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Donald Trump Has The Bush Camp Divided

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

Poppy Speaks Out At Last — Too Little, Too Late

If only “Poppy” had quit in 1992, after one White House term, then the 41st president’s fruit would not be so bitter. George Herbert Walker Bush would have dined out on German reunification and the multinational coalition in the first Gulf War — a desert cakewalk. Through no fault of his own, the Soviet Union and the Cold War ended on his watch, and that should be enough for any man pushing 70.

“I didn’t finish the job,” Bush I said. He’s now 91.

Out on the stump, the monumentally ambitious president found he could not connect to the American people. A jolly good fellow who wrote a ton of thank-you notes, he went as far as China and Langley for the blue-chip resume, always a team player who never had “the vision thing.”

Earlier, in 1988, he won as Ronald Reagan’s chosen understudy. But like many men of his Ivy League WASP war hero mold, he could not speak straight to the heart of people at home. Not to save his political life. His speech often sounded strangled.

A new biography, an elegant volume composed by author and presidential historian Jon Meacham, is titled Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. It’s based on the former president’s diaries and revealing chats, often at the family compound on the Maine coast.

The result of that sharing is the most generous portrait that the former president, nicknamed “Poppy” since prep school, could hope for. Meacham’s work is written in a gentlemanly spirit, just as his American Lion book on the gruff general and president, Andrew Jackson, glowed. For that he won the Pulitzer Prize. (Meacham once deftly edited a magazine piece of mine.) Meacham excuses Bush’s mean moments in political combat as untrue to his code. (The 1988 campaign was not pretty.) Nor does he pass judgment on Bush’s loyal service to President Richard M. Nixon.

Bush realized late there was no way to win against the young Bill Clinton, who could coax the stars out of the sky. The generational contrast was stark. We learn that Bush confided to his diary that he felt the war-high in his approval rating was thin ice. The future won; the past lost. Bush had been schooled and worked in exclusively male institutions; Clinton was educated in co-ed settings and married another Yale Law School graduate. (Barbara Pierce Bush dropped out of Smith College to marry Poppy.)

Now it turns out, tragically, Poppy’s speech troubles extended to his own firstborn son George W. Bush as wily Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney — who pushed the nation down the path of war in Iraq. More than most, the Bushes have played their family dramas out in public, at our expense. The American people are still paying the bill — and so are Iraq, Syria and other countries bathed in blood. The show was not even fun to watch.

The Bushes are not just genteel from a long New England line. Their manners mask a cutthroat bunch — jocks who don’t crack books much — when they aren’t writing adoring notes to fellow Bushes. Winning and loyalty are cherished, whether it’s horseshoes or the Florida presidential contest in 2000. They have their men, like lifelong friend James Baker, always there to help in a pinch. In Florida, with brother Jeb Bush as governor, the cliffhanger was almost a cosmic family thank-you note to opponent Al Gore, Clinton’s vice president — whom Poppy had once referred to as a pair of “bozos.” (Now he and Clinton are tight.)

Cheney’s war-mongering as his son’s vice president offended Poppy; building up his own power base was the last thing he would have done as Reagan’s No. 2. Bush, ever the good team player, found Cheney’s aggression a terrible influence. Yet Poppy had hired Cheney to be his secretary of defense and so — well, it was all in the tribe. As a seasoned foreign policy hand, Poppy knew the “axis of evil” language used by his son was trouble. But he never spoke “mano a mano” to his son, as columnist Maureen Dowd noted.

So why not say something at the time to us, the American people? It’s clear: We’re not their kind, dear.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit Creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2015 CREATORS.COM

Photo: Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush speaks at the World Leadership Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on November 21, 2006. REUTERS/Stringer

Dynastic Politics: A Tale Of Crimson Colors And Blue Blood

Give me a Harvard man for president any day, decade or century. Yale, not so much.

Political dynasties are part of The Conversation we’ve all been having at the beach, the village pool, the island, the farm or on baseball bleachers.

Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are said to have this pedigree in common. If we are a free people, why do the same names keep coming up? Never have we had three presidents from the same family. We wonder: Why start now?

Dynasties will stay on our minds while there’s a Bush or a Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. But I have a little news to break: The Bushes are an American political dynasty, by the book, going back to Connecticut senator Prescott Bush, father and grandfather to the two Bush presidents. All three Bush men were Yalies: old Prescott, his son George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. (In fairness, Jeb Bush did not go to Yale. But he boarded at the family favorite, Phillips Academy, known as Andover.)

The Clintons, however, are not a dynasty, which requires generations of public officeholders. There now, do you feel better?

Jeb Bush hails from arguably the worst dynasty in American history. Of course, all dynasties are ambitious. None but the Bushes have shown such hungry ambition purely for ambition’s sake. In a tragedy that has unspooled over time, the Kennebunkport, Maine sporting set doesn’t stand for much except winning — especially against each other.

Against the world, loyalty is another cardinal virtue, as we saw in the deadlocked state of Florida, where Jeb Bush was governor, in the 2000 presidential election. With our republic as their playing field, the Bush men stay the same lords of privilege. They are not intellectuals at all; forget the posh credentials. If you thought they might crack a book now and then between their sporting games, you thunk wrong.

Ironically, as Brookings Institution author Stephen Hess observes, the Bushes deny the dynasty label, while the Clintons court it. Funny how it is: President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham both graduated from Yale Law School, where they fell in love.

To start with the first dynasty, made of the best Massachusetts Puritan stock, the Adams family produced two one-term presidents, John and John Quincy, and a renowned diplomat, Charles Francis Adams, ambassador to Great Britain. Yes, all went to Harvard. The erudite Adamses were never handsome, popular and hail fellow well met, but they felt they were the smartest guys in the room. Their heads and hearts were usually in the right place. Former president John Quincy Adams, elected to the House after a humiliating loss to populist Andrew Jackson, turned out to be one of slavery’s most nettlesome foes.

The privileged Roosevelt and Kennedy — Harvard men — dynasties actually had dreams, goals and plans for the common good. Lots and lots. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt were distant cousins. In 1901, Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, presided over a great era of Americanization: consisting not only steamships and modern industrialization, but also welcoming millions of immigrants to these shores.

The younger Franklin was inventive during the Depression — “bold, persistent experimentation” was his motto — in reviving the country’s economy and morale in the 1930s. In 1941, the beloved president wisely took the nation into the Second World War, leading the fight abroad and the mobilization on the home front. I know my grandmother, a widowed nurse raising four children, never missed FDR’s living room addresses on the radio, his personal fireside chats. His resonance seemed to beam over straight to Spooner Street in Madison, Wisconsin. He was a patrician with a common touch.

John F. Kennedy was not a man of the people with his clipped Northeastern diction, cool poise and perfect tailoring. Words, books and ideas mattered to him, and from the start, he electrified the electorate with lofty goals: involving a trip to the moon, founding the Peace Corps and reaching for peace, urging fellow Americans never to fear to negotiate as a way out of the Cold War. His great-nephew, Joseph P. Kennedy III, is now a young congressman.

Concentrating power in elite hands is not new in our democracy. Yet some dynasties are better than others. And history shows Harvard’s the place to go, by a country mile, if you’re looking for a stellar president.

Stephen Hess’s new volume, America’s Political Dynasties, is forthcoming from The Brookings Institution.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit Creators.com.

Photo: George W. Bush and family” by Eric Draper, White House photo director and personal photographer for President George W. Bush — St. Mary’s Today, smaller version published in a press release by The White House. Licensed under public domain via Wikimedia Commons.