The Ellen Interview that May Make You Warm Up to George W. Bush. This was the headline of leading gay magazine Advocate after former President George W. Bush appeared on The Ellen Show recently.
In the interview, host Ellen DeGeneres and Bush got on swimmingly, dancing in traditional Ellen Show style, and talking about DeGeneres’ friendship with Bush’s daughter Jenna, before moving on to discuss the current political climate, the importance of an independent media and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Bush’s interview with DeGeneres is part of a tour he is doing to promote his new book Profiles of Courage—a collection of paintings of war veterans. In addition to appearing on The Ellen Show, Bush’s tour has included multiple interviews and appearances on other lighthearted talk shows. In the current political climate, it seems as though the Bush comeback is winning fans. With Trump in the White House, many seem to be looking at Bush as the sort of Republican we miss—the ‘compassionate conservative’ that Trump is nothing like.
While nostalgia feels nice, I cannot look back at Bush fondly. Even though his image is one that is far more ‘compassionate’ that Donald Trump’s I remember a President whose policies very similar, and often more conservative, than the current Commander in Chief.
For example, I remember a Bush who started two wars in the Middle East, one, in Iraq, based upon what the US Senate described as ‘flawed intelligence’. While President Trump implemented a global abortion gag rule, I remember a President Bush who instituted the same policy, opposing a woman’s right to choose throughout his Presidency. At the same time as Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Head questions the science of climate change, I remember a President Bush who covered up the same science, blocking the Kyoto Protocol and delaying action on climate change for years.
As a queer person, I remember a President Bush even less fondly. Again, despite his image, Bush’s policies were potentially even more conservative than Donald Trump’s.
While Bush bucked his party to propose civil unions for gays and lesbians he was also the man who proposed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage—an amendment that, had it been successful, would have made marriage equality virtually impossible to achieve in the United States. Bush was also the President behind the orchestration of eleven successful state-based constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage in 2004—amendments that have been credited toward his 2004 Presidential re-election. Bush is also a president who did virtually nothing surrounding other issues faced by the LGBT+ community. Instead, there were threats to veto the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
As far as I am aware, Bush has not changed his positions on any of these issues. He has not said he was wrong to invade Iraq, nor suddenly become pro-choice, nor has he changed his position on same-sex marriage, despite the decision by the Supreme Court and the overwhelming public support for the issue.
This is the disappointing thing about the Ellen Show interview, and the others he has done during this tour. With all that DeGeneres has done for queer people in the United States and worldwide, it is disappointing to see her fawn over Bush, telling him how much she loves his entire family (despite their conservative legacy), and then refusing to ask the difficult questions on issues such as marriage equality—issues that she has been vocal in supporting. She, and others, have allowed him to glide by, not facing any accountability for the decisions he made as President of the United States. He’s been given a ‘cuddly comeback’, all because he retrospectively seems better than the man currently sitting in his old office.
I will not warm up to George W. Bush. President Bush left the White House as the most unpopular President in history, a legacy that speaks for itself. We cannot allow the actions of Donald Trump to negate that.