandson Nero would later strive valiantly to best the family high-water mark for sheer degenerate depravity. We won't know because Germanicus had the good grace or the good fortune to die before either of them came to power.

Not so George H. W. Bush. He's still very alive, and there's little he can do to avoid the shame of having fathered the boy who nearly ruined America, and may yet still do so in his remaining 17 months as the country's emperor. Back in the day, of course, the shamed father would have removed himself to the garden shed or some other suitable location on the family compound and"done the right thing" to avoid the stinging stigma of responsibility for a mess now so large it makes the Exxon Valdez look like a stopped-up toilet in comparison. But I guess Poppy finds denial a more convenient route.

The Bushes and the Walkers, and certainly any fool dumb enough to carry the moniker George Herbert Walker Bush, are the bluest of American blue bloods. And so it is tempting to think that they have always been so completely in it for themselves that it doesn't much matter to them that their progeny has single- handedly almost wrecked a republic two-plus centuries old, and one, moreover, that is the reigning great power of its day. As long as they can check out at the Carlyle Group cashier's window on their way to Dubai, who cares if a country of 300 million goes down the toilet?

And yet Poppy, like the Kennedys and Al Gore and John Kerry, went to war--the front lines, no less--when it was expected of them, risking life and limb. This is no small deal, reckless youthful abandon notwithstanding. Joe Kennedy never made it home. JFK, Poppy and John Kerry each had close brushes with death in battlefield action. This business of risking one's own life for queen and country is not exactly the sort of thing you might expect from a completely self-interested cad who could care less about the fate of the nation. Of course, a more cynical take is that some or all of these lads, destined for a life of pre-planned greatness, took a calculated gamble, knowing that a heroic war story, if they survived, would catapult them ahead of the pack on the way to their personal rendezvous with destiny....

Bob Woodward once asked Bush,"How is history likely to judge your Iraq war?" His response?"History, we don't know--we'll all be dead."

Notwithstanding that this is perhaps the most honest sentence ever to pass across this sorry Caligula's perpetually lying lips, he might also have mentioned, while he was at it, that one hell of a lot of us are already dead because of his lies and aggression.

Like about a million Iraqi civilians, so far. And counting.

Yeah, you'd think he might have mentioned that part. Unless you're the Bush administration, that is, for whom not counting is just yet another way of lying and aggressing.

Welcome to History, regressive style.

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