Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to seek the 2016 Republican nomination for president.
What did Republicans learn from the first decade of the 21st century? A decade in which a record surplus became a record deficit. A decade in which America suffered the worst terrorist attack in her history, then responded with two disastrous wars financed by tax breaks mostly enjoyed by the rich. A decade in which wealth inequality soared to a point that we hadn’t seen since before the Great Depression. A decade in which the American economy created zero net jobs for the first time since the 1930s.
Here are five ways that Republicans are campaigning for 2016 on a platform of the exact same mistakes that led America into a decade that most of us would like to forget.
1. Another disastrous war in the Middle East.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu barely had to update his scaremongering from the Iraq War to make his case for why the U.S. should not accept anything less than total capitulation from Iran.
“Zero is a fantasy, and you can blame President George W. Bush’s administration for that,” said Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund. “It may have been possible to convince Iran to dismantle all its centrifuges when it had only a few dozen in 2003 and first offered to talk to the U.S. Or in 2005, when it had a few hundred and was in talks with the European Union. But the Bush administration spurned any deal.”
Netanyahu has long favored military action over diplomacy — reportedly even over the objections of his own military. They know what he won’t admit: War won’t achieve his alleged goal.
Foreign Policy’s Sharon E. Burke notes that “military action against Iran would likely mean the beginning of a war, not the end of a nuclear program,” which will inevitably lead “not only to a sustained American military campaign but also economic turmoil, particularly if Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz.”
2. More and bigger tax cuts for the richest—who have never been richer.
While Americans reckon with record inequality that stagnates our economy while endlessly sucking more wealth and power to a group of the richest 300,000 Americans (who take in more income than the bottom 180 million combined), Republicans think the problem is that we haven’t made the richest rich enough.
Pretensions of a “reform” movement changing the policies of the GOP to match its populist rhetoric have been revealed as a fraud with a new proposal from Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT). “[F]ar from being the ‘tax reform’ it claimed to be, Rubio and Lee had merely constructed a gigantic tax-cut plan that would reduce federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over a decade, a larger tax cut than George W. Bush passed in 2001,” New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait wrote.
In 2012, Mitt Romney at least tried to pretend that he wasn’t cutting his own taxes. In 2016, Republicans will be back to outbidding each other to see who can reduce Mitt’s rate to zero. Maybe we should pay him taxes so he doesn’t go Galt or something?
3. More ground troops in Iraq.
President Obama’s use of war powers to renew combat in Iraq with airstrikes and military advisors targeting ISIS seems fast and loose to many liberals. But to conservatives, it isn’t fast and loose enough. They think ground troops should be on the table, and by “on the table,” they mean “in Iraq.”
King Abdullah II — who briefly became the hero of the right when he ordered airstrikes against ISIS months after President Obama had — doesn’t agree.
“It is our war. It has been for a long time,” he told CNN. “These are outlaws, in a way, of Islam, the minute they set up this irresponsible caliphate to try to expand their dominion over Muslims.”
Weird. He doesn’t think we should double down on the exact policy that led to the creation of ISIS.
4. Take health insurance from millions of Americans.
The King v. Burwell case heard by the Supreme Court this week is less of a law argument than a “Jedi mind trick,” according to Vox‘s Ezra Klein. To many legal experts and observers, it’s a classic example of sophistry designed by conservatives who hate the Affordable Care Act and want to use their judicial advantage for a second chance to sink a law that’s clearly working.
Under George W. Bush, 7.9 million Americans lost their health coverage as premiums skyrocketed, and Republicans did nothing about it but pass an unfunded expansion of Medicare.
Since Obamacare became law, the growth of premiums has slowed dramatically and we’ve seen an unprecedented slowdown in health care spending. Even as we’ve expanded coverage to an estimated 13 million Americans, we’re expected to spend $600 billion less on health care over the next decade than we were just a few years ago.
A decision for the plaintiffs wouldn’t just take coverage from 8 million Americans, it would threaten coverage for 14 million middle-class workers in states that mostly vote Republican, according to ACASignups.net‘s Charles Gaba.
5. Another Bush.
”Everyone wants to go to Baghdad,” a British official closely aligned with the Bush administration reportedly said in 2003. “Real men want to go to Tehran.”
We’ve seen what happens when one Bush wants to outdo another.
Jeb Bush isn’t even attempting to assuage critics who think his brother’s policies — which Jeb has claimed to back entirely — were a complete disaster.
He told a conservative talk-show host that he wouldn’t hesitate to start “a third Bush war” in Iraq. His case is basically that he’s Goldilocks Bush. His dad’s Iraq War was too small. His brother’s was too big. His will be just right.
“There’s nothing in my record that would suggest that I’m a moderate,” Bush told Republicans in Iowa this week.
As another Bush once said, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me… you can’t get fooled again.”
Photo: Former governor Jeb Bush speaks at the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Feb. 27, 2015 in National Harbor, MD. Conservative activists attended the annual political conference to discuss their agenda. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)