George H. W. Bush

Why Republicans Hate Their Leaders: Eric Cantor Edition

Flickr/Talk Radio News Service
T here have been a lot of analyses of What Eric Cantor's Loss Means in the last 36 hours, all of which run the risk of over-generalizing from one off-year primary election in one particular district. But as I've said before, the internal conflict within the Republican Party is the defining political dynamic of this period in history, and it's as good an opportunity as any to assess its latest quivers and quakes. As a liberal, I'm at something of a disadvantage when examining this conflict, because although I can look at what conservatives do and what they say publicly, I don't have access to the things they say when they talk to each other. So it's always good to hear from those who do and can remind the rest of us of what conservatives are actually feeling. Sean Trende offers an important perspective : First, analysts need to understand that the Republican base is furious with the Republican establishment, especially over the Bush years. From the point of view of conservatives I've...

Jeb Fever Sweeps GOP; Symptoms Likely to Be Mild, Temporary

Flickr/World Affairs Council of Philadelphia
In the first of what will surely be a long string of genuflections, abnegations, and abasements, potential Republican presidential candidates journeyed to the sands of Las Vegas last weekend to speak to the Republican Jewish Coalition, though everyone there seemed to agree that there was really an audience of one: Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire who flushed nearly $100 million of his money down the drain in the 2012 presidential campaign. Among those arriving on bended knee was one politician who has been out of office for seven years, and was never knows as a darling of the Republican base. But as Philip Rucker and Robert Costa reported in The Washington Post , large portions of the GOP establishment look toward 2016 and feel a stirring deep within their hearts, a hope and a dream that goes by the name of … Jeb. That's right, Jeb Bush, who you may recall is the brother of one George W. Bush, whose time in office did not go particularly well. Rationally speaking, there's no...

Solving (or Not) a Problem Like the Middle East

When George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address in 2005, a number of Republican members of Congress showed up with a finger colored purple, in solidarity with the Iraqi voters who were required to dip their fingers in ink upon leaving the polls. Iraq had held an election, the purple digits testified, and therefore invading two years prior had been a swell idea, the transition to democracy was on its way, and everything would turn out great. The triumphalism turned out to be a bit premature; thousands of Americans were still to die there, not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and the country is riven by religious strife and violence to this day. As if we needed any reminder that an election does not a democracy make, Egypt's government now appears to be disintegrating, just a year after it held its first post-Mubarak election. Without strong civic institutions and no tradition of resolving disputes at the ballot box, the extended transition from dictatorship to...

When the Bushies Return

Remember this guy? (Department of Defense/Denny Cantrell
Last week I noted that most people are being pretty consistent in how they're reacting to the revelations about NSA spying on your phone records, your Internet surfing, your toenail hygiene practices, and whatever else we're going to learn they've been up to (Glenn Greenwald is promising more revelations). There are some liberals defending it and some conservatives criticizing it, but most people seem to be holding to roughly the same positions they held when George W. Bush initiated these kinds of practices. Having said that, it's far from black and white. There's a very strong temptation when a controversy like this arises to just step in with your party's official position, but in this case neither party has an official position. Most liberals look to be at odds with a Democratic president, and there is some disagreement on the right between the neo-cons and libertarians despite their mutual dislike of Barack Obama, as Michael Tomasky discusses . Nevertheless, if this were a...

A Shocking Outbreak of Intellectual Consistency

National Security Agency headquarters (photo from nsa.gov)
As soon as an issue like the NSA surveillance comes along (and by the way, it needs a name—BigDataGulp, perhaps?), we immediately start hearing charges of hypocrisy. When a Democratic administration does something normally associated with Republicans, we've come to expect everybody to give their partisan affiliations precedence over their prior substantive beliefs, and switch sides. So liberals should now be fervently defending the government's right to see who you called and read your emails, and conservatives should be decrying the expansion of the national security state. And most of all, everyone should be accusing everyone else of hypocrisy. But weirdly enough, though there are some charges of hypocrisy, actual hypocrisy is in relatively short supply, outside of a few isolated cases here and there. I've spent the morning going around to websites of various political stripes, and amazingly, most commentators seem to be taking the same positions they did on this matter during the...

The Ted Cruz Immigration Shuffle

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr National Journal ’s Beth Reinhard has a great look at Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s transformation from pro-immigration policy advisor for George W. Bush, to right-wing, fire-breathing opponent of reform. When he was working for Bush, he crafted the campaign’s immigration policy, which included a sped-up application process, a greater number of work visas, and a provision that allowed relatives of permanent residents to visit the United States. Now, Cruz seems categorically opposed to anything that smacks of comprehensive reform. Reinhard notes that this transformation is a little baffling to people who have followed his career over the years: The route Cruz chose, from working on the reform-minded Bush campaign to voting against the bill Wednesday as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, confounds some of those who crossed paths with him. His role on the Bush campaign is a lesser-known part of the biography of a politician increasingly viewed as a potential...

Ringside Seat: Bush League

"In the end," George W. Bush said in his speech at the opening of his presidential library today, "leaders are defined by the convictions they hold. And my deepest conviction, the guiding principle of the administration, is that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of freedom." We don't mean to begrudge Bush his special day, but that's not just poppycock, it shows that he really has learned nothing since he left office. Unless, of course, he's happy with the conclusion of history on his presidency being, "George W. Bush: He meant well." Given the alternatives, he might be quite happy with that. The trouble is, presidents aren't defined by their convictions, they're defined by what they do . During his tenure, Bush was positively brimming with convictions, all born from his "gut," where he sought counsel whenever an important decision loomed. His conviction was that the Iraq War would turn out great. His conviction was that installing a policy of torturing...

The GOP Still Can't Quit George W. Bush

Tech Sgt. Craig Clapper, USAF
Tech Sgt. Craig Clapper, USAF Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush give a final farewell wave to the crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered on Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to wish them a fond farewell before their final departure aboard Air Force One. This week, George W. Bush dedicates his presidential library and re-enters public life after a long, quiet hiatus. Not that he was missed. Most Americans have nothing but disdain for the former president. The failures of his administration—including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, and the 2008 financial crisis—left him with an abysmal approval rating. And as recently as six months ago, a majority of voters viewed him as responsible for the poor economy. If, as suggested by some conservative pundits, America has graded Barack Obama on a curve, it’s almost certainly because he is still dealing with the fallout from eight years of neglect, disinterest, and incompetence. With...

Should You Still Despise George W. Bush?

C'mon, I'm not so bad, am I?
Twitter was alight this morning with mockery of this post from Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, explaining a marginal improvement in George W. Bush's post-presidential approval ratings (from 33 percent when he left office to 47 percent now) by noting that Bush won that ugly Iraq War (who started that again?), gave us a great economy, and pretty much solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among other accomplishments, and also had a "tender, tearful love of country," unlike some people she could mention. I'll leave it to others to respond to the particulars of Rubin's journey to Bizarro World, but if we assume this poll to be accurate, the question is, why might Americans' opinions of Bush be somewhat less dreadful than they used to be? Let's think about it this way: How do you feel about Bush? If you're like me, your contempt for him isn't what it once was. Back in the day, I took a back seat to no one when it came to displeasure with him. But I'll admit that in...

Decision Points Redux

George W. Bush has had, shall we say, an uneventful ex-presidency. Bill Clinton flies all over the world to raise money for his foundation and Jimmy Carter oversees elections in developing countries, but Bush is content with a slower pace. Important events shake the world, but today The Decider decides to go for a bike ride, have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, and maybe paint a picture of a dog. If there's time after, he takes a good afternoon nap. This week, the George W. Bush presidential library will open on the campus of Southern Methodist University. He may have left office with shockingly low approval ratings, but Bush insists that the jury is still out on his presidency. "There's no need to defend myself," he told USA Today . "I did what I did and ultimately history will judge." Bush has been delivering that same line about history being the judge since before he left the White House. It's a way of saying, Sure, I may look like a screw-up to you. But just you...

The Dubya Albatross

When he was performing his Full Jeb of Sunday show interviews over the weekend, Jeb Bush got asked everywhere whether he's running for president, and each time he gave the same practiced answer (not thinking about it yet). He also got asked whether his brother's disastrous presidency, and the fact that Dubya left office with abysmal approval ratings ( Gallup had him in the 20s for much of 2008) would be a drag on him. Jeb gave the answer you'd expect: history will be kind to my brother, I'm very proud of him, and so on. Of course it's true that Jeb, what with his last name and all, would have to "grapple" with his brother's legacy more than other candidates. But when we think about it in those terms, I think we overlook something important about how the Bush legacy will continue to operate on Republicans, not just Jeb but all of them. I thought of this when reading Peter Beinart's take on Jeb, wherein he says something I think misses the mark: That's why Jeb Bush will never seriously...

The Full Jeb

In February 1998, as the Monica Lewinsky scandal exploded, Lewinsky's lawyer, a man by the name of William Ginsburg, performed the then-unheard-of feat of appearing on all five of the Sunday morning talk shows in a single day. In the years since ( according to Wikipedia, at least) 15 other brave Americans have completed a "Full Ginsburg," as it came to be known. This Sunday, however, the Full Ginsburg may need to be renamed the Full Jeb. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush will not only be doing Meet the Press , This Week , Face the Nation , Fox News Sunday , and State of the Union , he'll also be interviewed on Univision's Al Punto– in Spanish, no less. While Bush's facility with the Spanish language will certainly be appreciated by Univision viewers, he may get some uncomfortable questions about his stance on immigration. Previously considered something of a moderate Republican (without much justification), Bush has a new book coming out in which he rejects a path to citizenship for...

The GOP's Bush Dilemma

CNN
CNN Jeb and George Bush sit with an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley. This morning, Washington solved the mystery of Jeb Bush's strange about-face on immigration reform: It was a simple case of political calculation gone wrong. In his new book, Immigration Wars: Forging a New Solution , the former Florida governor comes out against a path to citizenship, a policy he formerly endorsed. "Permanent residency in this context, however, should not lead to citizenship," Bush writes . "It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences — in this case, that those who violated the laws can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship." The key thing to remember is that this was written during the GOP presidential primaries, when support for comprehensive immigration reform—even without a path to citizenship—placed Bush to the left of most Republicans. Now, shell-shocked from their poor showing among Latino voters, Republicans have...

Ringside Seat: You Don't Know Jeb

Jeb Bush followed a time-honored tradition Monday morning, one set forth by past generations of sensible politicians contemplating a run for the Republican presidential nomination: He ditched his sane policy views to appeal to the far right. During a Today Show interview previewing his upcoming book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution , Bush—the esteemed former Florida governor and older brother to the country's most disastrous president—said immigration reform should not include a path for citizenship. That's a sharp break from his past views, a full Mitt Romney-style pivot to right-wing ideology. Much like baby bro George W, Jeb has spent years shouting a clarion call that the GOP is on a path toward electoral doom unless they stop alienating Hispanic voters. He penned Wall Street Journal op-eds as recently as January advocating for citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Yet in his new book he writes , "It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system...

In Defense of Kerry 2004

CHARLOTTE —John Kerry just gave a strong speech at the Democratic National Convention, inspiring a lot of commentators to wonder where this Kerry was when he challenged George W. Bush in 2004. As it stands, he’s become a punch line for poor presidential efforts. But, to defend the Senator from Massachusetts, Kerry actually out-performed the fundamentals in 2004. According to political scientist James Campbell, Bush was favored to win that year, based off of economic indicators and his overall approval rating: In the 2004 presidential election, the fundamentals tilted to the re-election of President Bush. They were not overwhelming by any means, but there were no factors that clearly favoured Senator Kerry. Both presidential approval and the presidential preference polls tilted in Bush’s direction, not by wide margins but by what appear to be clear enough margins to make it his election to win or lose. […] Finally, the election-year economy, whether the first half or the second quarter...

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