It’s no secret that Donald Trump is splitting the Republican Party in half.
While some neoconservatives have thrown their support behind his campaign, other stalwarts of the GOP establishment have stayed silent on the ticking Trump time-bomb — and a few are defecting entirely to support Hillary Clinton.
Now, this emerging rift seems to be pulling apart the party’s most important dynasty: the Bushes and their retainers. Though many members of the Bush family itself as well as their former advisers are hesitant to endorse Trump, hawks like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have come out in support of his campaign.
Indeed, Cheney and Rumsfeld, who served as defense secretaries in the older and younger Bush administrations, respectively, have enthusiastically backed the presumptive GOP nominee.
In a quixotic mood, Rumsfeld told Fox News’ Greta van Susteren on Wednesday that Trump’s unpredictability makes him the stronger candidate. “On the Democrats’ side, we have a known known. On the Republican side, we have a recent entry, who’s a known unknown,” he said, whimsically (and weirdly) recalling his now-infamous line about weapons of mass destruction (or lack thereof) in Iraq.
As for Cheney, it has been over a month since the former vice president announced that he will continue his tradition of supporting the party’s nominee.
Cheney and Rumsfeld were heavily influenced by other senior officials in the Bush administrations who pushed aggressively for the 2003 Iraq invasion.
The same can’t be said of George H.W. Bush. Though his consistent endorsement of the GOP presidential nominee stretches back half a century, a spokesman told the Washington Post that Bush “was retired from politics.”
A spokesman for George W. Bush, meanwhile, said the 43rd president “does not plan to participate in or comment on the presidential campaign,” according to the Financial Times. As for Jeb Bush, his disdain for his former primary opponent needs no explanation, as his refusal to back Trump drew attention during the primaries and continues to make headlines.
Some of the Bush administrations’ foreign policy experts aren’t convinced by Trump, either.
Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser for George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford, became one the latest Republicans to defect to the Clinton camp this week, as he lauded her foreign policy experience.
“She brings deep expertise in international affairs and a sophisticated understanding of the world, which I believe are essential for the commander-in-chief,” said Scowcroft, who also worked in the second Bush White House, according to CNN.
Richard Armitage, the younger Bush’s first deputy secretary of state, told Politico last week that he could not support Trump in the general election.
“He doesn’t appear to be a Republican, he doesn’t appear to want to learn about issues. So, I’m going to vote for Mrs. Clinton,” Armitage said.
Perhaps some of the strongest criticism came from Barbara Bush herself, who called Trump “a comedian” and “a showman” during a CBS interview in February, adding that his strategy — or lack thereof — goes against “how things get done in this country, truthfully.”
She also called Trump’s approach to women “unbelievable,” saying, “I don’t know how women can vote for someone who said what he said about Megyn Kelly.”
During the CBS interview, Jeb Bush added, “I don’t think a president would have ever shouted profanities in a speech in front of thousands of people with kids in the crowd.”
“Who did that?” his mother asked, as if in shock.
“Your buddy,” Jeb answered. “He does it all the time.”
Photo: Former U.S. first lady Laura Bush and former President George W. Bush join his brother Republican U.S. presidential candidate Jeb Bush on the campaign trail at a campaign rally in North Charleston, South Carolina