Why liberals are suddenly getting a little bit nostalgic for George W. Bush

He was good at limiting the ‘general anti-Muslim hate’

Yuri Gripas/Reuters

There are billboards in the U.S. with George W. Bush’s face and the slogan “Miss me yet?” The people answering “yes” are, unexpectedly, liberals. Since conservative activists have been campaigning against the construction of an Islamic cultural centre and mosque near Ground Zero in New York—egged on by many key Republicans—left-leaning commentators are nostalgically recalling Bush’s more enlightened attitude toward Islam. “For once,” wrote Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, “I really do miss George W. Bush.”

After 9/11, Bush combined his red-meat rhetoric (not to mention the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq) with more conciliatory speeches. He visited an Islamic Centre in Washington, assured U.S. Muslims that “the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” and said that Muslim women who cover their heads “must not be intimidated in America.” When he was criticized for calling the War on Terror a “crusade,” he stopped using the term. Imam Faisal Rauf (who is now in charge of the planned mosque) was chosen by the Bush administration as a goodwill ambassador to the Middle East.

The left didn’t give Bush much credit for these gestures at the time, but he’s getting plenty now. Duncan Black, whose Eschaton blog was one of the most popular Bush-bashing sites, recently agreed that “after 9/11 Bush was surprisingly good about limiting the general anti-Muslim hate.” Even Stephen Colbert paid Bush a compliment on his show by showing a clip of one of his speeches as an example of conciliatory attitudes toward Islam.

Some think that Bush is a reason why anti-Muslim sentiment didn’t become a major problem after the attacks; his popularity with conservatives, wrote Joshua Marshall at the blog Talking Points Memo, “put a real brake on the forces of xenophobia, extremist religion and religious hatred.” Now, instead of discouraging such sentiments the way Bush did, Newt Gingrich said last week that putting a mosque near Ground Zero is like “putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.” Sarah Palin called on non-violent Muslims to “refudiate” Rauf’s mosque. Ron Ramsey, lieutenant-governor of Tennessee (where there have been attempts to block an Islamic centre), said that “you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion.”

According to the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, Bush knew it would be “a victory for the extremists” and a recruiting tool for terrorists if he had defined U.S. foreign policy “as a battle between the West and Islam.” Indeed, he used to mock conservative pundits who wanted him to bomb Iran, referring to so-called neoconservatives like William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer as “the bomber boys.”

By contrast, many potential GOP candidates today have embraced the clash-of-civilizations rhetoric. Gingrich apocalyptically warned that “America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.” That sort of rallying cry would only further prove a point made recently by American Prospect’s Paul Waldman: “Today’s Republicans,” he wrote, “are making [George W.] look better and better.”




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Why liberals are suddenly getting a little bit nostalgic for George W. Bush

  1. Muslims and Republicans both suffer when the moderates among them don't shout down their radical minorities.

    • Really? I don't see the Democratic Party shouting down Mr. Kucinich.

      • Why does he need shouting down? (Honest question, I don't follow American politics closely and it wasn't til I looked up Kucinich that I recognized his face)

        • Well I'm assuming that Gibbs and his "professional left" comment was referring to the Kucinich "kind". He, along with a few other Democratic representatives, appear(ed) to be giving Obama a hard time on a number of issues. Kucinich has not been creating too much of a fuss lately, or rather, the media is not interviewing him nearly as much but he does have some rather "radical" opinions for American politics.

          • but i thought you say the Dems were not shouting him down. and then you said that the press secretary of the democratic president just, well, shouted him down. i left a little confused.

          • Gibbs doesn't speak for the Democratic Party…

          • who does?

          • Further, I don't think Gibbs was "shouting" anyone down. I think he was merely frustrated at how some in the Democratic Party want the world from Obama. Quite honestly, I don't think Gibbs, nor the man he speaks for, would be disappointed in many of the things Kucinich is for.

          • well you are spculating. and to the degree you asserted only short time ago they were criticizing, out of frustration or not, ther seems to be a chasm in your reaction.

  2. This is idiotic. Bush ordered the Iraq war, the creation of Gitmo and Abu Graib. Sure, he dropped by a couple of mosques and said all the right things about the Koran, but give me a break – his policies made life every bit as difficult for Muslims the world over as the current even-crazier-than-Cheney wing of the Republican Party is today.

    Or did the author of this peace conveniently forget the years 2001-2008 in his bid to re-imagine the media's newest narrative about the right?

    • Kaplan, you mean "piece" ?

    • I think the author may have missed the strategy behind the roles played. With Bush in power, the bomber boys et al could say what they liked at an extremist level, in order to bind the cord line core. Bush could make conciliatory speeches and gestures – and good for him fo doing so – in order to appear moderate by comparison ("Sure, W invaded Iraq, but he didn't turn the whole middle east into glass"). This allowed him and his pals to oversee a complete knee capping of the constitutional conventions and outright laws in order to gather more power to the executive office at the expense of Congress.

      • I think you need to take the tin-foil hat off. Bush never really was the fire-breathing, anti-immigrant type of Republican. His support for comprehensive immigration reform being another example. Maybe he was just saying what he believed.

        • Maybe he was. The point I started out to try and make was that the reason the wingnuts didn't dominate the overall tone of the debate from that side at that time was that it was mitigated by his conciliatory message. I have no evidence it was coordinate strategy and shouldn't have gone as strongly in that direction. In the context of the article above, though, missing a strong leader with a moderating voice means that the hardliners come across more strongly than thye would have at that time. Wouldn't you agree?

  3. The problem isn't who is in charge. Rather it's the population.
    Why has islamophobia suddenly become a hot topic? Is it because of Obama? Is it because of the mosque? Is it because of the situation with Iran? The problems that arose from Israel (flotilla commando, settlements) and the hostility towards them from a sizeable group of the population?
    I don't know, but if people are actually saying they miss GWB then they have a very short and selective memory.

    • I don't know why you would say that 'Islamophobia' is suddenly a problem. A phobia is an irrational fear, and many of us have been trying to get the message out since 9/11, if not before, that there is a branch of Islam that is dangerous, and while I realize 'not every Muslim is a terrorist' the truth is that some of them are, and we ignore it at our peril.
      Whine all you want about Muslim backlash, which has never happened, by the way, but three more suspected terrorists were arrested this week. I personally do not consider my fear of Islam to be irrational, and I hope you're right, but I don't think you are.

      • And while I realize that not every white dude who hops in a cab will slash the driver's throat upon discovering that the cabbie is Muslim, the truth is that some of them will, and we ignore it at our peril.

  4. What, me worry?

    • The key to finding the WMDs in Iraq is that you have to fold the back page over in thirds. I bet they didn't try that.

      • Ah, memories.

  5. Never thought that Bush deserved the hate that he got. Never felt that Obama deserved the love that he got. The republicans really need a moderate conservative voice. If they had one they would regain power.

    • Many of us still really like Obama, but those who are disenchanted with him now only voted for him then because of McCain and Sarah Palin. Eventually the Republicans will be back in power, just like after that the Democrats will again. These things come in cycles and whereas I did not really care for Bush, I felt some of the hatred towards him was ridiculous. I may be a progressive, but I do not believe in treated others badly.

    • Don't take this the wrong way, but you probably didn't think too much about it if you feel he didn't deserve it.

      • Do not take this the wrong way, but I think deeply about everything. This time your comment makes no sense. Just so everyone knows, you follow me around here telling me how I am supposed to think.

        • Hey, woa here, I wasn't responding to you but to Pele. Look at the arrows.

  6. Bush the idiot that declared we were on a "Crusade" after 911. Give me a break!

  7. What's so enlightened about not seeing Islam for what it is? These Republicans that are concerned about the proposed new mosque in New York (or any other) are wrong to notice that non-Muslims are treated like dirt, at best, in almost every Muslim-majority nation? They're wrong to notice that almost every Muslim-majority nation is either a dictatorship or a poverty case or both? They're wrong to be aware of the fact that Islam was spread by the sword and that there is no other ideology on earth that places so much emphasis on terrorizing outsiders? They don't to be reduced to 2nd class citizenship by aggressive Muslims so and that makes them unenlightened does it?

    • Yes.

  8. There's another reason why the left misses George W Bush: the focal point of their attacks is now gone. Now, for the first time in a long time, they have to learn how to defend attacks and criticisms — and they're exceedingly poor at it.

    • Yeah, except "the left" managed to get through the attacks and criticism on health care and financial reform in the US.

      • Which has won them a shiny new prize: a forthcoming massive kick in the butt in the mid-term elections.

        After they lose the house and Senate, Obamacare will be repealed. Which is actually good for the US. They need health care reform, but Obama's package is a disaster waiting to happen.

  9. Or, the radical right, poor sports that they are, can't tolerate the fact that one of their tribe isn't occupying the White House, and so have no qualms about behaving like a bunch of maniacs.

  10. Obama has lost the US, he really has.Just wait until the next election, it will be obama who!

  11. Can't wait until November election.. ….Obama is gonna.

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