On October 10, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia unironically announced that former vice president Joseph Biden would present Laura and George W. Bush the Liberty Medal “for their commitment to veterans.”
The 43rd president was indeed committed to veterans, just not in a way that typically garners awards. His wars, which are still producing veterans, turned members of the military into mass killers and torturers and then left many homeless or disabled when they returned home. Bush’s “commitment to veterans” manifested itself even before he became president: After not serving in Vietnam himself, he watched silently as the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth repeatedly and mendaciously defamed his veteran rival for the White House, Senator John Kerry.
The Constitution Center’s choice to honor a president who so blatantly disrespected the Constitution and Biden’s decision to help ignore his ugly history show how successful the “character-laundering operation” (to borrow a phrase from my brother, James) of the Trump administration has been. Even Democrats are rehabilitating Bush.
Biden is perpetuating the dangerous fiction that Trump is so outrageous that we should be nostalgic for the Bush presidency—no matter that Bush promoted many of the same racist practices of war, environmental deregulations, and anti-poor tax plans as the Trump administration.
Then, on October 11, the wife of Biden’s former boss also praised Bush. Speaking about a much-discussed moment when he handed her a cough drop, Michelle Obama described Bush as “my partner in crime”—an interesting choice of words, considering Bush was literally convicted of war crimes in absentia by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission in 2012.
The Bushes have no business receiving an award for liberty or their fealty to the Constitution—this should not be controversial. Abroad, Bush launched two unending wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The former has now been going on for so long, Americans born after the day that triggered that war are now old enough to serve in it. The latter has left hundreds of thousands if not more than a million civilians dead.