George H.W. Bush. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- Even the harshest critics of President George H. W. Bush were praising him for his humanity, commitment and wartime heroism after his passing late Friday.
Some of them even waited until the fifth or sixth paragraph before bringing up Willie Horton. And that’s as it should be.
What a life.
Another giant of the Greatest Generation is gone.
But while Bush’s manners and decency were impressive, and are a notable contrast with the current president, there’s something wrong with all the yearning for our “lost” political civility, the same chorus we heard after Sen. John McCain’s death.
How can you lose something you never really had?
The norms of American politics have changed over the years, but the sharp elbow and the killer instinct are constants.
In 1856 a senator from Massachusetts was beaten with a cane by a fellow senator he was verbally assaulting.
Nowadays we use Twitter, but the sentiment is the same.
And it’s hard to ignore that both Sen. McCain and President Bush--despite their well-known heroism and character--did plenty of losing at the polls.
If you look at the latest poll of America’s most popular modern-day presidents, once you get past the martyred JFK at number one, the next three are men who were very polarizing in their day--Reagan, Obama and Clinton. Mr. Bush tied with his son for fifth.
When civic paragons pass, we mourn the passing of what they represented.
But do we really value it as much as we like to claim?
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