“Ever since his Iraq answer more than a month ago, election watchers have been waiting for Jeb to improve as a candidate,” Beinart writes. “The wait goes on.”
On the day after Jeb Bush ended his six-month-long mockery of campaign finance laws and officially declared he’s running for president, Donald Trump joined the GOP primary in a speech that was only slightly more ridiculous than Stephen Colbert’s parody of it.
The Democratic National Committee responded with this tongue-in-cheek statement: “Today, Donald Trump became the second major Republican candidate to announce for president in two days. He adds some much-needed seriousness that has previously been lacking from the GOP field, and we look forward hearing more about his ideas for the nation.“
After decades of fake runs for the presidency, Trump has finally found a political party willing to take his clown act seriously. In current polling, he qualifies for the GOP presidential debates by garnering more support than several current and former Republican governors and senators. This is the first time The Donald has actually declared his fake candidacy and he’ll likely last in the primary until all financial disclosures are due. And — besides the actors said to have been paid to listen to it — the most absurd thing about his rambling speech filled with plugs for Trump resorts, buildings and casinos that haven’t failed yet was how close his agenda actually is to all the leading GOP candidates.
For that reason, Trump’s candidacy still deserves to be taken at least as seriously as Jeb Bush’s.
By deciding to go with “Jeb!” instead of his full name, the former governor is hiding the only reason he’s even competitive in this primary — or has a political career. He’s as conservative as every candidate in the race; even more so than some. But his condescending way of chiding the base, along with his embrace of Common Core and occasional backing of immigration reform, have turned him from the frontrunner to a runner-up. Bush has vowed to be willing to lose the primary to win the general. So far he’s succeeding at the former.
His brother and father’s popularity with the party — and the $100 million or so this helped him raise — are the only things keeping him alive.
Jeb!’s announcement — in which he promised to go after “pampered elites” — may go down as one of the least self-aware acts of rhetoric since the last time Mitt Romney spoke. The only thing more ludicrous than the brother of a failed president running for the presidency less than a decade afterward is Jeb backing nearly all of his brother’s positions. Here are 5 of Jeb’s worst ideas so far.
1. Go after Social Security.
Does Jeb Bush want to privatize Social Security, or just want to sound like he does?
“My brother tried, got totally wiped out,” Bush said when asked about reforming the government’s retirement guarantee in New Hampshire. “Republicans and Democrats wanted nothing to do with it. The next president is going to have to try again.”
At the peak of his political power, right after actually winning the presidency for the first time, George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security. He failed because it was a horrible, unpopular, unnecessary gutting of the nation’s most popular government program.
And it was proven to be a wise choice because of the financial crisis that soon followed and could have sent millions of formerly secure seniors into dire poverty. Because of Social Security and other government programs, seniors have done much better than anyone in this crisis. (Which makes you wonder why they tend to vote for Republicans who want to jeopardize that security.)
But maybe as a former “secret weapon” of the doomed Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers, Jeb doesn’t get this.
2. You’re not the Pope of me.
“I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm,” Jeb told Sean Hannity this past week. This conveniently contradicts his past statements about how faith cannot be kept in a “safety deposit box.”
“Why is religion good when it spurs you to feed and clothe hurricane victims but bad when it leads you to oppose the policies that help create those hurricanes in the first place?” The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart asks.
Could it be that the Koch brothers — who along with their network of supporters are planning to spend almost a billion dollars to elect the next president — are committed to making sure we do nothing to fight climate change, especially a carbon tax?
No reason, except that no president has seen that kind of growth since Franklin D. Roosevelt, who — using Keynesian stimulative policies — was helping us pull out of the worst crisis of the 20th century.
Jeb has offered no specifics of his economic plans, except to suggest he’s for “bigger and broader tax relief,” which would likely mean another large cut for the richest whose runaway accumulation of wealth is distorting our economy and politics.
We know these policies don’t work because they have done nothing but blast holes in the budget and produce weak job growth wherever they’ve been tried. That’s what happened in Kansas and Wisconsin. And that’s what happened when George W. Bush did the exact same thing.
Jeb Bush has said he isn’t fond of the growth of spending under his brother. But if it weren’t for that increased spending, W. would have been the first president since Herbert Hoover to deliver a net job loss. That’s right: The only jobs created under George W. Bush were government jobs.
4. Trying to out-Ted Cruz Ted Cruz.
Jeb Bush’s campaign tried to sell the idea that he was going to be the least anti-gay GOP candidate. Someone should tell Jeb Bush that. He seems eager to refight another war his brother lost—same-sex marriage.
“In a country like ours, we should recognize the power of a man and a woman loving their children with all their heart and soul as a good thing, as something that is positive and helpful for children to live a successful life,” he told the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference last week.
This echoes some of the worst arguments against same-sex marriage, merging the idea that LGBT marriages somehow diminish straight marriages with the junk science that anti-marriage equality zealots have continued to push, even as the vast majority of Americans have said they’re ready for same-sex marriage to be legal.
He also signaled that he’s going to back this continued attack on through laws that allow discrimination, even if the Supreme Court settles the question in favor of marriage equality this month.
“I, for one, believe it’s important, and I think it’s got to be important over the long haul, irrespective of what courts say,” he said.
The reason that conservatives will likely fail to unite around a reasonable alternative and defeat Bush is because they realize that Jeb is even more of a genuine culture warrior and a neoconservative warmonger than his brother ever was.
5. Leaving immigration out of his announcement speech — until he couldn’t.
Jeb Bush speaks excellent Spanish. His announcement event was intentionally multicultural and spiced with the language that he, his Mexican-born wife, and Mexican-American kids know so well. This willingness to reach out beyond the GOP’s base is why the party’s backers think he’s the candidate who can deliver the miracle performance with minorities that’s necessary for Republicans to win the White House.
But Jeb has sounded more and more like his fellow Republicans on immigration recently, often prefacing his comments with the “secure the border first” rhetoric that suggests he’ll never back real reform, as House Republicans will never be willing to accept that the border is secure.
You can bet that if Jeb wins the nomination, his willingness to support reform will be front and center. But in his announcement, he wasn’t even planning to mention immigration — until immigration activists interrupted him.
He responded by forcibly backing reform. Thus nativists in the Republican base, who make up about 20 percent of primary voters, got the moment that clarified why they oppose this Bush. And activists were reminded that his conditional support for reform — like his brother’s vigorous backing in 2007 — won’t be enough to change the status quo.
Illustration: DonkeyHotey via Flickr