On the Relative Vileness of George W. Bush and Donald Trump, Liz Cheney and Marjorie Taylor Greene

When I think Donald Trump I think the word: VILE. A combination of the evil and repulsive. But when I think George W. Bush I ALSO think “vile.”

There is no great moral distance between Bush as Texas governor mocking the plea for mercy by a death row female prisoner who’d become a born-again Christian in 1998, and Trump as candidate mocking a handicapped reporter for criticizing him in 2016.

Or between Bush as president ordering, in a threatening tone, his international terrorism advisor Richard Clarke in 2001 to “look into Iraq, Saddam” in connection with 9-11 and Trump’s order to the Georgia secretary of state to find the missing votes he needs to win the election. Both former presidents are ignorant, callous, amoral, misanthropic monsters. Human scum, in the pithy Korean expression.

Bush and his powerful co-president Dick Cheney, like Trump, lied incessantly from 2001 to achieve their designs, in particular their plan to reconfigure the entire Middle East under U.S. hegemony. That effort meant whipping up fears of a nuclear attack from Baghdad, the destruction of Iraq as a modern state, and the deaths of over half a million innocent people. Bush’s aide and “brain,” Karl Rove—a master of disinformation and dirty tricks—boasted to Ron Suskind that truth didn’t matter anymore, because “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

Empirical reality didn’t matter to Bush and Cheney. It plainly didn’t to Trump either. (See Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway’s comments regarding “alternative facts” in 2017.) Trump’s pathological lying built upon an earlier tradition. Nobody lied better, or with a straighter face, than Dick Cheney.

Dick Cheney (as both the most powerful and the most secretive vice president ever) deployed a cabal of neocons to build the bogus case for war on Iraq—a country already tortured by U.S.-imposed sanctions for a decade—throughout 2002. An extremely evil, dishonest, cruel, racist thug, he arranged the appointment of his daughter Liz to a senior post at the State Department. She joined in the campaign of Big Lies that led to the Iraq War. She has never apologized for her role in that massive crime. That she of all people should be posited as model Republican by CNN and MSNBC should affect your stomach acids.

Question for discussion: Who is the MORE vile? Donald Trump—whose single worst crime seems to be the separation of families involving over 550 children losing contact with their parents whose whereabouts is unknown, or George W. Bush—who waged multiple imperialist wars, based on lies, killing hundreds of thousands?

Last week the corporate media posed the question of where the Republican party is headed: will its face be Liz Cheney, member of Congress from Wyoming, who voted to impeach Trump? Or Marjorie Taylor Greene, representative from Georgia, now stripped of committee appointments as punishment for racist and incendiary speech? Suddenly the Cheney family, like the Bush family, was lionized by Democrat commentators as a repository of patriotic virtues and civic responsibility, to the extent that it repudiated Trump.

That Liz Cheney (in the news in 2013 for publicly tussling with her sister on the gay marriage issue), should suddenly be upheld as the sort of Republican Democrats want to work with, is not a suggestion that the Democratic leadership is opposing burgeoning fascist trends so much as an indication it wants to pick and choose its fascistic allies. Cheney is a natural ally for Biden’s new Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, known for her key role in the February 2014 violent putsch and the storming of the Ukrainian Parliament by neofascist-led rioters.

So choose your vileness: the ongoing if faltering Trumpian wannabe fascist movement, as represented in all its stupidity and incompetence by loony Greene; or the old-school neocon Republican establishment that wants regime change in Russia and China believes religiously that the U.S. must dominate the world, as represented by Cheney?

The media summation is that Greene won the day, stripped of her committee memberships but basking in the glowing love of her colleagues, some of whom gave her a standing ovation in the closed door Republican gathering. Cheney survived a party vote to censure her but the Trumpists have if anything consolidated control temporarily. But if Trump’s star falls (and it could precipitously) and his fandom lose faith (as it probably will) Cheney (now number three Republican leader in the House) will likely emerge as key damage-controller. A vile woman in a time of vile choices.

That she should be the heroine of the hour suggests that the return to normalcy that Biden brings is a return to normal neocon-liberal-interventionist cooperation in the service of capitalist imperialism. This is not progress, nor even the defeat of fascism (or protofascism, or pseudofascism, or wannabe-fascism). The U.S. is now ruled by people who want a return to the Obama era, but the Clinton-Obama Democrats are challenged by progressives who rebel at that prospect, while the Republican Party is dominated by a quasi-fascist religious personality cult at odds with a wavering mainstream Wall Street core. A perfect storm of a plague of biblical proportions, an economic contraction unprecedented since the Great Depression, mass demonstrations that in size rival the largest ever in this country and show the greatest diversity ever, may make it impossible to return to normalcy.

That would be the normalcy of health care available only for capitalist profit, economic policy by and for the 1%, and systemic racism manifest most savagely by police murders. Humans can do much better but Joe Biden is no more inclined than Liz Cheney to challenge Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. They want to tinker in different ways with the system (capitalism) in deep decline, while maintaining the religious doctrines of U.S. “Exceptionalism,” “Free World” leadership, and the antagonism with a Russian “adversary” (that doesn’t go away—even when the USSR dissolves and ideological issues disappear—because the U.S and Biden in particular want to continue to expand NATO provoking the targeted country’s natural indignation).

Such doctrines are as dangerous as the Trump articles of faith pertaining to landslide victories, voter fraud, stolen elections, and Mexico’s effort to flood this country with rapists and drug-dealers. But the championing of Cheney is the championing of those values,which are those of Biden and the ruling class in general as we head back at least temporarily to normal (fascist-friendly) bipartisan foreign policy.

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

[CDATA[ $('input[type="radio"]
[CDATA[ $('input[type="radio"]
[CDATA[ $('input[type="radio"]
[CDATA[ $('input[type="radio"]