Are hard-line Republican conservatives about to implement their own version of political entitlement reform? Are we now witnessing the beginning of the fall of the House of Bush?
If Edgar Allen Poe were alive and writing political analysis, it might make a nice story.
Only a few weeks ago reports said influential Republicans were trying to draft former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush into the 2016 Presidential nomination race. The big moneymen (correctly) feared New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was irreparably damaged national political goods. The reason: “Bridgegate,” which partially replaced Christie’s straight-talking Jersey ‘tude persona with the image (correctly or otherwise) of a bullying, power-abusing, cover-you-know-what politician.
Enter pressures on Jeb Bush to run and signs that Bush was seriously dipping his toe into the Republican Presidential waters, despite the party’s strong rightward current. He immediately got bitten by elephant-fish piranhas.
When he left office in 2007 he was considered a mainstream conservative Republican, but the kind of conservatives who walked away from his father George H.W. Bush now increasingly control -- and define -- his party. His father infuriated conservatives in 1990 when he reached across the aisle and worked with Congressional Democrats to raise taxes despite his famous Peggy Noonan-written 1988 Republican convention line: “Read my lips: No new taxes!”
Jeb recently infuriated conservatives when he said illegal immigrants came to the U.S. in “an act of love.” Conservatives in New Hampshire later booed at the mention of his name. Some Senators warned The Hill of “Bush fatigue.” But those pushing Bush would risk that rather than having Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul head their party’s ticket.
Paul scares the bejesus out of many establishment and conservative Republicans due to his “soft... isolationist” libertarian positions on foreign policy and defense. Blogger Martin Longman writes that there’s a bipartisan movement to short-circuit Paul, and warns that Democrats shouldn’t be deluded by him.
“So, yes, powerful status quo forces are going to try to marginalize and disappear Rand Paul, each for their own reasons. But you should expect progressives to join in the chorus, for a different reason. Rand Paul is encroaching on our turf in certain areas (meaning that we, in effect, agree him in some areas), but we do not see him as someone we can work with constructively. Perhaps we could work with him on some issues if he were to remain a U.S. Senator, but as a presidential candidate, it is his differences not his similarities that are the top concern.”
According to some reports, various Republican moneybags haven’t given up on Christie. Look for billionaire Sheldon Adelson to give big bucks to anyone but Paul because many Jews don’t consider him or his father Ron friends of Israel -- or even of Jews.
Still, there is that Bush name, which isn’t the elephant in the room, but IS the room. Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote a New Yorker piece headlined “Poll: Majority of Americans would support Jeb Bush painting.” Its key paragraph: “According to the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, seventy-four per cent of those surveyed ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement: ‘Jeb Bush painting would be a really good thing for the United States and also for the rest of the world.’”
Subtext: not another Bush!
So welcome to the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination sweepstakes where you’ll likely see a series of “Anyone But” campaigns: Anyone But Ted Cruz, Anyone But Rand Paul, and Anyone But Jeb Bush. That George W. Bush’s more moderate, inclusive, bigger-tent seeking brother should be included in the Anyone But category shows you how the once sturdy noblesse oblige House of Bush has deteriorated since GWB almost ran it into the ground.
Having a famous name doesn’t help if many don’t want to be associated with the name -- or want to forget the name.
Is the House of Bush ready to be condemned? Not yet, but for it to sell it’ll need some convincing repairs to pass conservative primary inspectors, and appeal to the current national market.
Otherwise, get ready to watch the career-ending wrecking ball hit.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. He also writes for The Week’s online edition. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joegandelman