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Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Bush vs Churchill
Since Rudy Giuliani referred to George W. Bush as “America’s Churchill”, I thought a direct comparison of the biographies of the two men was in order. The Churchill biography is taken from a web page devoted to Churchill at the
National Library of Scotland.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965) vs George Walker Bush (1946-present)
His early life: Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace on St Andrew's Day, 30 November 1874. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a younger son of the Duke of Marlborough. His mother, Jennie Jerome, was the daughter of an American business tycoon.
Winston's childhood was privileged but not particularly happy. Like many Victorian parents, Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill were distant figures. Letters from his schooldays reveal a willful and somewhat rebellious little boy.
George W. Bush’s early life: George Walker Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut on July 6th, 1946. He grew up in Midland and Houston, Texas, which made him slightly more of a Texan than his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, who would himself eventually become president. Bush’s grandfather would also serve as a U.S. senator, thus firmly establishing the younger Bush’s credentials as a man of the people. His mother, Barbara Pierce Bush, was an autocratic tyrant who could verbally disembowel the young man at 40 paces, and who’s angry glare once caused Lyndon Johnson to wet himself.
Bush’s childhood was privileged but not particularly happy. Like many upper class parents, Bush the Elder and Barbara were distant figures. Poorly crafted, almost dyslexic, letters from his schooldays reveal a willful and somewhat rebellious little boy. G.W. survived these rough early years by indulging his love of nature, which usually entailed torturing and then killing various small animals who were unfortunate enough to fall into his grasp.
A roving commission: In 1895 Churchill graduated from Sandhurst. He travelled to the United States and Cuba, saw action on the north west frontier of India in 1897, and the following year joined Kitchener's expeditionary force to the Sudan and participated in the cavalry charge against the Dervishes at the battle of Omdurman.
His adventures continued in 1899 when he sailed to South Africa as a correspondent of the Morning Post to cover the Boer War. He was captured and spent his twenty-fifth birthday as a prisoner of war, before escaping and making his way across the enemy lines to Durban.
GW’s roving commission: Between the ages of 20 and 25, GWB managed to graduate from both Yale University and Harvard. While at Yale he was a member of the exclusive Skull and Bones Society, and saw action at every available opportunity (nudge, nudge, wink, wink…). In his senior year he joined the Delta Kappa Epsilon expeditionary force that crashed a keg party at the Sigma Chi house. He was also on the cheerleading team.
Bush’s adventures continued at Harvard, where he received an MBA degree, an achievement notable for two reasons. The first being that he thus was the first president to hold an MBA degree, and the second being that his economic policies and poor record of success in the world of business proved once and for all the worthlessness of an MBA degree.
Bush avoided military service in Vietnam and was not a prisoner of war during this period. He was, however, pulled over by cops on a number of occasions after drinking a few too many, and let off with a warning after they learned how well connected he was. He spent his 25th birthday passed out on a friend’s sofa after a particularly hard night of partying, but bravely made it home the next morning.
The Young radical: Churchill was first elected to parliament in 1900, shortly before the death of Queen Victoria. He took his seat in the House of Commons as a Conservative member for Oldham. After four years he crossed the floor and joined the Liberals, rising swiftly through their ranks. As President of the Board of Trade he helped to lay the foundations of the welfare state, while his brief tenure as Home Secretary is still remembered for the Tonypandy Riot and the siege of Sidney Street.
GWB’s Lost Years: Bush spent most of the 70’s in an alcohol and drug induced stupor while his well-connected father tried to keep him from getting into too much trouble. At one point GW managed to cross a floor successfully without falling down, and this was hailed as great success by all concerned.
A frank and clear-eyed friendship: In 1908 Churchill married Clementine Hozier, granddaughter of the 10th Earl of Airlie. They had five children, four of whom survived into adulthood. The marriage was to prove a long and happy one, though there were quarrels. Their personal correspondence sheds much light on the private people behind the public myth. From the first years of their marriage Winston and Clementine routinely ended their letters with drawings. He was her 'pug' or 'pig'. She was his 'cat'.
A bleary-eyed friendship: In 1977 Bush married Laura Welch. His wife went through a stop sign in 1963 at the age of 17, killing one of her high school friends. The Bush’s have twin daughters, and Bush reportedly gave up drinking after they were born, succumbing to demands from his wife. Well, not exactly after they were born, more like five years after they were born, and a full nine years after their marriage, but who’s counting? So far neither Bush daughter has been involved in a homicide.
Bush has pet names for his wife, sometimes referring to her as “the lump” or “the lump in the bed”. Laura in turn includes pictures at the end of letters she writes to him, because in Bush’s own words, he “don’t read so good”.
The world crisis: By the time war broke out in 1914 Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty and already a major national figure. As the conflict in Europe degenerated into a stalemate he became convinced that the only way to end the war quickly was to mount a huge out-flanking attack on Turkey through the Dardanelles. But his attempts to force the straits using only ships foundered, leading to the disastrous Gallipolli landings and costing Churchill his job.
Rather than remain idle, Churchill sought active service on the Western Front. In January 1916 he was appointed as Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the 6th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers.
GWB goes into business: Newly married and with children soon to be on the way, the now 31 year old Bush started in the oil industry in 1977 with the founding of Arbusto Energy. The company was set up using the remaining funds from his educational trust that had not spent on cocaine and hookers. Despite the abject failure of this enterprise, (Bush’s company never found a drop of oil), Bush was bailed out by family friends in the energy industry, parlaying his ownership of the failed company into positions as CEO and Board member on two other energy companies. It’s suspected but not proven that Bush was also guilty of insider trading while at Harken Energy; as President, Bush has prevented release of the SEC report on it’s investigation of this charge.
The member for Dundee: Churchill successfully contested Dundee for the first time in May 1908. His ministerial responsibilities kept him away from his constituency. There were also clear differences in lifestyle and background between Churchill and most of his constituents. By the time of the 1922 election, support for the Labour party had grown and the local newspapers were hostile to Churchill.
Worse still, appendicitis kept him from active campaigning.
Clementine spoke in her husband's place, but was spat upon for wearing pearls. When the result was declared, Churchill was left, as he wryly observed, without a seat, without a party and without an appendix.
Bush’s fails miserably: Bush ran unsuccessfully for congress in 1978. This was just one year after his marriage to Laura, and obviously a sad attempt to “prove himself” to his father. When the result was declared, Bush was left without a seat, passed put at a party, and with an inflamed liver. Subsequently came the alcoholic years, then the dry drunk years, and finally the failed businesses, which he was saved from only because of his father’s contacts. This protracted neutering that Bush suffered through eventually broke him spiritually, and he made a pact with Satan, aka Karl Rove, who would eventually come to play an important role in the life of the younger Bush.
From war to war: Between 1922 and 1924 Churchill left the Liberal party and rejoined the Conservatives. Anyone could 'rat', he remarked, but it took a certain ingenuity to 're-rat'. To his surprise he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's government - a position he held until the Tory defeat in 1929.
During the 1930s Churchill fell out with Baldwin over the question of giving India greater self-government and became more and more isolated in politics. His dire warnings about the rise of Hitler and the dangers of the appeasement policy initially fell on deaf ears.
Bush becomes President: Bush finally realized that a rich network of family connections would carry a man of his obviously limited ability only so far. Politics seemed the way to go, but this time Bush reentered public life guided by the firm, clammy hand of Karl Rove, who engineered a surprise victory over a popular Democrat incumbent Anne Richards to make Bush the Governor of Texas. This success was achieved largely due to a whispering campaign initiated by Rove that intimated that Richards was a lesbian.
Subsequently Bush ran for President in 2000, and managed to win in spite of himself, failing upwards as he had from the earliest days of his post-1977 adult life.
The finest hour: Churchill's role in the Second World War needs little introduction. His immediate contribution was to instill in the British people his own fiery resolve and will to resist. Throughout the tense summer of 1940, when Britain stood alone, his speeches proved an inspiration.
Yet Churchill did more than just talk. He toured the country inspecting the bomb-damaged towns and cities. He also worked tirelessly on diplomatic and military initiatives to regain the offensive. It was from Scapa Flow that he sailed in August 1941 for a crucial secret meeting with President Roosevelt.
9/11: Bush’s role in the days subsequent to the 9/11 attacks need little introduction. After shrugging off the threat of terrorist attacks for the better part of a year, Bush spent the early hours of September 11, 2001 bravely touring the country in search of a safe bunker to hide in. Weeks later he traveled to Ground Zero, where he posed standing next to a firefighter. Afghanistan was invaded, the Taliban overthrown, and Osama Bin Laden, the leader of al Quaida, was allowed to escape. Bush responded to this utter failure by working tirelessly on diplomatic and military initiatives to find an excuse to attack Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.
The tide of victory: As the threat of German invasion receded, the tide of war began to turn. Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union brought Churchill an unlikely ally in the person of Joseph Stalin. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour transformed the war into a truly global conflict. It also precipitated the United States into the war, and with the Americans came the promise of an ultimate Allied victory. By October 1942 Churchill clearly felt confident enough to accept the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh.
Churchill worked tirelessly to keep the Grand Alliance alive, shuttling between capital cities and conferences. It is often forgotten that he celebrated his 70th birthday during the war. While he tried hard to project a fit and active public image, the strain inevitably took a toll on his health.
Catastrophic success: Bush invaded Iraq with a grand “Coalition of the Willing” that included the combined forces of Albania, Azerbaijan, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Micronesia, Tonga, and a few former colonial powers. Victory came quickly over a decrepit and demoralized Iraqi army, and by May of 2003 Bush clearly felt confident enough to prance around in a flight suit on the deck of an aircraft carrier under a banner reading “Mission Accomplished”. Subsequently the mission un-accomplished itself, and the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq approached 1000 by the time of the fall 2004 election.
While Bush tried hard to project a fit and active public image during this conflict, the strain inevitably took a toll on his health. On a number of occasions he fell off of various devices, including bicycles and Segways, and almost choked to death on a pretzel on at east one occasion.
The final years: Churchill did not allow his shock defeat in the 1945 General Election to silence him for very long. He remained a hugely important international figure, and used his status to speak out about the new threats posed by the Cold War and the need for reconciliation in Western Europe. In October 1951 the Conservative Party achieved a narrow victory at the polls and Churchill became Prime Minister once again. Failing health forced him to resign the premiership in April 1955, but he remained an MP until 1964.
The final years: Bush did not allow his shock defeat in the 2004 Presidential Election to silence him for very long. He remained a widely ridiculed international figure, but used his status as an ex-President to speak out about the threats posed by nuclear proliferation and poor reading skills. In November 2008 the Republican Party achieved a narrow victory at the polls and Bush’s brother Jeb became President. Bush was named to the cabinet in the newly created position of Secretary of False Compassion. Failing health brought on by years of substance abuse early in his life eventually caught up with him, and G.W. Bush passed away on July 14, 2009.