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“Jeb Bush Is Terrible At Foreign Policy”: Running As A Bush On Foreign Policy In 2016 Is Folly

There are many reasons George W. Bush was unpopular when he left office. A big one was the Great Recession, which crested and crashed down on the world in his last few months in office. Then there was Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 New Orleans debacle that helped kneecap Bush’s second term in office not long after it started. But the most enduring stain on Bush’s tenure is the Iraq War.

Not only is Iraq still a mess — worse, America’s mess — but the effects of toppling Saddam Hussein are being felt in everything from Iran’s expanding influence in the region to Islamic State’s rise. So it’s odd that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, making his case for following his older brother and father into the White House, would double-down on the Iraq War.

Even knowing that Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, Jeb Bush told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Sunday, he would have still invaded Iraq in 2003, “and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

First, let’s dispatch with that pathetic blame-sharing nonsense. Hillary Clinton — if, for some reason, voters had elected her right after her husband — would not have invaded Iraq, and neither would President Al Gore. Both probably would have invaded Afghanistan, because, after all, that country’s Taliban government was sheltering the terrorist group that had just murdered nearly 3,000 Americans, destroyed a cluster of skyscrapers, and damaged the Pentagon.

But Iraq was a textbook war of choice. There was some faulty intelligence, but it was being pushed and exaggerated by a Bush White House that wanted to invade Iraq already. I don’t think that’s even in dispute anymore.

Nobody named Clinton has ever invaded Iraq — in fact, since Somalia’s “Black Hawk Down” incident, Democrats bomb countries; they generally don’t send in ground troops. Two presidents named Bush have invaded Iraq. Voters remember that.

And just how unpopular is the Iraq War now? Last summer, some major news organizations asked voters.

In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll from June 2014, 71 percent of respondents said the Iraq war “wasn’t worth it,” including 44 percent of Republicans. A CBS News/New York Times poll from the same month similarly found that 75 percent of respondents said the war was not worth the costs, including 63 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of independents. Another June 2014 poll, from Quinnipiac, was a bit more favorable, with only 61 percent saying that “going to war with Iraq” was “the wrong thing.” In all those polls, the Iraq War disapproval numbers have continued to inch upwards.

The biggest obstacle to a President Jeb Bush was always going to be his last name — a polite way of saying his brother. He knows that. He even jokes about it.

But because of family loyalty or pride, or the advisers he has hired from his brother’s administration, or core convictions, Jeb Bush isn’t willing to throw his brother under the bus. From a tactical standpoint, it must be helpful having a father and brother who have collectively won three presidential elections, but acknowledging in public that George W. Bush is your most influential adviser on Middle East affairs? That’s something different.

Jeb Bush seems determined to win this or lose this as a card-carrying member of the Bush dynasty.

Is that a deal-breaker? Well, people who care about foreign policy often lament that voters don’t. But that’s not going to help John Ellis Bush. Because while most voters probably do vote on pocketbook issues, Republican voters are fired up about foreign policy, especially the sort of engaged partisans who vote in primaries.

And they’re revved up about foreign policy because that’s what Republican lawmakers and politicians and pundits have been attacking President Obama on since the economy improved enough, ObamaCare started showing positive dividends, and Osama bin Laden’s death under Obama’s command became a part of American history.

“Attacking President Obama’s record on Israel and Iran is now one of the biggest applause lines for presidential candidates,” note Josh Kraushaar and Alex Roarty at National Journal, in a write-up on a poll about how Republicans believe 2016 will be a foreign policy election.

Jeb Bush is going to have to step up his game if he wants to ride the GOP’s foreign policy wave. His big coming out party on the subject wasn’t promising — even with his A-list of Bush-linked advisers, he “delivered a nervous, uncertain speech on national security,” reported Tim Mak and Jackie Kucinich at The Daily Beast, “full of errors and confusion.”

That’s something Jeb Bush can fix. After all, none of the Republican governors, former governors, senators, former CEOs, or celebrated pediatric neurosurgeons running against him have much experience with war or international diplomacy or other key elements of foreign policy, either.

But running as a Bush on foreign policy in 2016 is folly. Even if the Dick Cheney wing of the Republican Party pushes him through the primaries, it’s poison in a general election. Jeb Bush has a tough choice to make: Does he want to try to resuscitate his brother’s foreign policy reputation, or does he want a shot at the White House?

 

By: Peter Weber, The Week, May 11, 2015

May 13, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iraq War, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Leader Of The Leave-Me-The-Hell-Alone Coalition”: Rand Paul Is Fighting For Your Privacy—Unless You’re A Woman

“The right to be left alone is the most cherished of rights,” Kentucky senator and presidential aspirant Rand Paul said over the weekend in San Francisco. He was there to sell himself to the young tech elite as a civil-liberties crusader; the only candidate willing to take an uncompromising stand against government surveillance. He cares so deeply about privacy that he’s planning to filibuster the renewal of parts of the Patriot Act.

But the leader of “the leave-me-the-hell-alone coalition” is simultaneously, albeit more quietly, arguing that women should have little privacy in their healthcare decisions. “The government does have some role in our lives,” Paul said at a summit organized by the anti-choice Susan B Anthony List in April, by which he meant making abortion illegal. Paul describes himself as “100 percent pro-life.” Along with all of the other Republican presidential candidates he supports a bill that resurfaced this week in the House that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Recently Paul has become something of a champion for anti-abortion groups that are trying to reframe the abortion debate so that pro-choice views seem extreme. Pressed by reporters last month to clarify whether his support for abortion bans includes exceptions, Paul deflected the question by calling up the specter of late-term abortions. “Why don’t we ask the DNC: Is it OK to kill a seven-pound baby in the uterus?” he said to a New Hampshire journalist. No matter that only 1 percent of abortions in the United States occur after 21 weeks of pregnancy; claiming Democrats endorse the “killing” of babies is an easy way not to account for his selective support for personal liberty.

Paul’s hypocrisy isn’t new. Indeed, one of the long-standing ironies of American politics is that the people who decry government meddling in, say, healthcare are the ones calling most vociferously for the government to step in to regulate women’s bodies. As Katha Pollitt noted in Pro, conservatives like Paul never would propose to restrict access to guns, despite the tens of thousands of deaths caused by gun violence in the United States each year. Only when it comes to women does “life” trump individual freedom.

It’s still worth pointing out how inconsistent Paul’s advocacy for civil liberties is (and on issues beyond abortion), since that’s the platform he’s using to distinguish himself. If Paul really believed in “the right to be left alone,” he’d demand that women be allowed as much control over their bodies as their phone records.

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, May 12, 2015

May 13, 2015 Posted by | Rand Paul, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Knuckles Are Dragging Again”: The GOP Follows Sen. Sessions—Backward

If you want to see where the impulse to reform the Republican Party in a more libertarian direction of limited government, social tolerance, and free markets goes to die, look no further than the recent attacks on immigration and freer trade by Jeff Sessions, the influential senator from Alabama. Every time the GOP seems finally ready to orient itself in a forward-looking, post-culture-war direction, some holdover from an America that never quite existed to begin with blows his whistle and the next generation of would-be party leaders fall into line like the obedient von Trapp children in Sound of Music.

Indeed, Scott Walker has explicitly attributed his remarkable flip-flop on immigration to conversations with Sessions. Just a few years ago, the Wisconsin governor and leading Republican presidential candidate used to favor liberal immigration and a path to citizenship for illegals. Now he’s calling for “no amnesty” and universal, invasive, and error-prone E-Verify systems for “every employer…particularly small businesses and farmers and ranchers.”

The three-term, 68-year-old Sessions is “the Senate’s anti-immigration warrior,” according to Politico, and he wants to curb not just illegal and low-skill immigration but also the number of folks chasing the American Dream under H1-B visas, which apply to “workers in short supply” who are sponsored by specific employers with specialized needs.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Sessions complained  that “legal immigration is the primary source of low-wage immigration into the United States.” Exhibiting the zero-sum, fixed-pie economic thinking that conservatives and Republicans routinely chastise in liberals and Democrats, Sessions continues, “We don’t have enough jobs for our lower-skilled workers now. What sense does it make to bring in millions more?”

His solution is a time out on foreigners, “so that wages can rise, welfare rolls can shrink and the forces of assimilation can knit us all more closely together.” Only “the financial elite (and the political elite who receive their contributions)” could possibly object, argues Sessions in full populist mode. Immigrants keep “wages down and profits up….That is why [elites] have tried to enforce silence in the face of public desire for immigration reductions.”

Sessions brings the same populist and anti-immigrant animus to his critique of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade deal the Obama administration is brokering between the United States and 11 other countries. Sessions, along with progressive Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Martin O’Malley, only see the shadowy machinations of elites at work in the reauthorization of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) or “fast-track” negotiations.

Such rules, which have been standard operating procedure since 1974, allow the executive branch to negotiate terms and then bring the deal to Congress for an up or down vote. Citing “the rapid pace of immigration and globalization,” Sessions wants not “a ‘fast-track’ but a regular track.” He, Warren, and others charge that negotiations under TPA are “secret” and are somehow selling out basic American “sovereignty”—despite the fact that any deal will be voted on by Congress.

Sessions will lose the vote against TPA, just as the Republicans will ultimately lose the battle over restricting immigration. Contra Sessions, there is no clear public desire for reducing immigration, except among Republicans. Fully 84 percent of Republicans are dissatisfied with the current generous levels, a super-majority that only shows how out of touch the GOP faithful is with the rest of the country. Earlier this year, Gallup found that 54 percent of Americans are either satisfied with current levels of immigration or want more immigration. Just 39 percent were dissatisfied and want less immigration, which is 11 points lower than the same figure in 2008.

The majority of Americans embrace immigration for a lot of different reasons. Part of it is our history and sense of national identity and part of it is a basic if unarticulated recognition of what economists on the right and left have consistently found: “On average, immigrant workers increase the opportunities and incomes of Americans.”

Leave aside the fact that immigrants are twice as likely to start their own businesses as native-born Americans. The fact is they tend to be either higher- or lower-skilled than the typical worker, so they complement rather than displace natives. And, as the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh documents in his exhaustive rebuttal to Sessions’s Washington Post piece, immigrants not only consume less welfare and commit less crime than the average American, they pay taxes (often without any hope of getting the money back) and stop coming when the economy sours. If you think immigrants cause problems, check out the parts of the country that nobody is moving to and you’ll understand that it’s precisely when migrants stop coming that your real troubles are starting.

Sadly, lived reality holds little appeal for Sessions and Republicans such as Walker, who are instead doing their damnedest to turn the party of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush decisively against its long and glorious history of relatively open borders and freer trade. In a remarkable 1980 debate between Reagan and Bush I, the two candidates for the GOP nomination literally outdid themselves not simply in praising legal immigrants but illegal ones: https://youtu.be/Ixi9_cciy8w.

In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney pulled just 27 percent of the increasingly important Hispanic vote. That was despite the fact that Barack Obama is, in Nowrasteh’s accurate term, “Deporter in Chief” who repatriated more immigrants far more quickly than George W. Bush. Hispanics aren’t stupid—44 percent of them voted for immigrant-friendly Bush in 2004. They knew things could always get worse and probably would for them under Romney.

With 2016 coming into clearer and clearer focus—and with Hillary Clinton doing her own flip-flop on immigration and now embracing newcomers—the GOP and its presidential candidates have a choice to make. They can follow Ronald Reagan’s example and embrace libertarian positions on immigration and free trade. Or they can follow Jeff Sessions’s retrograde populism and see just how few Hispanic votes they can pull.

 

By: Nick Gillespie, The Daily Beast, May 12, 2015

May 13, 2015 Posted by | Immigration, Jeff Sessions, Trade Agreements | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Florida Gov Scott No Help In Time Of Crisis”: When The Going Gets Tough, Rick Scott Heads Straight For The Airport

Florida Gov. Rick Scott removed his Harry Potter invisibility cloak and flew to Washington the other day.

There he begged for billions of federal dollars from a person he is suing, Sylvia Burwell, the secretary of the Health and Human Services Department. Burwell patiently listened to the governor and, predictably, sent him back to Florida with nothing.

Last summer the feds informed Scott that the government was phasing out a fund that reimburses local hospitals for taking care of low-income patients, basically replacing it with an expanded version of Medicaid.

At first Scott was in favor of the Medicaid move, even though it was a tangent of Obamacare. Then the governor changed his mind. Later, as an afterthought, he sued Burwell and the HHS.

The state Senate supports Medicaid expansion; the House doesn’t. Tallahassee has been paralyzed by the dispute.

In a snit, the House packed up and adjourned the session early, leaving Florida with no budget. Leaders in the Senate were furious.

Remember, these are all Republicans, ripping at each other like addled meerkats.

And where was the newly re-elected Republican governor, leader of the party?

Gone, is where he was — jetting to crucial functions such as the grand opening of a Wawa gas and convenience store in Fort Myers and the debut of a humongous Ferris wheel in Orlando.

It’s impossible to imagine any of the fully functioning governors in Florida’s past — Lawton Chiles, Bob Graham, Jeb Bush, to name a few — vanishing from Tallahassee during a Code Red meltdown of the Legislature.

But Scott isn’t a functioning governor. He is the emptiest of empty suits — no talent for leadership, no muscle for compromise, no sense whatsoever of the big picture.

When the going gets tough, Scott heads straight for the airport. This is what happens when you elect a guy with his own private jet.

Last week’s trip to Washington was pure theater. Scott’s lawsuit over the low-income health funds is a loser, and he knows it. He was trying to do something to give the impression he was awake and experiencing cognitive activity.

In fact, he has been laser-focused on the future — not Florida’s future, but his own. He’s looking ahead to a possible bid for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

(We’ll pause here while you choke on your cornflakes.)

It’s astounding but true — while the legislative process disintegrated in bitter confusion, the governor was airing TV commercials cheerily touting his imaginary accomplishments.

Yes, they were short commercials. And, yes, little of what he claimed to have done for Florida had actually happened, lawmakers having already tossed his proposed budget into the metaphorical Dumpster.

There were no tax cuts, no hefty increase in spending for public schools, no big boost for Everglades funding. Yet Scott’s commercials made it sound like a done deal.

Relax, Florida. All is well!

Perhaps that’s how it looks from 38,000 feet, though not from the rotunda of the Capitol.

It’s weird for a politician to openly resume campaigning so soon after being re-elected, but weird is the norm for the Scott administration. Since the law prohibits a third term as governor, he can only be thinking about Bill Nelson’s Senate seat.

This would be a far-fetched scenario almost any place except Florida, where Scott has already proven that, if you’re rich enough, there’s no such thing as baggage.

Currently he remains one of the state’s most unpopular political figures. He won the November election mainly because his opposition was Charlie Crist.

Yet with money from his “Let’s Get To Work” political committee, the governor has begun the uphill task of inventing a positive legacy upon which to run three years from now.

In the TV commercials, he plays the role of a hard-charging, hands-on visionary, leading Floridians to prosperity one new job at a time. He smiles. He talks. He is, briefly, visible.

Tallahassee is one of the cities where Scott showed his commercials, yet it didn’t move the needle. He was on the plane when he should have been on the ground.

While the Legislature didn’t need any help disgracing itself, Scott’s disappearing act made things worse by validating the public’s view of all state government as insular and incompetent.

As the House and Senate prepare to reconvene next month, desperately trying to salvage some credibility, the governor seems content with his role on the sidelines, essentially a cheerleader for himself.

Coming soon to a Wawa near you.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 11, 2015

May 13, 2015 Posted by | Florida Legislature, Medicaid Expansion, Rick Scott | , , , , , | 4 Comments

“A Devil’s Bargain”: Jeb Bush Embraces The Narrative Of Christian Victimhood

While the rest of the Republican presidential candidates were at the South Carolina Freedom Summit this weekend, Jeb Bush traveled to Virginia to give the commencement address at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. While a speech like that will of course be full of praise for God, Bush’s speech went farther than one might have expected, both in its blunt sectarianism and its embrace of a narrative of victimhood that has grown increasingly popular on the religious right.

This may be what the base of the Republican Party wants to hear. But it also shows how appealing to that base could create problems for whichever Republican becomes the presidential nominee next year.

While lots of people remember Jeb Bush’s brother as an evangelical Christian, he actually isn’t — George W. Bush is a Methodist, a non-evangelical denomination (Jeb himself is a convert to Catholicism). And throughout his presidency, despite some occasional (and probably unintentional) slips like referring to the war on terror as a “crusade,” Bush was carefully inclusive when he talked about religion. It would have been surprising to hear him extol the superiority of Christianity as his brother Jeb did on Saturday. “Whatever the need, the affliction, or the injustice, there is no more powerful or liberating influence on this earth than the Christian conscience in action,” Bush said. And then there was this:

“No place where the message reaches, no heart that it touches, is ever the same again. And across our own civilization, what a radically different story history would tell without it. Consider a whole alternative universe of power without restraint, conflict without reconciliation, oppression without deliverance, corruption without reformation, tragedy without renewal, achievement without grace, and it’s all just a glimpse of human experience without the Christian influence.”

That’s a far cry from what Mitt Romney said eight years ago when he gave his big speech on religion — at least in that case, Romney argued for the essential place of religion broadly, and not just his own. I should note that near the end of the speech, Bush did acknowledge that non-Christians can be good people, too. But if you aren’t a Christian, the idea that without Christianity life on earth would inevitably be a nightmare of oppression and meaninglessness is something you might find absurd, or even offensive.

And you might think Bush would step a little more carefully given the trends in religious affiliation in America. While Christians are of course the majority, that majority that is declining steadily. The groups that are increasing their proportion of the U.S. population include Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and most importantly, the “unaffiliated,” people who don’t consider themselves part of any organized religion. According to the Pew Research Center, the unaffiliated were 16 percent of the population in 2010 and will be 26 percent by 2050; over the same period Christians will decline from 78 percent to 66 percent.

That’s a long-term trend; for the moment, Bush seems to think that the way to the hearts of the conservative Christians who make up such a large part of the Republican primary electorate (particularly in Iowa, where over half of GOP caucus-goers are evangelicals) is to embrace a narrative of victimhood that has become so prevalent on the right:

“Fashionable opinion – which these days can be a religion all by itself – has got a problem with Christians and their right of conscience. That makes it our problem, and the proper response is a forthright defense of the first freedom in our Constitution.

“It can be a touchy subject, and I am asked sometimes whether I would ever allow my decisions in government to be influenced by my Christian faith. Whenever I hear this, I know what they want me to say. The simple and safe reply is, ‘No. Never. Of course not.’ If the game is political correctness, that’s the answer that moves you to the next round. The endpoint is a certain kind of politician we’ve all heard before – the guy whose moral convictions are so private, so deeply personal, that he refuses even to impose them on himself.

“The mistake is to confuse points of theology with moral principles that are knowable to reason as well as by faith. And this confusion is all part of a false narrative that casts religious Americans as intolerant scolds, running around trying to impose their views on everyone. The stories vary, year after year, but the storyline is getting familiar: The progressive political agenda is ready for its next great leap forward, and religious people or churches are getting in the way. Our friends on the Left like to view themselves as the agents of change and reform, and you and I are supposed to just get with the program.

“There are consequences when you don’t genuflect to the latest secular dogmas. And those dogmas can be hard to keep up with. So we find officials in a major city demanding that pastors turn over copies of their sermons. Or federal judges mistaking themselves for elected legislators, and imposing restrictions and rights that do not exist in the Constitution. Or an agency dictating to a Catholic charity, the Little Sisters of the Poor, what has to go in their health plan – and never mind objections of conscience.”

Extra points to Bush for referring to progressives planning a “great leap forward” — so subtle. But this idea of Christianity as an embattled and encircled faith within the United States when it’s still held by three-quarters of the population has become essential to the right’s current identity politics. As Bill O’Reilly says: “If you’re a Christian or a white man in the U.S.A., it’s open season on you.” Indeed, when will white men finally get a fair shake?

The victimhood narrative has found its most recent expression in the plight of the nation’s legions of fundamentalist bakers who don’t want to sell cakes to gay weddings, and through the Hobby Lobby case, where a poor innocent corporation was supposedly forced by the heavy hand of government to defile its health insurance plan with contraception coverage.

But it’s been building for years, not only as gay rights have advanced but also as a result of the steady diversification of American society. If you grew up with your religious beliefs being the default setting for society at large — when it’s your prayers being said in public schools, when only people who share your religion are elected president, when your holidays are everyone’s holidays — then a growing inclusiveness can feel like an attack on you. It seems like you’ve lost something, even if you can’t admit that it was something only you and people like you were privileged to possess.

I don’t doubt that there are Christians who are sincerely affronted when they walk into a department store in December and see a sign reading “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” even if I might find their taking offense unjustified. It’s the people who find in “Happy Holidays” the evidence of their oppression that Bush is reaching out to, saying that he’s every bit with them as are the likes of Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum.

And just as on immigration and many other issues, saying to the Republican primary electorate that the candidate is one of you and thinks like you do sends precisely the opposite message to lots of the voters whom he’ll need when the general election comes. It’s a devil’s bargain, but one that Jeb Bush and many of his competitors, with their eyes on the nomination, seem only too eager to make.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, May 11, 2015

May 13, 2015 Posted by | Christians, Jeb Bush, Religious Beliefs | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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