A couple of utterances of prominent American public figures recently have reminded us of why the country voted for a complete change in 2016. Former president George W. Bush, speaking in Dubai, violated the custom, until now scrupulously upheld, of a former president not criticizing the incumbent in remarks given in a foreign country. Generally, ex-presidents observe a decorous silence about their successors, even when speaking within the United States, but it has always been considered unseemly and an indignity to the great office for a former holder of it to criticize, while abroad, the incumbent. We were reminded of George W. Bush’s gaucheries, of how he pronounced Iraq “eye-rack,” and of his malapropisms: “This sucker could go down” (in the financial crisis of 2008); “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job,” to the emergency-relief director in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, while the police deserted, looters ruled whole neighborhoods, and chaos reigned; and “Yo, Blair,” as he greeted the British prime minister at a G-7 meeting when his mouth was full of food.
There have been some embarrassments with President Trump: invented words, very odd tweets, and outbursts of ego. But in general, his syntax is correct, and when he cites some phrase or truism, it comes out right. Not for Mr. Trump such jangling tautologies as “We’ve got them on the run, and . . . they’re running.”
There is also something fundamentally irritating about hearing jibes at Bush’s latest successor from the Gulf States (where the Bushes have allegedly flourished personally), from the man who committed the United States and many allies to the Iraq War, which then fragmented in a human tragedy and ended up with Iran being the leading influence in Iraq. It was all undertaken in the name of democracy, a crusade that elevated the anti-democratic Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; in Iraq, the Islamic State eventually arose (no direct fault of Mr. Bush).