After you became the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, in 2006, your mentor, Jeb Bush, presented you with a sword. What was that about?
Chang is a mythical conservative warrior. From time to time, if there’s a big issue going on, you’d see Jeb say, “I’m going to unleash Chang.” He gave me the sword of Chang.
From which mythology does this conservative warrior hail?
I think it’s a Jeb Bush creation.
Years ago, Brad DeLong explained that this derived from the elder Bush’s habit of mocking hard-line anticommunists for calling on the U.S. to “unleash” Chiang Kai-shek on the mainland. He added:
But George H. W. Bush’s sons–even the smart one, Jeb–never got the joke. They, you see, didn’t know enough about world history or even the history of the Republican Party to know who Chiang Kaishek was, or what “Unleash Chiang!” meant. Hence Jeb Bush’s explanation that twentieth-century Chinese nationalist, socialist, general, and dictator Chiang Kaishek was a “mystical warrior… who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.”
This is a good example of how a tradition can be reinvented when its original meaning ceases to be useful. It is a bit amusing to see Rubio, who has been cultivating a reputation as one of the new foreign policy hard-liners in the Senate, on the receiving end of a Bush family tradition grounded in the elder Bush’s dislike for the anticommunist hard-liners of his day. What is today’s equivalent of a similarly unrealistic hard-line foreign policy slogan that could be treated the same way? I can think of a few examples (“we are all Georgians now” comes to mind), but they’re a bit clunky to reuse in a joke.