The death of George H. W. Bush, former president of the United States has led to an outpouring of largely indulgent tributes to a holder of that office which in the context of today’s incumbent seems almost understandable. Even the Guardian’s obituary was effusive in its praise of his international statesmanship, although it noted that Bush didn’t seem to thrive so wonderfully on domestic issues (why would he, given, e.g. the Willie Horton affair so far as racism goes, or his ‘read my lips no new taxes’ gaffe). Yes, compared to Trump George H. W. Bush was a giant of a politician, but by that standard you could say the same about the leader of North Yorkshire County Council.
What has not been given much attention to in this whirl of tear-stained memorials is the simple fact that Bush was born into and continued to breed a family of crony capitalists the like of which the post-world war era had never seen. This was a family that profited from arms sales in the First World War, went on to deal with the Nazis in the Second and then used its influence in or out of office to secure lucrative deals ever since – regardless of their ability to do anything useful. I’ve not heard the phrase ‘crony capitalism’ used for some time, and it hasn’t appeared in H.W’s wake. Perhaps the mainstream media would like us to believe that before Trump, holders of the office of U.S. president were keenly disinterested in their own, personal or family interests. We should be wary of being forgetful. In so many ways, Trump is not exceptional.
N.B. I wrote about the Bush family’s crony capitalism in Lobster 56, 2008. There is quite a literature on the subject.