Think of it as a virtual “We Are the World” production. Call to Unite was the brainchild of Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver. The purpose of the 24-hour live stream event was to raise money for two organizations – Give Directly and the Points of Light Foundation.
Two hundred celebrities and public figures entertained viewers in their own ways, heavy on inspirational messages. Everyone from Oprah to Bill Clinton to Julia Roberts and singer Jewel took part in the event. The list of participants included lots of names with which I am unfamiliar. I suppose that is to be expected as it included people from around the world.
I had no idea this event was even going on Saturday until I saw a video released by The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. At the time, without knowing the back story, I thought it was an odd time for him to be speaking out. We’ve had mostly nothing but radio silence from George W. Bush since he left office, with the occasional story of his hobby of painting or raising money for veterans popping up now and then.
— George W. Bush Presidential Center (@TheBushCenter) May 2, 2020
George W. Bush made headlines during the 2016 presidential election because his brother Jeb! was running. The Bush family decided it was Jeb’s turn to be president and when that didn’t work out, the family was clearly bitter. It happens, that’s politics. Instead of remaining silent, though, as he had been throughout the entire Obama administration, George W. spoke up and said he wouldn’t be voting for Trump, he’d write in a name. (GHW Bush said he voted for Hillary.) The Bush family, known for a strong sense of sportsmanship and loyalty to the Republican Party, lost a lot of respect from rank and file Republicans at that point. For years, during each election cycle, whether Republican activists and volunteers were excited about conservative candidates or not, the Bushes were the first to encourage everyone to stick together and support the party. So, when it was really needed and Trump was running against Hillary, the Bushes decided to choose not to live by their own mantra. People noticed, especially Texas Republicans.
The message from Bush was a good one. He even references 9/11/01 and Americans coming together during that horrible time. Unfortunately, he brings a whiff of politics into his speech, which I guess isn’t surprising, given that he is a politician.
“Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat,” Bush said in the three-minute clip.
“In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together.”
I think “combatants” is an unfortunate choice of words. The Bush administration produced two wars that are still on-going. A nation already divided during the Clinton administration only grew more so after the shock of 9/11 began to fade. That dividedness continued to grow during the Obama administration and we all know where we are now. That part of the video seems to be Bush’s attempt to lecture Trump supporters while being a part of an event with people who are definitely not supporters of the current president. Maybe I misread it but the times are still very partisan though we are all banding together to follow mitigation measures to flatten the curve, as we are asked to do.
It often feels like a war, a political war, between Republicans and Democrats. During this time, as the curve is flattening and states are beginning to open back up, the political divides between the parties are crystal clear. Red states are beginning to open up while blue states are not. It is quite logical to notice that Democrats appear to be using the coronavirus pandemic as a battering ram against President Trump and his administration. From the finger-pointing and armchair quarterbacking to holding up emergency funding bills in order to add pet projects and social justice initiatives, Democrats are not letting this crisis go to waste.
So, Bush’s sudden appearance, no doubt due to the involvement of the Points of Light Foundation, caught my attention. It did with lots of liberals, too, on social media. The reactions varied between those who expressed amazement that they now like Bush because of actions like this, and those who questioned those supporters by reminding them that they still remember Bush as a warmonger and war criminal. That’s a reminder that when Republicans like Bush cross over and band with Democrats, it is never enough. Also, ironically, the point that it was the openly partisan Obama administration that ushered in Donald Trump’s presidency seems to be lost. Trump brought back populism as a result of decades of marching toward a uniparty, with voters often unable to distinguish between the two major parties.
Oprah calls upon people to “reset” and find ways to “provide justice and joy”, whatever that means. Bill Clinton reminisced about President Roosevelt and the Great Depression. Conservatives aren’t so fond of the Roosevelt administration’s mark on history. Politics were apparent underneath the warm and fuzzy messages, inspirational speeches, and musical performances. There is no escaping politics anymore anywhere. It would be an impossible task for the celebrity world, given how they have been enthusiastic members of The Resistance from the beginning.
Noticeably absent were Barack and Michelle Obama. With the inclusion of two former presidents, his inclusion would have been understandable. Were the organizers afraid their inclusion would have been a bit too much on the nose?