Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
“Saturday Night Live” opened last night with a hilarious sketch of Will Ferrell reprising his role as President George W. Bush. Having worked on SNL’s production staff for most of the Bush years, I can say that this was one of the best Bush sketches the show has served up in terms of laughs. But I have to disagree with SNL’s implication that Bush was as bad, if not worse, of a president as Donald Trump. It’s no comparison – Trump is far worse.
SNL’s Bush cold open kicked off with a few jokes that reminded us of the way the iconic comedy show portrayed the 43rd President as a bumbling but likable guy. There was Will Ferrell as Bush telling us: “You might remember, the W stands for wassssup!” and adding that lately he had been working on his oil paintings and earning an online MFA from the University of Phoenix.
The show then turned to the politics of today. “Bush” boasted that his approval ratings are at an all-time-high, referring to recent news that his favorability has drastically increased since he left office. (When Bush left office, he was saddled with a dismal 33% favorability rating.) Ferrell then joked, “That’s right. Donny Q. Trump came in, and suddenly I’m looking pretty sweet by comparison. At this rate, I might even end up on Mount Rushmore, right next to Washington, Lincoln and I want to say, uh, Kensington?”
But then SNL pivoted to remind us how bad Bush was as President, with Ferrell laughingly reminding us: “I was really bad – like historically not good.”
“Don’t forget: We’re still in two different wars that I started,” he added. Ferrell then paused before delivering a killer line: “What has two thumbs and created ISIS? This guy!” and pointing at himself.
“Bush” also highlighted how awful the economy was when he left office. He held up a chart that showed the stock market tanking and joked: “Now I’m no ‘economer’ but even I know that was ‘no bueno.’”
SNL was right that Bush had earned his horrible approval ratings. But what SNL missed – perhaps even intentionally to spark a debate – is how horrific Trump is in terms of trying to divide us by race, religion and even immigration status as compared to Bush.
For example, during Trump’s presidential campaign he despicably ginned up hate against Muslims with his comment that he thinks “Islam hates us” and his call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” And as President, he has tried to implement an immigration ban primarily directed at a number of Muslim majority nations.
What a contrast to Bush and his words only weeks after the 9/11 terror attack committed by Al Qaeda. With the nation watching, Bush didn’t try to stoke hate against Muslims. Instead, he declared: “The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends.” Bush then added about Islam, “Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.”
Trump has also demonized Mexicans and other immigrants countless times during his campaign and as President. Indeed, Trump literally kicked off his campaign in 2015 declaring falsely that Mexico was sending “rapists” to America. Trump recently called Africa and Haiti “shitholes.”
Compare those words to Bush’s during a 2006 speech on immigration, in which he praised undocumented immigrants – rather than demonizing them like Trump – and noted that the “vast majority” are “decent people who work hard, support their families, practice their faith, and lead responsible lives.” Bush added that we are “a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways.”
And while Trump rejected the invitation to speak at the NAACP convention last year, Bush delivered addresses to the organization both as a candidate in 2000 and as President in 2006. Unlike Bush, Trump made it clear he had no interest in reaching out to people beyond his base.
Beyond that, Trump has truly emboldened the vilest voices in America by retweeting an alt-right conspiracy theorist and revoltingly referring to those who marched with the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as “fine people.”
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These actions stand in contrast to Bush who, just days after 9/11, traveled to the Islamic Center of Washington, DC and made it clear that there would be zero tolerance for attacks on American Muslims. “That should not and that will not stand in America,” he said. And more recently, in October, Bush passionately slammed the racists: “Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”
Bush, as SNL rightly reminded us, was truly awful in certain areas. But overall, Trump is far, far worse for our nation.