Admiration for George W. Bush doesn’t win you much praise in today’s Republican Party, but I don’t care.
On Thursday former President George W. Bush attended and delivered a speech at the late Congressman John Lewis’s funeral.
George W. Bush had every reason not to attend Lewis’s funeral, let alone eulogize him. Lewis may have been a famed civil rights leader, but he was also a bitter partisan Democrat congressman, who boycotted both of Bush’s inaugurations.
Bush barely mentioned the political division between him and Lewis. “John and I had our disagreements of course,” Bush said. “But in the America John Lewis fought for, and the America I believe in, differences of opinion are inevitable elements and evidence of democracy in action.”
If only Lewis’s opposition to Bush had truly been so noble.
In addition to boycotting Bush’s inaugurations, Lewis supported impeaching Bush in 2005 over the NSA surveillance program, which pales in comparison to how Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, expanded warrantless surveillance, without Lewis supporting his impeachment. Lewis, like many others, was just another garden-variety partisan who pretty much hated Republicans, and blanketly accused them of being racist. John Lewis most certainly thought little of Bush, likely only viewing him as marginally better than Donald Trump—a man he absurdly compared to segregationist Democrat George Wallace. But Lewis seemed to assign claims of racism to any Republican nominee for president, at least in recent memory.
Not even John McCain was immune to Lewis’s haphazard labeling of Republicans as racist. “Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse,” Lewis said back in 2008. During the 2012 Democratic National Convention, he suggested that voting for Mitt Romney and putting Republicans in power would take America back to the Jim Crow era.
Lewis wasn’t above falsely accusing private citizens of racism either. In 2010, he claimed that Tea Party protesters spat at and shouted the n-word at him. It never happened. The late Andrew Breitbart offered to donate $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund if any video evidence surfaced—which none ever did.
Although Lewis may have made a name for himself as a civil rights leader, his record as a congressman is shameful. Despite years of his representation, his district was plagued by high levels of black poverty, high murder rates, and failed schools.
And yet George W. Bush praised him. Of course, funerals are typically reserved for positive depictions of the departed, and Lewis’s history as a leader of the civil rights movement has made it politically incorrect to criticize him. So, I get it. George W. Bush did what he had to do. He was probably only invited to speak because he was a non-Trump-loving Republican, but he spoke and gave a smarmy speech praising a man who didn’t recognize him as a legitimate president and wanted him impeached.
And yet, that’s who George W. Bush is. He often extended a hand across the aisle in the hopes of achieving the greater good. He was often stabbed in the back for it, but for better or for worse, he tried to see the best in others, even those who hated him. It’s a rare trait for people in politics today.
It made me think about the incredible disrespect of House Judiciary Committee Democrats towards Attorney General William Barr earlier this week. They lobbed baseless allegations at him and refused to let him respond. They asked questions of him and refused to let him answer. It may be hard for me to grasp how George W. Bush can find a way to praise John Lewis, who certainly didn’t deserve such courtesy from him, but it demonstrated to me that George W. Bush has more class and character than the entire Democratic Party. It’s unfortunate what that means for political discourse moving forward.
Matt Margolis is the author of the new book Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump, and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis