Sometimes a Great Notion

George Herbert Walker Bush (‘Papa Bush”) was always capable of saying the right thing when he wanted to.  He could inspire when he wanted to. Or maybe when he thought it might serve some purpose to help him in some way.  Read my lips, no new taxes was an inspiring phrase, at least to someone (like me) who thinks taxes should always be cut because they are always too high no matter what.  It was a strong way of speaking. It sounds a bit like Henry Stamper in Ken Kesey’s novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, whose personal motto was Never give an inch. Trouble was, while Henry Stamper never gave an inch, Papa Bush seemed to always find a way to give all the inches he thought necessary to gain favor with someone whose favor he imagined he might need as a later time, a time after (he hoped) everyone had forgotten what he previously said.

He can be a silly man at times, a kinder, gentler nation, and he can be a deeply thoughtful man at other times, as with these memorable words contained in the commencement speech he gave at the University of Michigan on May 4, 1991:

Ironically, on the 200th anniversary of our Bill of Rights, we find free speech under assault throughout the United States, including on some college campuses. The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land. And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudices with new ones. It declares certain topics off-limits, certain expression off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits. [emphasis added]

There is irony here, that the man who sold out his entire political base of voters when he reneged on his no new taxes pledge also coined the definitive definition of political correctness, that it amounts to nothing noble at all, and is little more than the catch words of a crank movement to replace old prejudices with new ones.

When a Bush says something good and brilliant though, we have to wonder if it has an expiration date.


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