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The GOP’s Bush Baggage

So it seems that Jeb Bush isn’t [1] nearly as politically savvy as his admirers would have us think:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says a possible 2016 run for president would not be affected by his brother’s lingering unpopularity.

I don’t think there’s any Bush baggage at all [bold mine-DL],” Bush said on “Fox News Sunday” when confronted with a poll that showed almost a full majority of Americans have an unfavorable impression of former President George W. Bush.

What to make of this? This is a clear misreading of his brother’s political legacy. Of course, no one expects him to denounce or attack his brother, but minimizing the difficulties he would face as the third presidential candidate from the same dynasty just makes him seem clueless. Even if George W. Bush had been a merely mediocre, unremarkable president instead of a disastrous failure, it seems unlikely that the public would have much appetite for a third Bush presidency in less than thirty years. It isn’t entirely the fault of the dynasty, but since the Bushes started running the GOP the party has gone from routinely winning landslide victories to not being able to fight its way out of a wet paper bag. How stupid would the Stupid Party have to be to go back for a third helping of such brilliant political leadership?

It might seem unfair to punish Jeb Bush because of how his brother governed, but Jeb Bush never showed any signs publicly or privately that he disagreed with what his brother was doing. It’s not as if his preferred policies are meaningfully different from those his brother pursued. He isn’t likely to repudiate anything that his brother did. So it would be entirely appropriate to view a Jeb Bush candidacy as an attempt to revive the Bush era and to rehabilitate the Bushism that his brother promoted. Bushism was a huge liability for both of the last two Republican nominees, and it would become a bigger one if the next nominee actually bore the name. A Republican Party that allowed its nomination to go to another Bush so soon after the failures of the last decade would effectively be declaring its political bankruptcy as a national party. If Republicans don’t think that their opponents will keep using George W. Bush as a club with which they bludgeon the party in the next few elections, they forget how much they have relied on trying to paint every Democratic nominee as the next Carter. Bush is their Carter, and the longer it takes them to break with what Bush represented the longer their political woes will last.

26 Comments (Open | Close)

26 Comments To "The GOP’s Bush Baggage"

#1 Comment By Ron Beasley On March 10, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

And don’t forget Jeb’s participation in the [2]. I really haven’t seen anything that would lead me to believe that Jeb is any brighter than George W.

#2 Comment By Sean Scallon On March 10, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

“How stupid would the Stupid Party have to be to go back for a third helping of such brilliant political leadership?”

Just look at the way Jeb himself has clumsily entered the political arena as of late. Is he not aware his protege wants to be President too and yet he goes off to undercut him on the immigration issue? It’s almost as though he’s determined not to let “W” ruin it for him. Unfortunately it’s too late.

The dirty rotten secret of the Bush family is that when it comes to politics, they’re just not that bright.

#3 Comment By scottinnj On March 10, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

Much of this, of course, could be moot as even if the sluggish pace of the current economic recovery continues, we’ll have low 6% or lower unemployment and a meaningfully lower budget deficit in 2016 such that Biden/Clinton/Patrick will probably easily be able to run and win a third Obama term. Think 1988. A week let alone three years is a long time in politics so the real world could well get in the way. I guess the question is whether the GOP wants to nominate their Mondale (Bush or Santorum?) and go down in a landslide or their Dukakis (Jindal?) who probably wouldn’t win but at least would seem credible about governing.

#4 Comment By Alexis Rose Bank (@icanhasbailout) On March 10, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

Nominating another Bush is such obvious political suicide for the GOP – the party itself would not outlast the schism – that one must assume that anyone promoting such a candidacy is interested in seeing the GOP die.

#5 Comment By tbraton On March 10, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

“And don’t forget Jeb’s participation in the Terri Schiavo political theater. ”

You beat me to the punch, Ron Beasley.

#6 Comment By James Canning On March 10, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

I think Jeb Bush is well aware there is a great deal of “Bush baggage”, impeding any drive to the White House for himself in 2016.

#7 Comment By James Canning On March 10, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

Sean Scallon – – George H. W. Bush had a fine political career. And perhaps G. W. Bush would not have been a disaster, if “9/11” had not taken place.

#8 Comment By TM On March 10, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

Hillary Clinton may not be favored by progressive-minded Democrats, as she will undoubtedly be carrying some baggage from her husband’s presidency. Hillary obviously has two things going in her favor 1) Bill Clinton has high favoribility ratings among the public (unlike George W. Bush) and 2) if the progressive-minded candidates realized that another Bush becomes a real possibility should Republicans nominate him, they’d no doubt choose a Clinton over a Bush.

I am still wary of another Clinton run, as nothing is guaranteed. Democrats no longer need to win the South to win a presidency, leaving it wide open for Northeastern governors to make a play for the presidency. I, for one, would favor Maryland’s Martin O’ Malley.

#9 Comment By Noah172 On March 10, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

a poll that showed almost a full majority of Americans have an unfavorable impression of former President George W. Bush

“Almost a full majority”: that’s it? How is it not a large majority? Republican partisans make up only a third or so of citizens. Bush broke Gallup’s records for disapproval ratings. He spent all but the first four months or so of his entire second term below 50 percent approval; the overwhelming majority of that below-50 period he was indeed below 40.

Come to think of it, Truman had eerily similar Gallup numbers to Bush’s during his (Truman’s) second term. Bush’s defenders have explicitly compared their hero to Truman, claiming that “history will vindicate” Bush. Good heavens, they can’t be on to something, can they?

#10 Comment By William Leach On March 10, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

As James Canning notes, one could see many of the mistakes W Bush made as being understandable. That is all the more reason to not learn from those mistakes, to articulate that learned knowledge, and to assure voters those mistakes will not be made again. Jebs doing this would not mean attacking his brother, it would mean sympathizing with both him as well as those hurt by his policies.

Jebs failing to take this approach, or one similar, would imply that Jeb has not recognized his brothers failures, and is likely to repeat them. Either that or he is lacking in the imagination and communication skills required of our chief executive. Whatever the case, hes not getting my vote.

#11 Comment By JonF On March 10, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

I lived in Florida from 2003 until 2008. Jeb Bush was not that good of a governor. I give him decent marks for hurricane preparedness, but if you get that wrong in Florida you might as well throw yourself to the alligators. Otherwise he was not unlike George W: All hat and no cattle. He couldn’t even get the Florida legislature to function sensibly, despite the fact that it was dominated by his own party– instead it ignored any issue of substance and turned itself into a public laughingstock, which led the Tampa Tribune to christen it in 2003 the “Most disreputable dishonorable and least competent legislative body this state has seen since the legislature of 1861 which passed secession and joined the Confederacy”. Charlie Crist (yes, I know he’s as smarmy as a used car salesman and quite the egotist) accomplished more in the first two years of his term than Bush did in eight. Bush only looks good now when held up against the current occupant of the governor’s mansion.

#12 Comment By William Leach On March 10, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

TO leann, I said not to learn. Derr

#13 Comment By efgoldman On March 10, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

…(Jindal?) who probably wouldn’t win but at least would seem credible about governing.
Really? Because Louisiana has become some kind of model of good, effective governance?

#14 Comment By WorkingClass On March 10, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

I favor government by consent of the governed and I am an anti-imperialist. Obviously I will not be voting for Democrats or Republicans. Jeb vs. Hillary in 2016? Just shoot me now. Who would participate in such an “election”? Oh wait. I forgot about the partisan sheep.

#15 Comment By Frank OConnor On March 10, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

On the other hand, the Republicans need to lose at least the next two, or possibly three, presidential elections. If Jeb loses, at least there can be no doubt about the reasons why. I am sure that all of us friends of TAC would love to see a non-interventionist Rand Paul sweep the dinosaurs away in 2016, but usually it takes a few election cycles to turn the Queen Mary around. For someone like myself, who is 63 years old with a few health issues, I wonder if I will ever see another Republican president. Not that I really want to if Jeb and Santorum are all that is on offer.

#16 Comment By Uncle Vanya On March 10, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

No more Bushes in the White House. Jeb’s lack of policy insight and character alone should make him unacceptable.

We’re conservatives. We support people and ideas on their merits, not because they’re from some political dynasty.
Conservatives don’t need another member from the same globalist, big-business/big government dynasty. And, even if Jeb says he’s markedly different from George the greater and George the lesser, don’t bet on it. It’s not worth it for conservatives to waste the political capital trying to put him in the White House…just to learn if he’s telling conservatives the truth.

#17 Comment By reflectionephemeral On March 10, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

Bush broke Gallup’s records for disapproval ratings. He spent all but the first four months or so of his entire second term below 50 percent approval; the overwhelming majority of that below-50 period he was indeed below 40.

True, Noah172. Also, Bush almost never had approval ratings below 80 percent from “conservative Republicans,” left office with around 65-70 percent approval from Republicans, but around 30 percent or under from independents.

Republicans don’t think that there’s Bush baggage, but everyone else does.

Somewhat problematic, strategically.

#18 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 10, 2013 @ 10:39 pm

Well, the most recent Bush administration was in actuality the Cheney administration, after 9/11. Which, at the very end, Bush himself repudiated by refusing to pardon Cheney’s henchman Scooter Libby, his first show of defiance during his poodle presidency.

The Obama presidency hasn’t repudiated any of the more troubling Bush-era policies; in significant ways it’s doubled down on them.

So regardless of how a majority in a poll negatively view Bush, they just re-elected one of two candidates who both favor Bush era policies in lockstep.

If not for the singular mishappenstance of 9/11 and the misconceived response to it, which has now distorted our nation almost beyond recognition from the time before that, George W. Bush might have been reviewed entirely differently.

#19 Comment By Mike On March 11, 2013 @ 1:15 am

From what I’ve read & seen in documentaries, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al were itching to get involved in Iraq & the attacks of 9/11 provided them with a convenient excuse.If we had kept our energies focused on Afghanistan it might not be the shambles it is today. At the very least we wouldn’t have lost thousands of lives in Iraq with many more gravely wounded & a huge financial drain on our treasury. Four years of Obama hasn’t been a picnic but so far at least it’s not as plain awful as the Bush administration.
As for Jeb, they tout him as the”smart” one in the family. So far nothing he’s done merits that- his record as FL governor was mixed. On the plus side he’s married to a Latina, is fluent in Spanish & doesn’t come across as a complete idiot. Regardless he has a steep hill to climb- the GOP continues to tack right & I think the Bush name is quite frankly toxic.
Until& unless the party works on being a functioning entity that produces results for the average American nothing or no one will bring them back to power. Americans are sick of war, sick of culture war & tired of being used as pawns. I don’t see anyone in the GOP being able to put forth winning arguments – not at the moment. Four years time, who knows.

#20 Comment By TommyB On March 11, 2013 @ 1:54 am

Jeb Bush was one of 25 members of the PNAC that signed its Statement of Principles. Of course he doesn’t think there is any problem with the Bush baggage. The biggest parts of the Bush baggage were his ideas in the first place.

#21 Comment By Jesse Ewiak On March 11, 2013 @ 3:26 am

I’ll be honest and say, I think Jeb ws just trying to not slam his brother on national TV. I’m sure within internal meetings w/ RNC donors and such, there have been plenty of talks about Bush fatigue.

Honestly, the fact he isn’t ruthless enough to throw his own flesh and blood under the bus actually makes me like the guy a little more.

#22 Comment By WorkingClass On March 11, 2013 @ 6:52 am


“So regardless of how a majority in a poll negatively view Bush, they just re-elected one of two candidates who both favor Bush era policies in lockstep.”

An excellent point. Dick Cheney gave us the “unitary executive” in the person of his high born side kick. Obama is the second iteration of the unitary executive. These modern presidents differ from their predecessors in that they have been set, openly and officially, above the law. Their enhanced dictatorial powers make them much more useful to the corporate Oligarchs who own them. They are overseers who appear to be Emperors.

The serfs re-elected one of two candidates who both favor Cheney Administration policies because the candidates are hand picked and purchased by the Oligarchy. A close look at the candidacies of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich reveals that a candidate who is not owned cannot be nominated. The Bushes and the Clintons are interchangeable. We are being set up to choose between them to be our third unitary executive.

How do we wriggle out from under one party rule? By bringing reform to one or both wings of the authoritarian uni-party? Or by rejecting the entire edifice of corruption by simply abandoning the D’s and R’s?

#23 Comment By Just Dropping By On March 11, 2013 @ 11:45 am

One thing I’ve been surprised about is that it appears no one in Congress has made any effort to introduce a constitutional amendment that would declare anyone who is a first order relative or spouse of a previous president to be ineligible for public office. It seems like you could get bipartisan support for it because it impacts both the Clinton and Bush families.

#24 Comment By sal magundi On March 11, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

“Jeb vs. Hillary in 2016? Just shoot me now.”

yeah, pretty much.
the establishment republicans/neocons/corporate capitalists of course should really have no policy problem with h. clinton. they’ll be motivated to vote bush only to say they voted for a bush and against a clinton.

#25 Comment By collin On March 11, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

I can’t believe the Rs are thinking Jeb as a candidate for 2016 even with the possibility of Hillary running. Seriously, he obviously does not have a strong connection to voters and his “Romneyesqe” reaction to his book on immigration proves his not Presidential. He is going to spend the entire primary proving that he is severely conservative and not position himself in the election. Considering the Rs have probably two strongest candidates (Paul & Rubrio) in awhile, they should forget Jeb. After Rand’s fillibuster, it is apparent there needs a change of the guard.

By 2016, the voters are going to be looking way past the Boomer Presidents.

#26 Comment By Fast Jimmy On March 12, 2013 @ 12:28 am

No Bush baggage, heh? I find it amusing that the party that keeps him hidden in a closet, hoping people don’t ask or talk about much from that eight year period, could feign surprise when asked about problems with his legacy. More confused weirdness, I suppose.

Add to this strange disconnect that they very openly advocate for similarly awful policies, and talk longingly of a day when time will tell the real story about how bad or good the GWB presidency actually was.

I guess if journalists can advocate for a reality that suits paying customers, there will be revisionist historians out there willing to wrap up a unique history- a GOP history, replete with tales of success in Iraq and a strong economic legacy. How strong can the line between history and fiction be in our current age?