Media outlets in Israel and across the globe filled the airwaves with words of praise and adoration for the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, who passed away on Nov. 30. The tributes are well-deserved: In many areas, the now-deceased leader maintained the tough conservative policies of his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, although this is assuredly not the reason for the kind words.
Bush isn’t being hailed because of his political views or his approach to foreign affairs and defense, or for his opinions on family, religion and society. On these matters, Bush was considered extremely old-fashioned. Why, then, are they praising him? For one reason: He is dead.
Yes, Bush joins a long list of denigrated right-wingers who redeemed themselves with their last breaths. Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon, Ronald Reagan, John McCain and others; on their deathbeds, they all went from dangerous fascists to venerated figures.
While he was alive, Bush was depicted as a corrupt villain for his role in the Iran-Contra affair, which transpired when he was vice president. He was disparaged as a homophobe because he dared note that beyond the need for research, public-relations campaigns and accessibility to treatment, promiscuous sexual behavior could also be the cause for the spread of AIDS. He was accused of racism in 1988 when, in an effort to trumpet his proposed war on crime, a dark-skinned criminal appeared in one of his campaign ads.
Most bombastically: He was accused of war crimes for the U.S. Air Force bombing of Iraq in “Operation Desert Storm” and other military operations in Nicaragua and Panama.
Many never forgave him for the harming of innocents, for hitting civilian targets and public infrastructure, and for the difficult images coming from the battle zones. After his retirement, Bush was also implicated in sexual-harassment complaints, and the Bush name became a punch-line within many circles.
Last Friday night, however, following a long career of crimes against humanity, ethical perversions, indecent acts, white supremacy and pandering to wealth, George Herbert Walker Bush did the only courageous and commendable thing for a conservative, the only act capable of bestowing upon him the title of national hero. He died.
Indeed, the death of a right-winger is not a normal death. With his final breath, the elderly conservative not only morphs into something completely different than he was in life, he more importantly becomes the perfect antagonist to the right-wingers still alive and kicking among us—some of whom, alarmingly, are still in power.
Bush and McCain became heroes because they are not Donald Trump. Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin were hallowed because they were not Benjamin Netanyahu. Consequently, we long for those decent right-wingers of old, and the era of graciousness and national responsibility.
This mechanism has consistently spared no one.
Some of us will have the privilege of partaking in profound discourse about Netanyahu’s legacy of moderateness and stability, and we will note the level-headed and responsible leader of those days gone—nothing like the psychos and extremists currently in power.
On the other side of the ocean, this will happen as well: When the time comes for him to join his kin, even U.S. President Donald Trump will be allowed into paradise.
“The last of the Twitter-era leaders,“ they will eulogize longingly. “The only man who united us as a nation,” they will say. And as his coffin is slowly lowered into the ground, they will contemplate the vast difference between the great man and the crazy monster currently populating the White House.
Akiva Bigman writes for Israel Hayom.
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