When There Are No Witnesses

“But, remembering the early civility they brought upon these countries, and forgetting long-passed mischiefs, we mercifully preserve their bones, and piss not upon their ashes.”

-Thomas Browne-

It’s sunny and bitterly cold in South Florida as I write this, but at least I won’t have to go outside to the mailbox as the Post Office is closed today. It’s about 65 degrees but should warm up a few before the day is out. OK, I’m a Floridian. I’m not like Y’all.

I don’t seem to be like the countless millions who feel so awful and mournful about President Bush today either. I admit that current circumstances make other presidents far more to be missed but I was a frequent critic of President Bush on many counts. Was I wrong? Is it time to reconsider?

Being the son of another US Navy pilot who received his training at Pensacola, Florida at the beginning of WWII, I was made familiar with the controversy surrounding Mr. Bush’s being shot down and having been the only crew member to survive. Did he bail out while the other two members were still on board? Did he warn them in time? We will never know exactly what happened, but there was doubt at the time. There once were witnesses who disputed the official story. There is still doubt and doubt will remain. Perhaps it’s time to give him the benefit thereof.

On August 27, 1987, during a campaign press conference in Chicago, Bush was quoted as saying

” I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

Of course, I found that more than offensive – both because I don’t believe in any of the countless gods and because of the establishment clause that I consider to be a cornerstone of liberty. I’ve held it against him ever since.

But did he say it? It doesn’t seem to have been videotaped and we have the word of just one reporter, Robert Sherman, who confirmed in a now-defunct website that there is nothing to confirm his word. Mr. Sherman was a passionate and vociferous advocate for the separation of Church and State – to say the least. I will confirm that I share his passion, if not his energy, but does passion ensure objectivity or credibility?.

Of course, the White House seems never to have denied the widely reported quote. Would the real George H.W. Bush, whether he said it or not have made some effort to counter or soften such an accusation, real or imagined? We will never know. Sherman himself died in a plane crash 2 years ago, almost to the day.

Is it time to walk away from this one too, ruminating about trees falling in unoccupied forests? We live in an age where both truth and fiction and the proponents and promoters thereof have large and dedicated audiences on their sides who are not likely ever to concede. We need to learn to pick the battles we have a chance of winning and that remain important. We need to move on.


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Posted by on December 6, 2018. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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7 Responses to When There Are No Witnesses

  1. Michael John Scott Reply

    December 6, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    I certainly tired of the funeral, and was never fond of GHW’s politics, but then again he was a Republican. I do believe the official account of military service and don’t believe he ever actually made the comment about atheists. It would seem out of character for him, and it’s that character I admired.

  2. Neil Bamforth Reply

    December 7, 2018 at 3:34 am

    As senior politicians go he seemed relatively benign…at least compared to many others.

    Did he do much harm? You guys will know better than me.

    If not then he was ok I guess.

  3. Glenn Geist Reply

    December 7, 2018 at 9:07 am

    “OK” is high praise considering some we’ve had!

  4. Bill Formby Reply

    December 7, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    H.W, or 41 as he became known was a fairly good president as Republicans go. He did not do a lot of harm and did a lot of good. But, as far as that goes so did Nixon. I believe that the quality of a president is best measured long after he was in office and usually after he is dead and buried. The exception to that, of course, is the current president. Trump is not only a lousy president but a lousy excuse for a human being. He managed to tap into the worst of a minority of the population and is being catered to by the Republican party simply because of party loyalty. It is really sickening to watch and while I tend to vote Democratic I will never follow anyone just because of party affiliation. We really need a revamp of our political system if we survive this.

  5. Holte Ender Reply

    December 7, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    I looked past the fact he was president and concentrated on how his friends valued him. They thought highly of him, in an emotional and humorous way. We all say nice things about people when they pass, that’s easy to fake, but trembling lips and tears are a little harder and more genuine. GHW Bush was a well loved father, grandfather and friend.

  6. Diane G Reply

    December 7, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    Hate to add this here…but even Barbara Bush as much as admitted that GHW liked to cop a feel now & then…On the platform of national politics, though, he was pretty decent. I’d sort of lump him with Reagan in this sense–pleasant, decorous pols albeit supporters of some pretty inhumane party platforms. Guess we can add McCain to that category.

    No one’s perfect, 41 was at least civil, mannered (except for the above), statesmanlike. And a product of his time, of course…expectations have been changing, mostly in a positive direction. Er, until 2016, anyway. Well, until the Republican backlash to the Obama presidency.

    I don’t think an idealist or paragon of morality would stand any chance in US politics these days. Though Carter may have been an exception…sadly, “the one that proves the rule,” to misuse that idiom the way everyone else does.

    Very similar to the McCain situation–

    • Diane G Reply

      December 7, 2018 at 4:12 pm

      Strike that last sentence fragment–earlier draft…

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