“Stockholm Syndrome” is defined as “feelings of trust or affection felt in certain cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor.” Watching the recent George W. Bush interview with Jimmy Kimmel, is there any greater illustration of this definition on display? A man so many of the Left in Hollywood had been happy to call “Hitler” just eight years ago, was greeted to a standing ovation and treated to guffaws after all of his lame jokes? Why?
I think I know.
Could it have something to do with this interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show? When Lauer asked President Bush about the recent row between President Donald J. Trump and the media, President Bush responded:
I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. That we need an independent media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive, it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power […] It’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves.
And, in that, the former President—the last Republican to hold the White House—just gave everyone from Anderson Cooper to David Corn of Mother Jones all of the cover they needed to continue their unremitting partisan assault on the Trump Administration. Let’s just set aside the absurd claim that President Trump is stifling freedom of the press (he’s not, as evidenced by the packed White House press briefings he continues to have).
Why don’t we just focus on the unbelievably disappointing performance of George W. Bush, shall we?
Let me first start out by saying that I am a child of 9/11. I was a teenager when those attacks happened and it deeply affected me and my fellow Millennials. 9/11 changed me. Not only did I become politically aware because of these events, I also became a proud Bush supporter. I volunteered for the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign at the ripe age of 16. In the face of the overt Leftism on my college campus, I maintained a strong defense of both the unpopular Bush Administration and the even more unpopular Iraq War (in spite of the apparent lackluster outcomes of both).
But that was then. After the defeat of Mitt Romney in 2012, I and many fellow conservatives knew that things needed to change in the GOP. Happily, in 2016, things did. For the first time in my lifetime, the Republicans had nominated a truly dynamic candidate. What I found most appealing about Donald Trump as opposed to George W. Bush was in the way that Trump handled the partisan press.
George W. Bush started out his presidency strong. Unfortunately, his initial strength against the partisan media faded quickly.
First, the media carefully crafted Vice-President Dick Cheney into a Svengali-like character (does this narrative sound familiar?) lurking in the shadows of the Bush White House, manipulating everyone in some grand Neocon secret plot. Then came the constant accusations that the Administration was listless and without direction. After 9/11, one would have hoped these charges from the press might have stopped. Instead, during the War in Afghanistan, the old accusations were repeated. Of course, the antipathy for the Bush Administration exploded during the Iraq War.
The Leftist Media did everything they could to undermine George W. Bush. They aired fake stories claiming that President Bush lied about his time in the Texas Air National Guard. They crafted stories reaffirming the old trope that “Bush Lied and People Died” in Iraq. In fact, I distinctly remember my friends in high school taking great delight typing George W. Bush’s name into Google Images only to see images of monkeys come up as the top option. George W. Bush was dumb. Pop culture, the news media, and academia had decided it. Everyone was programmed to act accordingly.
Celebrities piled on too—going so far as to assert that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During the Bush presidency, movies were made about the assassination of George W. Bush. All of this was done in an effort to stunt the Bush Administration from implementing its original agenda of conservatism.
Thanks to the overt partisanship of the media, the Bush Administration became bogged down in Iraq. Oh, to be sure, the Bush team made plenty of mistakes during the war. But, there were those (such as Secretary of State Colin Powell and Army General Eric Shinseki) who rightly pointed out some key flaws in the Iraq War strategy. They advocated for modest changes early on. Had such changes been implemented, they would have likely turned the tide of the conflict and prevented it from becoming the debacle that it became.
A siege mentality came to grip the White House, however, as the media continued its partisan campaign against the Bush Administration. As such, any real hope of change in the Iraq War policy was stifled, since any challenge to the war was, understandably, taken to be an attempt to unseat both President Bush and the GOP majority in Congress. In part, those challenges were exactly that. But, of course, the Mainstream Media was just fine with the downward spiral in the Iraq War: The more it bleeds, the more it leads, after all! Plus, it served the media’s political interests. Remember, a majority of those involved with the press are committed Leftists.
So, after eight grueling years, the media could be proud. They had eroded the moral authority of the Bush Administration and neutered the political threat that the GOP posed to the Democrats. Not only had the media taken George W. Bush’s historically high approval numbers and converted them into the lowest approval ratings for a modern president, but they also set the stage for the most Left-wing president, Barack Obama, to succeed Bush.
Now, the Republicans finally have a leader in Donald Trump who has not only implemented sweeping change along conservative lines, but who is also holding the partisan press to account. He refuses to allow what happened to George W. Bush to happen to him. Yet, here comes former President Bush out from his self-imposed exile not to champion Trump’s necessary approach to the press, but to cast aspersions and doubt on the 45th president.
After eight years of being a virtual prisoner to the partisan press corps, George W. Bush has proven himself to be suffering from political Stockholm Syndrome. It’s actually quite sad to see it. From 2001 until today, Mr. Bush has gone from the cowboy commander-in-chief, “the Decider,” to the defender of a wholly anti-Republican press that sees it as their duty to destroy any Republican who would dare rise to challenge Leftist orthodoxy.
Think about it: for 16 years, George W. Bush was the butt of every late night talk show host’s joke. Bush stood firmly behind the GOP from 2008-12. But, with the selection of Donald Trump as the nominee in 2016, something changed. Jimmy Kimmel is but one of dozens of comedians who made a living off of lampooning George W. Bush. Things were said about Bush that anyone else would have deemed as “unforgivable.” Now, George W. Bush sits beside Kimmel, laughing uncomfortably as Kimmel makes fun of Bush to his face, and piles on President Trump.
This is the same man who told al Qaeda to “bring it on” after 9/11? Who called for Bin Laden to be captured “dead or alive”? This is the same man who gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to vacate Iraq or else? Like Patty Hearst before him, Bush has taken to allying with his former captors after having been brutalized by them for some time.
It would be nice if the GOP would rally behind Trump’s vital leadership rather than constantly undercut it. But getting rid of the taste of sour grapes after a contentious election is often impossible to do—even when your own party has won—but maybe, especially, when they won at the expense of your own brother. It’s not surprising that Bush and other Republicans like him continue to cower in fear of the media and the Left. Trump has just proven that those days are over. Republicans won’t suffer political Stockholm Syndrome anymore and we aren’t going to support politicians who champion it.