It had been a while since Joe Biden stuck his foot in his mouth, but he shattered that dry spell and then some on Monday when he offered some glowing words about former President George H.W. Bush during a speaking event at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas law school.
Bush, who died Friday, has been remembered as everything from a war hero to the architect of a “kinder, gentler and more colorful GOP.” That, despite the 41st president’s series of political missteps, especially when it came to Black people in particular. And while hyperbole is no stranger to posthumous recognition, it was still nonetheless strange to hear Biden suggest that Bush was the most decent president he ever served under.
“I’ve been there with eight presidents as an elected official and none had more class and a greater sense of decency than President Bush,” Biden, who was, by the way, Barack Obama‘s vice president, boldly declared on Monday.
Many users on social media took exception to the comment and construed it to be a direct shot at Obama, who just this past summer was ranked by the American public as the best president of their lives. George H.W. Bush came in at seventh on that list, falling behind names like Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and, yes, even Donald Trump.
Releasing statements that fawn over presidents who have died is par for the course in Washington; especially from someone who has admitted he still has presidential ambitions and just may be looking to garner support from moderate Republicans in 2020 with his words Monday.
But let’s be clear: Bush Sr. was guilty of such misdeeds that included nominating Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court and opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, as the New York Times reminded readers, “ended segregated lunch counters, restrooms, movie theaters and other public accommodations, and made employment discrimination illegal.
Nevermind Bush’s overtly racist TV commercial while running for president in 1988, or his disingenuous war on drugs, which he started by entrapping a Black teenager into selling drugs in a park across the street from the White House.
Twitter users demanded to know how any of that was classy or decent, to paraphrase Biden.