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Jeb Bush and the Baker Panic

Jonathan Tobin wants [1] Jeb Bush to denounce James Baker:

Simply put, Bush can’t let Baker’s appearance at the J Street event go unremarked upon. He must either explicitly distance himself from Baker’s appearance and from J Street’s support for Obama’s threats against Israel or ask Baker to formally disassociate himself from his presidential effort.

The funny thing about all of this is that no one except for neoconservatives attaches any great significance to Baker’s connection with Jeb Bush’s quasi-campaign. I imagine that Baker was included on the roster of Bush’s foreign policy advisers because he is a longtime family friend and former appointee of his father, and because Bush wanted to include a range of advisers in order to get as many people as he could to commit to his presidential bid. Not including Baker on the list of advisers would have been interpreted as an insult to the elder Bush and as a snub to someone who has been a political booster of the Bushes for decades. It is very unlikely that Bush’s foreign policy views have much of anything in common with those of Baker, and there is absolutely no reason [2] to think [3] that Bush is inclined toward realist views.

This could be an interesting test for Bush. He could show that he isn’t one to be railroaded into casting aside a friend and ally because hard-line ideologues tell him that he “must.” Or he could take the easy and disreputable way out and do what the ideologues say that he has to do. Honestly, I don’t think Bush has to say anything one way or the other about Baker or J Street. All the evidence tells us he is a conventionally hawkish “pro-Israel” Republican, so we should assume that he dislikes J Street and their positions on policies regarding Israel and Palestine. He has already made plain that he endorses [4] all of the usual fear-mongering about Iran, the cheerleading for Netanyahu, and the ridiculous “no light” [5] approach to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Based on the speech he gave in Chicago earlier this year, there is no reason to think that he is in close agreement with Baker on any major issue. Bush would have to be easily bullied to pay any attention to these demands.

It is notable that neoconservatives are this suspicious [6] of Bush when they have no cause to be. While everyone outside their bubble fears with far better reason that Jeb Bush’s foreign policy will closely follow his brother’s, neoconservatives are worried that he may prove to be a crypto-realist. It’s an odd predicament for Bush. He has given them no reason to doubt [7] that agrees with them on policy, but even the slightest hint of an affinity for realism (represented by one adviser out of twenty) is enough to send them into fits.

17 Comments (Open | Close)

17 Comments To "Jeb Bush and the Baker Panic"

#1 Comment By Screaming Eagle On March 20, 2015 @ 8:21 pm

What a disgusting comment by Tobin.

Baker is a distinguished public servant, renowned for shrewdness and good judgment. If one of the best Secretaries of State in our history thought it was worth speaking to J Street, then J Street deserves a second look. By everybody.

God knows AIPAC is utterly discredited, having militated for nearly every foreign policy disaster of the last 15 years. But I don’t hear Tobin demanding that politicians stop appearing there. Why?

#2 Comment By Darth Thulhu On March 20, 2015 @ 9:54 pm

Baker is quite possibly our most competent Secretary of State in four decades. He is certainly our most effective Republican Secretary of State in that timeframe. To demand “distance” from him is simply mind-boggling.

It would be like demanding “distance” from Eisenhower. It’s a surreal set of priorities.

#3 Comment By Ninepin On March 21, 2015 @ 1:21 am

Baker is everything neocons like Tobin are not and will never be: cool, discreet, insightful, practical, knowledgeable, and surpassingly capable. The country is in his debt, one of the last of the Wise Men.

For contrast, have a look at Tobin’s stuff from the early stages of the Iraq war sometime. He writes as though stupidity were a virtue.

I generally don’t mind it when you relay similar material in your column. But in this case it’s really too much. Tobin isn’t fit to hold Baker’s coat.

#4 Comment By jk On March 21, 2015 @ 4:56 am

As one would expect from the neocons, which ironically reflecting their Trotskyist roots, is that there is no respect for real intellectuals, real men, real doers who gritted their teeth and proved their mettle from the past.

There is a religious fervor among neocons for discrediting the ancient regime in name of a theoretical and thoroughly dis-proven idea.

Central planning and US taxpayer funded social engineering abroad (with all its unintended consequences and unplanned for blow back) and failing infrastructure and crony capitalism or regulation-free soulless suburban sprawl at home.

#5 Comment By Kurt Gayle On March 21, 2015 @ 8:23 am

@ Daniel, who wrote: “While everyone outside their bubble fears with far better reason that Jeb Bush’s foreign policy will closely follow his brother’s, neoconservatives are worried that he may prove to be a crypto-realist.”

When you use the term “crypto-realist” do you just mean someone who is a secret, hidden, or closet realist? Or does “crypto-realist” refer to more than that?

#6 Comment By Mid TX On March 21, 2015 @ 12:37 pm

“Ninepin” wrote “[James Baker] is everything neocons like Tobin are not and will never be: cool, discreet, insightful, practical, knowledgeable, and surpassingly capable.”

You missed a key difference. Baker is trustworthy. The neocon paragon of the moment is Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who has an international reputation for duplicity and lying.

#7 Comment By JLF On March 21, 2015 @ 12:44 pm

Ninepin on James Baker: “The country is in his debt, one of the last of the Wise Men.”

How soon we forget it was James Baker that led the cabal that gave us George W Bush in 2000, certainly one of the worst presidents in the Republic’s history.

#8 Comment By SteveM On March 21, 2015 @ 1:51 pm

Agree with JLF. About Baker and G.W. Bush, like I’ve stated many times, the arrogant Power Elites always walk away rich from their wreckage.

And James Baker is all in with the American Exceptionalism model. In his version of the Washington Global Cop, he would just move the planetary food around the plate a little differently. (And that would not mean treating the odious “our friends the Saudis” any differently.)

It’s not like Baker has Washington’s Farewell Address in his back pocket for reference.

#9 Comment By Slim Ternary On March 21, 2015 @ 3:37 pm

“How soon we forget it was James Baker that led the cabal that gave us George W Bush in 2000, certainly one of the worst presidents in the Republic’s history.”

Yes … and the out-of-it neocons probably think it’s the only good thing Baker ever did.

#10 Comment By erratum On March 21, 2015 @ 8:37 pm

“How soon we forget it was James Baker that led the cabal that gave us George W Bush in 2000

Baker was campaign legal counsel and tried to ensure a fair count in Florida. It’s silly to try to blame him for what G. W. Bush did afterward – under neocon influence – in the White House.

#11 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On March 21, 2015 @ 8:40 pm

I’m no fan of Jeb’s, but Tobin is a croaking bullfrog in a very small right-wing Zionist pond. As in Aesop, one day he may explode with arrogance

These people have a legal right to speak, but the rest of us have a right to ignore or, better yet, deride them.

#12 Comment By William Dalton On March 21, 2015 @ 10:18 pm

The embarrassment here is not to Jeb Bush, it is the those neo-cons calling for Baker’s head. Which one of them has ever accomplished what the Bush family consigliore did as Secretary of State during the peaceful fall of the Iron Curtain – the triumph of NATO over Warsaw Pact without firing a shot? The fact that they would challenge that man with their own sorry record of missteps in the GW Bush years is all rank and file Republicans, not to mention Jeb Bush, need to know to whom they should be paying attention.

#13 Comment By Rabies Researcher On March 22, 2015 @ 2:38 pm

They’ve really lost their rag haven’t they?

I’ve been collecting specimens of neoconservative effluvia this week. This is favorite so far:

[8]

#14 Comment By Jim On March 22, 2015 @ 6:41 pm

Baker is one of the few reasons for hope in the Bush campaign. Tobin is terrible.

#15 Comment By Jim On March 22, 2015 @ 6:43 pm

“How soon we forget it was James Baker that led the cabal that gave us George W Bush in 2000, certainly one of the worst presidents in the Republic’s history.”

Are you saying his support of Bush in 2000 outweighs all the good work he did in the Reagan and Bush 41 White House? That’s…….out there.

#16 Comment By redfish On March 22, 2015 @ 9:33 pm

The interesting thing about Jeb Bush is he seems like a very pragmatic sort of politician and someone who likes to seek consensus. So far, I can’t say whether he’s a crypto-realist or an crypto-interventionist. I have been watching him recently, though, and he doesn’t seem like his brother, though, who would rush headstrong into a war or push divisive “with us or against us” rhetoric.

Its just something that has yet to be seen. He’s going to have to define definite foreign policy views if he ever makes it past the primaries. He’ll be forced to, in order to distance himself from his brother and father and make it clear he’s his own man. Whether he’ll be able to make it past the primaries without compromising a moderate position on foreign policy will be interesting to see.

#17 Comment By KL72 On March 22, 2015 @ 10:58 pm

Tobin wrote:

“But Baker’s status as a faithful family retainer for the Bush family might have given Jeb a pass, especially since, as Michael [Rubin] wrote, another far wiser former secretary of state — George P. Schultz — is considered to be Jeb’s top foreign policy advisor. But the news that Baker will serve as a keynote speaker at the upcoming annual conference of the left-wing J Street lobby ought to change the conversation about this topic.”

What a howler! I nearly fell out my seat from laughing so hard.