The last thing the United States needs is another Bush – any Bush. But that’s exactly what some Republicans are talking about giving us. Specifically, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida. Bush served two terms as governor of Florida and the Bush family is still popular among conservatives. It would not be a surprise if – despite his denials and his brother the former president’s doubts on that score – Jeb Bush threw his hate into the ring.
The Republicans would be banking on voters forgetting just exactly how terrible a president George W. Bush was, his two wars (one still raging without any end in sight), Katrina, the terrorist attack on his watch that destroyed the WTC and killed 2700 people (nearly 3000 people died altogether on 9/11 in the various attacks), and his thorough destruction of the American economy (we won’t even get into his plundering expedition in Iraq).
I’m not as confident that Americans have forgotten Bush. Leading up to the primaries, polls still demonstrated that most Americans blamed Bush for our economic woes, this despite the millions of Republican dollars spent on re-branding the catastrophe as Obama-cased. Of course, they have also tried to recast 9/11 as a Democratic failing and called Afghanistan (that war that is still raging) “Obama’s War.”
We know that voters have short memories and that they can be fickle. We know they tend to blame the party in power. That worked to the Republican advantage in the 2010 midterms. But importantly, the Republicans failed to take the Senate and they didn’t do as well as they had expected. Then there is the fact that President Obama’s approval rating rose after the midterms and that there are two years remaining before the next presidential election.
It is important to note that during these two years the Republicans will have control of the House. The GOP propaganda machine will not be able to claim that the Democrats control the government, or that things aren’t getting done because the Democrats are sitting on their hands. The Republicans have already announced their intention to bring government to a halt. The voters won’t have to remember this in 2012; they will be experiencing it for the next two years, right up until Election Day.
George H.W. Bush had already sent America to war for the first time since the Vietnam War. The economy had stagnated, growing at a rate of 1% annually and unemployment was rising. His son took over from Clinton, who had been anything but a “tax and spend” liberal, the broad brush with which all liberals are painted in Republican propaganda. George W. Bush ignored Clinton’s warnings about terrorist threats and on 9/11 the WTC was attacked. Bush stared like a deer into headlights, then attacked Iraq (which had nothing to do with the attack) and Afghanistan, where terrorist cells were at least lurking (al Qaeda was not allowed by Saddam Hussein to operate in Iraq). The American economy crumbled, Katrina was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and the Constitution was attacked on an almost daily basis. People were tortured and we learned a new word: rendition, which is the abduction and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one nation to another, in other words, torture by proxy.
Human rights abuses and illegal wars cast America in a bad light internationally. Our reputation, along with our economy, suffered. American exceptionalism became the order of the day, a “New American Century” which recast the United States, the world’s sole remaining superpower, as a New Rome, an empire which claimed the right to do anything it wanted to do to anyone it wanted to do it to. These are facts, and they are not in dispute.
It is only fair to ask if Jeb Bush would be more like the father or the brother, as president. He is more popular with Latinos than his brother (he is married to one), which might pose problems for the Democrats, who enjoy Latino support overall, but his take on immigration would be decisive. The Tea Party is ardently opposed to immigration. The two Republicans who did well with Latino voters took a more nuanced view of the issue than any Tea Partier – Marco Rubio (55%) in Florida and Susana Martinez (38%) in New Mexico.
Would Jeb Bush run as an establishment Republican or as a Tea Partier? It is unlikely but not impossible he could successfully straddle the fence but it is a hazardous course.
Ideological purity is the prime motivator in Republican politics these days, and a soft stance which would gain Latino voters would lose WASP voters. While the GOP rushes headlong into line to build a Great Wall of America along the Mexican border, Jeb Bush would quickly find himself swimming against a tide of hate and xenophobia. Working to his advantage are the facts that Jeb Bush is anti-choice and anti-gay, which would endear him to Tea Partiers and Religious Right alike.
We don’t know how Jeb shapes up among voters because polls focus on Republicans like Palin, Huckabee, Romney, and Gingrich. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey offers the following results:
Huckabee leads Obama 52 – 44 percent
Romney leads Obama 50-45 percent
Obama leads Palin 52-44 percent
Obama leads Gingrich 49-47 percent
It is notable that Palin is only number three for Republican respondents when asked to pick a Republican nominee (21% for Huckabee, 20% for Romney, 14% for Palin, 12% for Gingrich), and she loses to Obama in the poll. As Jason Easley wrote yesterday, a new Gallup poll makes Palin seem almost unelectable. Another possible Republican candidate is Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, but his pragmatism will likely alienate him from Republican purity fanatics. He’s far too sensible to be a Republican candidate for president.
It will be interesting to see in coming months if Jeb Bush’s name begins to appear in polls and if so, what that will do to the Republican dynamic, especially if despite Palin’s overall unpopularity with Americans, support from the Republican base keeps her in the running; and if an America suffering from Bush fatigue will show interest in him in any appreciable numbers.