I often rail against nostalgia. I think it claims too much space on the Left and the far-right (this is one of the reasons the centre-right are in power) and stops new ideas from coming forward. But none of us are immune to its charms.
Something reminded me of the 43rd American president yesterday – I can’t recall what exactly. So I had a sudden overwhelmingly strong desire to watch one of the numerous montages of George W Bush saying incredibly stupid things, a desire I acted upon. I rediscovered my favourite quote, one I’d forgotten all about: “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”
Apart from finding W as funny as ever, I found myself feeling a twinge wistful as well, an emotion that scared me a little. It wasn’t that I suddenly wanted Bush back as leader of the free world, just that watching him spouting idiotic rubbish reminded one of how much more innocent a time that was, even with 9/11 and the wars that followed taken into consideration.
Bush may have been a terrible president, but at least he played by the rules – or at the very least, the rules of the game applied to him most of the time. He couldn’t insult war veterans or make fun of people with disabilities or joke about women being less able due to menstruation, for instance. He couldn’t simply ignore everyone else in his entire party. He may have pushed America and others into the war in Iraq, but he paid the price for it, his popularity ratings eventually dipping into the teens (paving the way for Barack Obama’s election more than anything else, possibly).
There are elements of Bush’s time as president that have little to actually do with him that have launched this nostalgic feeling, I recognise. Back in 2007, the idea that far-right parties would over the next decade become rampant and even start to dominate the political agenda would have seemed far-fetched. The idea that Turkey would have become a full on dictatorship, or that Putin would have annexed bits of other countries and had planes buzz the airspace of NATO members would have seemed like some sci-fi nightmare concocted by a conspiracy theorist of either the far-right or far-left.
The other thing that would have seemed far-fetched in 2007 is the idea that a decade on, things would be politically so bad across the western world I’d actually be looking back on the reign George W Bush as some sort of halcyon period. I suppose it goes to show that predicting the future is a mug’s game.