What do you call a GOP ticket without a Bush on it? A loser.
One of the more startling facts of American politics is that the Republican Party has not won a presidential election without a Bush on the ticket since 1972. So when Jeb Bush stood at the podium of the 2012 Republican National Convention to speak about education, you couldn’t help but assume that he’ll be headlining a GOP convention before long – perhaps in 2016, as the Daily Show suggested all last week.
For Democrats who believe that Jeb has the likability of George W. mixed with the pragmatism of George H.W., a Republican ticket featuring this particular Bush is a frightening possiblity.
All that stands in Jeb’s way is what his brother George’s legacy has done to the Bush brand, which is still used, appropriately, to sell beans. Sensing his branding problem, the former governor of Florida used his first minute at the podium at the RNC to attempt to erase eight years of his brother’s nearly unmitigated arrogance and incompetence.
On Friday, Bill Maher pointed out that the GOP is attempting to wipe W. from history by omission. In all three days of the convention, no one besides his brother mentioned “He-Who-Must-Must-Not-Be-Named.” This GOP has been trying to erase the Bush years from our memory since the day President Obama took office. First they used Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. (You probably noticed that neither of those were mentioned at the RNC either.) Now, Paul Ryan – who voted for everything George W. Bush proposed — is the shiny object that is supposed to replace all who came before him.
Ignoring past failures instead of making amends is to be expected from this Republican Party. But what Jeb Bush did was to go beyond pretending Bush never happened. He decided to rewrite history.
“My brother, well, I love my brother,” Jeb said. “He is a man of integrity, courage, and honor, and during incredibly challenging times, he kept us safe.”
President Bush totally kept us safe – except that one time.
Who had any idea that bin Laden was determined to strike the homeland? Except President Bush and his National Security team. And who had a chance to get bin Laden? Except at Tora Bora. And the anthrax attacks? Did that even ever happen? Or was it just a plot point on 24? Then the Iraq War. That kept us safe from the Iraqis, right? Except for all the Americans killed and wounded, not to mention allied troops and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis. And let’s not even mention Katrina. Whoops. I did.
Bush went on to call on President Obama to stop blaming George W. Bush. As if even mentioning the economy this president inherited is a slight on his brother. If what your brother did is so terrible that even mentioning the consequences is an attack, isn’t that your brother’s fault?
But while necessary and just, blaming Bush is indeed tiresome. Franklin D. Roosevelt “benefited” from three years of Hoover managing the Great Depression before had the chance to right the ship. When President Obama took office we did not even understand how bad the economy would get. Pointing out that the GOP created the catastrophe was required as he and Congressional Democrats took the initial steps to fix it.
Have we reached the point where Bush no longer deserves blame? In a poll last June, 68 percent of respondents blamed the previous president a “great deal” or “moderate amount” for our economic woes.
Should Jeb Bush go to the homes of the more the a hundred million Americans who still blame Bush and correct them? It would be the greatest reality show ever. I’d love to see the affable Jeb explain away his brother and his party’s undeniable failures. If he tries this, I suggest he wear a protective cup.
But seriously, I do have two recommendations for Jeb if he honestly wants the president and the more than two-thirds of Americans who blame his brother to bend to the Bush narrative.
First, if you want us to stop blaming George W. Bush, stop running on his ideas.
Now this isn’t a stricture that applies to Jeb Bush alone. Unlike a majority of Republicans in Congress, he is willing to consider tax increases to cut the deficit. He has also praised President Obama for controversial educational reforms that have largely been ignored by press.
Mitt Romney, however, is running entirely on a Bush agenda with few exceptions. Unlike W., Romney claims he’d make huge cuts in government –although the growth of government was responsible for just about the only jobs created during W.’s administration.
Romney has the same neo-conservative foreign policy advisors as W., the same across-the-board tax breaks that go mostly to the wealthy, and the same desire to regulate big business – meaning none.
If the GOP rejected the Bush-era dogmatism about tax cuts for the rich, coddling Wall Street and military aggression, it would be much harder to blame Bush.
Second, if you want us to stop blaming your brother, Jeb, tell the Republican Party to stop sabotaging our country. No one expects Republicans to suddenly become Democrats. But how can anyone look at what the GOP has done since this president was inaugurated and not see an outright attempt to prevent recovery? Forget voting against everything he proposed to put Americans back to work. Forget passing an endless series of bills that empowers polluters and calling them jobs bills. That’s pretty typical GOP nonsense.
What is unacceptable is that the Republicans who enabled Bush to spend the surplus are the same ones who held our economy hostage to raise the debt limit for the first time in American history. For months in the middle of 2011, as millions of Americans were out of work, they played a political game to get a debt deal they won’t even honor. The same gang is also holding up appointments of judges and public officials, wounding the ability of our democracy to function. To make matters worse, they’re almost guaranteeing a repeat of the debt limit crisis — despite knowing that even the spectre of another debt crisis threatens American jobs.
Going to constant extremes simply to injure this president proves that Republicans learned nothing from Bush’s failures. And since you, Jeb, seem to be planning on running this herd of clawing cats one day, getting them to take a little responsibility would be a good first step.
Until you do, we’ll just have another Bush to blame.
Picture by AP Photo/Jae C. Hong.