Let’s Just Stop the George W Bush Image-Rehabilitation Tour Right Here, Guys

He’s just as bad as you tried to forget he was.

When former president George W. Bush kicked things off on Monday with a typically smug, heh-heh performance at a Jeb (!) Bush rally in South Carolina, I didn’t expect to have the same kind of visceral reaction I used to have to the sound of his voice.

For eight years I listened to that Texas drawl, dripping with patrilineal Connecticut Yankee privilege, explain away blatant corruption, governmental negligence, and the most destructive foreign policy in modern memory (and that’s saying something!).

I thought after seven years of the Obama presidency, I could stomach hearing ol’ Dubyah again. Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad. But, damn, was I wrong.

The Bush presidency was a devastating blow to any semblance of hope in the political process for a generation. Dubyah was “elected” on the back of a contested election, the result of- at best- faulty voting machines in Florida and a Supreme Court that split along party politics to stop a recount that absolutely would have given the presidency to Al Gore.

Even without Dubyah’s re-emergence from East Texas where he spends his time painting his feet in the bathtub and avoiding thinking about the Shining levels of blood his war spilled by the hour in Iraq, it’s totally impossible to miss this fact, because: One, one of those Supreme Court voters, Antonin Scalia, just died, and, Two, his brother, Jeb (!) is running for president.

So this week, while Dubyah’s back on the political stage to help Jeb (!), Scalia’s also just died. Both new items remind us of how terrible things were for the first decade of the new millennium. It actually makes you appreciate the administration of President Barack Obama, if only for the fact that the past seven years have only been not as bad and not, you know, good.

Seriously- listen to Dubyah’s inane speechifying for his little brother and remember how his campaign drummed up homophobic hysteria in 2004 to win re-election. Remember how in that campaign when he’d have to go through the motions of appearing polite to John Kerry during the debates, he’d shake hands as quickly as possible and stomp away to the other podium, which his campaign demanded be favorably split screened to give the impression Bush was of an equal height to Kerry.

The 2004 campaign was terrifying if only because you could tell how close we were to a dictatorship- Dubyah couldn’t believe he was being challenged for the presidency- it was his, he deserved it, who was this guy he must have been “thinking”- the body language doesn’t lie. With someone that lacking in intellectual curiosity, you knew this idea had to be coming from his advisers, and that was scary.

Because it indicated they were almost certainly telling him he wasn’t subject to challenge until he had fulfilled his eight years.

And yeah, that sounds like ranting paranoia! It sounds super crazy, right? But that was the mood of the country. There was a rumor in 2008 that if the bailout bill wasn’t passed, Bush and Cheney would institute martial law– and people just straight up believed it without much questioning.

That was how fraught with uncertainty things were, how unstable, and how thoroughly the Bush administration had terrified the American people that the possibility of a martial law being declared over banking legislation was a real concern. The American people had just watched the military policing New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Bush administration’s Nero-like fiddling while the city drowned.

Add to that the repressive measures in the USA PATRIOT ACT and the utter fraud that selling the Iraq War required on the part of the administration, a crime for which they will never face any censure or loss of liberty, and you have a perfect storm for years of paranoia and fear from the powerless about the motivations and actions of the powerful.

The Bush years were really, really, bad.

The American public loves nothing more than a scrappy underdog comeback story. Unfortunately, that national tendency towards redemptive story-lines is frequently used by the powerful to revive their national images after they go through a suitable penance of silence and staying under the radar. Bush’s appearance at a campaign rally for his little brother might be the first stop on a national image rehabilitation tour.

Let’s not let that happen. Let’s not allow Dubyah to use this rally and this primary to resurrect his standing on the national stage. He’s basically been in hiding for the past seven years.

He needs to stay hidden.

Eoin Higgins is a writer and historian from upstate New York. Read other articles by Eoin, or visit Eoin's website.