Did George W. Bush Stifle Republican Islamophobia?
August is upon us again and that means two things – Congress is in recess and Republican’s arestirring up their base. Last summer we were subjected to the specter of protestors demanding, “Keep Government Out of My Medicare.” And this summer’s non-troversy? The Cordoba House, known to the right-wing and cable news as “The Ground Zero Mosque.” It is really a perfectly baked piece of right-wing bullshit. Take 1 part lunatic blogger, 1 part Rupert Murdoch owned newspaper, and 1 part shameless political posturing blend, pour and serve.
One of the odder parts of this entire spectacle has been the relative sanity of former officials from the George W. Bush administration. The most outspoken Republican critics of this summer’s ritualistic GOP fear-mongering have been former Bushies. But are we seeing an uptick in so-called Islamophobia because George W. Bush is no longer on the scene, keeping the xenophobic hordes in line? Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has a theory,
A few weeks back I asked whether we weren’t seeing a perceptible rise in Islamophobia, paradoxically many years after the 9/11 attacks. And if we are, why? There are many potential and probable reasons. But of all the emails I received, the couple that struck me most were the ones that pointed to George W. Bush. Yes, him, George W. Bush. Whatever his other errors and shortcomings, with the exception of a few very poorly chosen words at the outset (calling the War Against Terror a “crusade“), Bush was quite consistent in arguing that America was not in a war against Islam. And that put a real brake on the forces of xenophobia, extremist religion and religious hatred, almost all of which were in his own party.
For those of us who believe his policies in the Middle East were close to catastrophic, this fact may seem of somewhat trivial importance. But in the US I think it was actually a pretty big deal.
It doesn’t happen often but Josh has this one wrong – very wrong. His analysis vastly overrates the importance of George W. Bush as a man, vastly underestimates the differing circumstances we now find ourselves in and ignores the Muslim fear-mongering of the not-so-distant past.
First and foremost, when he was President, Bush was under the same constraints that any President is when trying to balance domestic politics with foreign policy. It’s easy for a Congressman to spout off about “Islamofascism” and other such non-sense – he or she isn’t negotiating treaties and trying to conduct foreign policy out of their office. During the Bush years the U.S. desperately needed the cooperation of Muslim nations Turkey and Saudi Arabia to conduct the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It wasn’t in the interests of Bush to engage in a bellicose “us vs. them” demonetization of Islam. A President has considerations that go far beyond 1 of 435 Congressmen, Bush was himself constrained – he couldn’t engage in wanton Muslim bashing even if he had wanted to. Let’s not give him too much credit for showing restraint then.
Now, obviously this alone does not counter Josh’s point. But follow me a little more, as there is a parallel between Bush’s foreign policy interests and their intersection with the Islamic world and Bush’s domestic interests and their intersection with Hispanics. Bush and Karl Rove have long advocated a more sensible approach to immigration than just about anyone else in the Republican Party. There may have been many motivations for this but one was certainly the political interests of the party. Bush and Rove understood that demoniation of Hispanics was bad for the GOP in the long run. But Bush was never able to pass immigration reform and base Republicans vociferously opposed him on this issue. If Bush couldn’t keep a lid on his party’s raving xenophobia regarding Hispanics, what makes us think that he had anything to do with quelling Islamophobia within the GOP?
And finally, Josh is looking back with rose colored glasses a bit. It’s not as if there was a complete absence of Islamic fear-mongering while Bush was President. In fact, there was quite a bit of it during the 2006 mid-term elections concerning Minnesotan and Muslim Keith Ellison’s campaign for, and election to, Congress.
No, the real answer as to why there is that there is a percieved increase in Islamic related fear-mongering is simply because of the changed political circumstances. We now have a mixed race President with the middle name “Hussein”, the GOP is a significant minority in both chambers of Congress, and it’s election season. We’re seeing an increase in Islamophobia simply because it serves the domestic political interests of Republicans. The party has never been shy about exploiting racial fears for electoral gain, that’s page 1 of the post-Nixon GOP playbook.
George W. Bush didn’t quell Islamophobia, we’re just living through election season and forgetting that the GOP will always gin up psuedo-controversies that divide Americans based on race and ethnicity for political reasons.
Photo by pressesc
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook
- 10 Surgeon General Pleads For Americans to Chew Their Food 3 or 4 Times At the Very Least