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Media’s newfound respect for Bush 41 won’t erase its past

December 6, 2018

During the mourning over former President George H.W. Bush, liberal rag Slate published an article dismissing any emotional reaction to the stunning image of his service dog, Sully lying next to Mr. Bush’s flag-draped coffin in sorrowful reverence for his master and friend.

“It’s a bit demented to project soul-wrenching grief onto a dog’s decision to lie down in front of a casket,” Slate writer Ruth Graham admonished, accompanying her lecture with a series of escalating rhetorical questions. “Is Sully ‘heroic’ for learning to obey the human beings who taught him to perform certain tasks? Does the photo say anything special about this dog’s particular loyalty or judgment, or is he just there? Also, if dogs are subject to praise for obeying their masters, what do we do about the pets who eat their owners’ dead (or even just passed-out) bodies?”

Yes, she evoked the macabre image of a dog eating its master’s corpse to hammer home the point that even Mr. Bush’s dog shouldn’t earn your sympathy or respect. One is left to wonder whether this kind of commentary would occur if a hypothetical deceased president had once eaten dog meat during his youthful days in Indonesia, but one digresses.

Say what you will about Slate’s odious article, at least it is consistent with the attitude the liberal media took toward Mr. Bush while he was president and vice president. But watching the media’s coverage of the Bush funeral and the glowing praise for his statesmanship, leadership and dignity one is rightfully left wondering “Where in God’s name was this praise when he held office? Where was your support when he really needed it?”

Instead, when this great American leader walked among us and occupied the Oval Office, the media decided to slime and slander him at every turn because he didn’t put on Ray-Bans and play the saxophone on “Arsenio Hall,” or something.

As Rush Limbaugh told Fox News’ Shannon Bream this week, “The thing is that they never treated George W. Bush this way or George H.W. Bush, either one of them, this way. They had just as much animus for Bush 41 and Bush 43 as they do Trump, for different reasons.”

And Mr. Limbaugh should know. He, along with Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell, paved the way for modern media criticism in the late 1980s and early ’90s cataloging the outrageous attacks on Mr. Bush and his refusal to punch back.

Michael Goodwin opined in The New York Post that the liberal media only shows respect for Republicans when they’re dead. And, make no mistake, the media piled on Mr. Bush with abandon back in his day. Not only did the Gray Lady back Michael Dukakis against Mr. Bush in 1988, but, as Mr. Goodwin writes, in 1992 they supported Bill Clinton “ripping Bush’s economic management as ‘exasperating,’ his positions on individual rights as ‘infuriating.’” They also accused him of stoking racial hatred and of being a pro-life “extremist.”

Sound familiar? It should. This is the predictable, vitriolic criticism of every GOP leader in my adult lifetime, not something that started with Mr. Trump.

The fact is Mr. Bush was a great American and a dignified leader. It’s why so many of us voted for him. If the media is just now starting to reach the realization that it missed these facts the first time around, perhaps this might offer an opportunity for a moment of reflection on how it covers our current president. If it admits wrongly assessing Mr. Bush 30 years ago, might it be wrongly assessing Trump today? Will some revelation come 30 years hence upon Mr. Trump’s passing?

Perhaps the media will reassess Mr. Trump if there is a Republican president at that time and it sees an opportunity to score political points against him. Because even on the day of Mr. Bush’s funeral, while they pretended to pay their respects to a great American life, they still couldn’t help themselves.

Despite the Bush family’s admonitions against the proceedings following the lamentable path of Sen. John McCain’s earlier this year, the media focused much of their energies not on POTUS 41 but on POTUS 45.

Staying disciplined all week, Mr. Trump did not draw attention to himself on Twitter or in real life. The eulogists at the National Cathedral in Washington showed their discipline by speaking in grand and intimate terms about Mr. Bush’s life and legacy and not taking potshots at the current commander in chief.

The same cannot be said about cable and broadcast news. Even as they profess to love and respect the memory of Mr. Bush, they disrespected and ignored his family’s wishes that the proceedings be dignified and focused on their patriarch.

Instead, the media obsessed over how he entered the cathedral. And how he was greeted by former presidents and first ladies. They even criticized how he prayed the Apostle’s Creed. The Bush funeral quickly became just another opportunity to attack Mr. Trump.

Which, in the end, was a final display of disrespect for Mr. Bush and his grieving family, not to mention the grieving nation. In the end, they should have just stopped pretending and done more stories on the dog.

Larry O’Connor writes about politics and the media for The Washington Times and can be heard weekday afternoons on WMAL radio in Washington. Follow Larry on Twitter @LarryOConnor.

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