Americans have just bade farewell to a great and good man, George Herbert Walker Bush, with tributes and praise that brought instantaneous comparisons to one of his presidential successors, Donald John Trump Sr.
The tributes honored the former president’s empathy, compassion, the size of his heart, wisdom and coolness under the most extreme pressure imaginable. Many of us drew a straight line between the 41st president and the 45th president and found the latter man lacking in all those categories.
What has gotten almost no attention has been the qualifications chasm that exists between the men.
We went from electing arguably the most qualified man ever as president to electing — without question, in my mind — the most fundamentally unqualified man. Yes, we made that leap between 1988 and 2016. In just 28 years we reset the standard for electing the leader of the free world and the commander in chief of the world’s greatest military machine.
Bush served as a U.S. Navy aviator in World War II (who came within a whisker of dying in combat), successful West Texas businessman, two-term member of Congress, CIA director, special envoy to China, Republican Party chairman, ambassador to the United Nations and then vice president of the United States. All that occurred before his smashing election as POTUS in 1988. He also was married to the same woman for 73 years, with whom he produced six children.
And Trump? His business record has been, shall we say, mixed. He had zero public service experience. His entire professional life was aimed at self-enrichment. He has filed multiple bankruptcies. The only public office he ever has sought is the presidency of the United States. The personal part? He’s been married three times and has admitted to cheating on his first two wives — with evidence mounting that he did the same thing to his current wife.
President Bush brought honor and an enormous well-spring of commitment to public service to the world’s most powerful office. Donald Trump has brought — um, let me think — not a single shred of any of it to the office to which he was elected. We have turned the presidency into an office where the occupant can receive on-the-job training. No experience necessary. How utterly astonishing!
George H.W. Bush was worthy of the praise he received. Donald J. Trump is equally worthy of the scorn he is receiving.