I’m finding myself oddly nostalgic these days – but not for the usual reasons.
It’s not nostalgia for my childhood or young-adult years, or pop culture of days gone by. Thanks to YouTube and used-vinyl-album stores, I can wind the clock back to 1983 at a moment’s notice with the click of a mouse or the careful placement of a record needle, so no worries there.
No, these days I find myself listening to what passes for political discourse and longing for a simpler time. You know, an age when nobody uttered the word “Kardashian” and romaine lettuce wasn’t a health hazard and desperate TV networks weren’t recasting and rebooting half their prime-time line-ups from two decades earlier.
Is he talking about Barack Obama, you wonder? Is he talking about the thoughtful, well-spoken, bi-partisan president the United States was so fortunate to have, only 22 months ago?
No, but you’re close. Go back just a little farther. Go back to the George W. Bush years.
What? George W. Bush? The guy who responded to the Osama bin Laden-led World Trade Centre attacks by sending troops to scour the Middle East for Saddam Hussein? The guy who took forever to address Hurricane Katrina and described his bumbling head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency as doing “a heck of a job”? The guy who took a record-shattering 1,020 vacation days during his two terms in office? That guy?
Yes, it’s true. Believe it or not, after less than two years of seeing Donald Trump blunder his way through the American presidency and fill network airtime, social media and the general news cycle with his own distinct brand of ignorance, arrogance and divisiveness, I’m starting to see Dubya in a manner I never expected during the first decade of the millennium.
These days, astonishingly, he looks downright presidential. Perhaps that has something to do with the frequency and outlandishness of Trump’s blather and bluster.
By 2006, Bush Junior had committed so many malapropisms (“They misunderestimated me”), faux pas (“You work three jobs? Uniquely American, isn’t it? I think it’s fantastic that you’re doing that”) and basic public gaffes (like Rick Mercer fooling him into thinking he’d gotten an endorsement from Canadian Prime Minister “Jean Poutine”) that an 18-month calendar promoting a countdown to the end of his presidency had more than enough material to fill 547 days.
And yet there were still blank squares in that calendar. (I can verify this because Cathy received a copy of it from her two European-raised nieces, who regaled me with “dumb George Bush” jokes the first time I met them.) A similar Trump calendar – covering merely the first two years of what will hopefully be his only term in office – would fill up every single day of the year, with several months necessary for his Twitter feed alone.
Before Trump got into politics, back in his Celebrity Apprentice days, we had to make do with Dubya. Or Jean Chretien, who responded to protestors being pepper-sprayed at an APEC summit in Vancouver by blithely announcing, “For me, pepper, I put it on my plate,” and once told CBC parliamentary bureau chief Julie Van Dusen that she could benefit from the Liberal government’s new child-care program because “you’re young enough” to have a baby. The latter comment came in the fall of 2000; Chretien was elected with a third straight majority government less than three months later.
In the ‘90s, we began the decade with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney gleefully chortling to the House of Commons that he succeeded by “rolling the dice” on the high-stakes Meech Lake constitutional accord (which collapsed only two weeks later) and the interim Premier of Nova Scotia, Roger Bacon, telling reporters that he had a “pornographic memory.”
We continued through the decade with Reform MP Bob Ringma insisting that he supported business owners who moved African-Canadian and/or gay employees to “the back of the shop,” and we wrapped things up with Bill Clinton defending his dalliance with White House intern Monica Lewinsky by using the phrase “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
And yet, to the best of my knowledge, none of Mulroney, Bacon, Ringma, Chretien, Clinton or Bush Junior ever suggested that wildfires could be blamed on leaves not being raked up or federal forest rangers not doing their job or (most baffling of all) the Canadian lumber industry.
None of them ever responded to a natural disaster by tossing paper towels into a crowd or asking pointless questions about a hurricane victim’s boat. And I doubt even the far-right Dubya or Ringma would have responded to the coldest temperatures on record in northeastern North America by tweeting, “What happened to global warming?”
Time for a new calendar, I daresay…