Look, we get it: Trump is bad. Like, worst ever bad. That doesn’t excuse a worrisome trend that’s been happening for the last several months, though—despite his inexplicably rising approval ratings, George W. Bush isn’t now an alright president in comparison. Just because Trump is a racist, misogynist, dishonest megalomaniac doesn’t mean George W. Bush is somehow suddenly an example of a good president. Dude was still historically awful. His eight years still outweigh Trump’s one on the scale of horrible bullshit intentionally foisted upon the American people and the world at large. So many of the messes we’re struggling with today stretch back to the Bush years, and the disingenuous right-wing echo chamber that flourished under Bush continues to cheer lead every awful thing done by Trump, his Freedom Caucus lickspittles, and the amoral GOP “establishment” content to let everything else burn in pursuit of tax cuts. Without Bush we wouldn’t have Trump, and it’s important to not let wistful nostalgia drown out the miseries of the Bush administration.
Saturday Night Live, of all shows, understands this. Will Ferrell returned as host last night and kicked off the episode with his beloved Bush impression. It was a great contrast to the lifeless Trump cold opens that have dominated over the last year—instead of just making obvious jokes about current events with a bored celebrity cameo creating a hole at the center of everything, Ferrell’s (mostly) one-man opening directly reminds us of how much of a failure Bush’s presidency was. It specifically calls the American people out for Bush’s rising popularity, pointing out that we’re still fighting two wars that he started, and correctly blames Bush and his policies for the continued decrease in stability in the Middle East. (There’s a joke at the 2:38 mark that we don’t want to spoil that is both uncharacteristically harsh for SNL’s recent political comedy and also entirely justified by facts and history.) And there are also all the amiable goofs about Bush’s mean-spirited man child frat boy act that you expect from Ferrell’s impression. SNL’s political comedy has been especially brutal and boring under Trump, so it’s refreshing to see a political sketch that has a strong point-of-view and legitimate bite to it. If only the show didn’t have to reach out to a legendary cast member and a long-gone president to rediscover any semblance of an edge to its commentary.