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“The House That Scalia Built”: The Bitter Beginning Of The 21st Century That Scalia And The Bush Dynasty Gave Us

Two waves broke this week: a pair of deaths on our national shore that changed everything. They are inseparable in the annals of our time. Goodbye to all that a Supreme Court Justice wrought, and the House of Bush brought.

If only it were that simple.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is dead at 79, the Dickensian, most opinionated character on the bench. Friends — many of whom knew him as an operagoer, a city denizen, and an avid socializer — called the father of nine children Nino. His burial is Saturday.

The “master of invective,” as one put it, Scalia was considered brilliant, and was often callous in withering dissents on, for example, gay marriage. Taking a dim view of President Obama’s lead in the delicate Paris Agreement on climate change, his last vote was to immobilize the emissions standards. How nice of five Republican men to disrespect the Democratic president in the world’s eyes. As it happens, the Folger Shakespeare Library is staging “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — fitting, considering Titania’s haunting lines that warn of global warming.

Nobody on the creamy marble Court was more polarizing since the Civil War. The unabashed carrier of the conservative cross, Scalia seldom let up on his pounding force and lashings, even in victory.

On “60 Minutes,” Scalia scolded half the American people, saying: “Get over it!” He referred to the infamous 2000 Supreme Court decision that swung the presidency from Al Gore to George W. Bush by one vote. He had a chance to be civil; he didn’t take it.

Meanwhile, the Bush dynasty hangs onto its last breath with Jeb Bush’s floundering presidential campaign. His brother, former President George W. Bush, left Texas to campaign, but the magic was missing. The 43rd president looked aged. Jeb has a penchant for saying their father, Bush senior, is the “greatest man alive,” or some such.

Here’s the double knell: The House of Bush is the House that Scalia built. At least, he was an architect. Now a tragic link ties those names together.

Their historical cadence will join other follies. “Sophocles long ago/Heard it on the Aegean,” English poet Matthew Arnold wrote in “Dover Beach.” Now I know what Arnold meant when he saw an elegiac sadness in ages and armies.

All we need to do is go back to 2000 — when our known world ended — when five Republican Supreme Court justices gave new meaning to “one man, one vote.” The deciding votes were out of the citizens’ hands; nine officials voted 5-to-4 — freezing a close vote count in Florida to determine the true winner. They shut democracy down.

That rude decision changed the course of the 21st century. George W. Bush swerved into war in Iraq, giving rise to ISIS today. Remind me: What were we fighting for? Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, were the pretext to war, when 19 men (15 Saudis) were hijackers in a clever plot. The unprepared U.S. Army and the American viceroy, Paul Bremer, destroyed civil society in Iraq. What a mess.

The Court outrage for the ages must not be forgot in Scalia’s dramatic death, political to the end. The decision is full of rich contradictions. Scalia, who often mocked “nine unelected lawyers” in democracy, sprang into action by stopping vote counting in Florida. The governor of Florida then was Jeb Bush. In unseemly partisanship, Scalia departed from his so-called “originalist doctrine” to strongly urge the Court to stop counting. He also abandoned his emphasis on states having a say in governance by shortchanging the Florida Supreme Court. Hs loyal colleague, Clarence Thomas, followed him every step — Thomas who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

Justice Scalia died on a West Texas luxury ranch during a hunting trip. His death was apt, given his pugilistic style in upholding gun rights and every conservative cause in creation. Washington can’t get over that he’s gone, friends and foes alike. The senior sitting justice loomed large as the fiercest player, in every word he spoke and wrote. The vacancy gives President Obama one more try to work his will on a hostile Senate.

It will take time for the country to heal from the bitter beginning of the 21st century that Scalia and the Bush dynasty gave us. And for the record, I will never get over it.


By: Jamie Stiehm, The National Memo, February 19, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Antonin Scalia, Bush Family, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Jeb And His Vassals Lose Sight Of The Serfs”: It’s The Lash, Always The Lash

“In the feudal system,” The Oxford English Dictionary says, a vassal is “one holding lands from a superior on conditions of homage and allegiance.”

The system lives on in modern American politics, forsooth in changed form. No longer is it local lords providing military support to a king in return for grants of land. Nowadays, the vassals show their loyalty in the form of large campaign checks. In return, they are promised various economic privileges, among them protection from taxation.

The ritual in all its pageantry has been on display at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. There former president George Herbert Walker Bush, his wife, Barbara, and other members of the Bush dynasty hold court to advance Jeb Bush’s quest for the presidency. The object is to make Jeb the second son of H.W.’s, after George W., to capture the White House.

Picture the Bush clan treating CEOs, sports-team owners, and other modern-day vassals to lobster rolls and consenting to pose in the courtiers’ selfies. Imagine the splendor: the many houses, including a new one for Jeb, perched on the rocks of Walker’s Point, the Atlantic crashing at their feet.

Such invites are “the prize for members of the vaunted Bush fund-raising operation,” writes political reporter Nicholas Confessore. They are why Jeb has raised as much money for his campaign as the other Republican presidential candidates and their SuperPACs combined.

Spending so much time in this closed society may also help explain Jeb’s politically awkward remark that Americans “need to work longer hours.”

In olden times, the serfs were regarded as beasts of burden, to be whipped into higher productivity. Conditions are much improved, but one can assume the conversations at the Bush compound do not linger long on the common folk’s economic interests.

A big reason Donald Trump is matching or passing Jeb in the polls is that he is talking to the serfs. He may be saying stupid things, but at least he recognizes their existence.

Bush complained that his views are being taken out of context and elaborated. He really said that sustained growth requires that “people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours.” That way, they have more money and can “decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in line and being dependent on government.”

Another way of stimulating growth would be to have Americans work the same hours but get paid more. That, too, would put more money in their pockets, prompting more spending and saving. This solution might require employers to share more of the profits with their laborers as they used to do. Such scenarios don’t cross the royal mindset, the key to growth always being to crank up the serfs’ stress level.

The reality is that lots of Americans would love a 40-hour job but are instead stuck working two 30-hour jobs, neither offering such luxuries as health coverage and vacation time. That’s the sad reality of today’s job market and one reason the Affordable Care Act was so necessary. It subsidizes health coverage for workers who can’t get it through their employment.

But economic security in some eyes is dependency in others’. One conservative argument goes that repealing Obamacare would force workers into the 40-hour jobs they’re alleged to be turning up their noses at. It’s the lash, always the lash.

Over at Walker’s Point, donors are meeting a new set of Bushes, known as “P’s crowd.” That would be George P. Bush, a son of Jeb’s apparently looking to claim the family political inheritance. Some of P’s followers have parents who back P’s parent.

Me thinks the show goes on.


By: Froma Harrop, Featured Post, The National Memo, July 16, 2015

July 16, 2015 Posted by | Bush Family, Economic Inequality, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Traded On His Family’s Name”: Jeb Bush Was Born On Third Base. Does He Think He Hit A Triple?

Jeb Bush, you may or may not be aware, spent much of his adult life as a “businessman.” I put that word in quotes because from what we’ve learned so far Bush doesn’t seem to have risen in the business world the way we normally think of people doing, by creating some kind of product or service that can be sold to people, by managing a growing operation, and so on. Instead, his work, such as it was, consisted of opening doors and making deals, something a succession of partners brought him in to do because of his name.

Which isn’t in itself a sin. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first, an article in today’s Times discusses some of Bush’s deals that didn’t turn out so well, and how he reacted:

Yet a number of his ventures before he entered politics have invited criticism that Mr. Bush traded on his family’s name and crossed ethical lines. His business involvement, as the son of a president, was inevitably vetted in public view, subjecting Mr. Bush to so many questions that he angrily accused the news media of treating him unfairly.

“By definition, every single business transaction I am involved with may give the appearance that I am trading on my name,” Mr. Bush wrote in The Wall Street Journal during the final days of his father’s re-election campaign in 1992, responding specifically to stories about his involvement with the sale of M.W.I.’s water pumps. “I cannot change who I am.”

Months earlier, he had written a 1,400-word defense of his business dealings in The Miami Herald in which he condemned reporters for having “gone too far in delving into the private lives of the families of public figures.”

“Being part of America’s ‘First Family’ is both wondrous and challenging,” he wrote in the newspaper, adding that he desired to have his successes or failures “measured by his own performance and behavior, not those of his parents.”

There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with making money the way Bush did. He had a famous name and connections that that name produced, and people were willing to give him large quantities of money to use it to their advantage. Every once in a while we hear of some wealthy heir who gives away all their inheritance and makes a fresh start with nothing, but most of us wouldn’t have the guts to do that. Connections and renown were Bush’s inheritance, an invaluable currency that could be traded for riches and power. He accepted that inheritance, like most people would.

But what I’d like to know is how Bush himself thinks of his career, and how self-aware he is today. At the 1988 Democratic convention, Jim Hightower said of Jeb’s father that he “was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.” What does Jeb think he hit?

I’m sure he would like to believe that every dollar he ever made came because of his skills, smarts, and hard work. But it didn’t. Like his brother George (who had a similar business career in which people lined up to give him money), Jeb had opportunities that are available to almost no one else in America.

So imagine if he said, “Look, I know that my career has been different from most people’s. My grandfather was a senator and my father was the president. Did that ease my way? Of course. It would be ridiculous of me to claim otherwise. But I tried to operate as honestly as I could, work hard, and learn as much as possible in the business world.” If Bush said that, he could earn a lot of respect, even from his political opponents.

When he was born, Jeb Bush won the lottery. We don’t condemn anyone for winning the lottery, but we do judge what they do afterward. Some people win it, buy a nice house, and then set up a foundation to help other people. Other people win the lottery and blow the whole thing on hookers and cocaine. Bush’s history seems to be somewhere in between.

Most of the people Bush is running against in the primaries are the dreaded “career politicians,” and those who have made their careers outside of business (Ted Cruz was a lawyer, Rand Paul and Ben Carson were doctors). Since Republican ideology has it that businesspeople are the most noble and heroic among us, it will be tempting for Bush to tout his business experience as a key credential during the primaries. It will also be tempting for his opponents to criticize him as a scion of the elite, particularly since it fits well into the narrative that he’s the “establishment” candidate while they’re representatives of the grassroots. The question is whether Bush will deny that he’s any different from any other successful businessman.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, April 17, 2015

April 18, 2015 Posted by | Bush Family, George W Bush, Jeb Bush | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Agony Of The Pioneers”: Even Those Who Have Voted For A Bush Or Two Have Ambivalent Feelings About Jeb

It’s often hard to empathize with people whose backgrounds and life experiences are so very different from one’s own. So it is with the small but important cadre of wealthy and successful people for whom the Bush presidencies were a golden age, the focus of a strangely fascinating piece by Michael Barbaro and Nick Confessore in the New York Times today. Having united to save Mitt Romney’s bacon in 2012, these quintessential “Republican Establishment” donors were all lined up to force Chris Christie on surly and rebellious conservative activists in 2016. But now Christie’s problems and renewed talk of a Jeb Bush candidacy are agonizing them, according to this account.

At risk for Mr. Christie is not just the electoral affections of Bush loyalists, but also the backing of a still-potent national network of wealthy Republican donors and bundlers who propelled three Bushes to high office and who provided Mitt Romney with an overwhelming fund-raising advantage in 2012.

While many have retired from active politics, those who remain constitute a hyper-loyal and energetic band of brothers (and sisters). Many of them served as so-called Rangers and Pioneers within the vaunted hierarchy of Bush fund-raising, and went on to plum appointments and ambassadorships in George W. Bush’s two administrations.

Even a decade later, former Rangers and Pioneers heavily populate the ranks of the party’s elite bundlers, a group that the party’s 2016 aspirants began courting almost before President Obama was inaugurated for his second term. Several said they would continue to evaluate the field — unless, that is, Mr. Bush steps in.

“I have great affection for Christie,” said Mel Sembler, a Florida real estate developer and Bush donor who is among the top Republican fund-raisers. “He’s done an amazing job as a Republican governor in a Democratic state. But I have great loyalty to that family because they brought me into the political arena, and I’ll be supporting Jeb Bush if he decides to run.”

Indeed, Christie himself is part of the Bush Family Camelot saga:

Mr. Christie is intimately acquainted with the Bush Brigade, as its members call themselves: It gave him his start in national politics. Mr. Christie; his brother, Todd; and [top Christie advisor William] Palatucci were prodigious fund-raisers for George W. Bush. Mr. Bush went on to appoint Mr. Christie — a Bush Pioneer in 2000 — as the United States attorney for New Jersey, transforming him from a relatively obscure lawyer and failed local candidate into a high-profile corruption-fighting prosecutor.

Mr. Palatucci was among the Bush alumni who traveled to College Station, Tex., last month to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first Bush presidency, a gathering where some attendees slyly addressed Jeb Bush as Mr. President.

In reading about these people, I’m reminded of the Clinton-era reminiscences of White House retainers Linda Tripp and Gary Aldrich, who looked back on the Poppy White House as an era of good taste and gracefulness (and in the FBI agent Aldrich’s mind, “body-conscious” athleticism) that was being ruined by the slobs brought into power by Bubba. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

But while Tripp and Aldrich were confined to vengeful attacks on Clinton, many of their contemporaries rose to great power and wealth, and they are the ones tempted to essay a second Restoration of the glory days:

“They feel good about Jeb,” said Barry Wynn, a fund-raiser for George W. Bush and a former chairman of the Republican Party in South Carolina. “They don’t have any questions about his integrity.”

The family name, he said, remains a powerful draw. “They love the Bush family,” Mr. Wynn said. “They love the whole package, and they feel Jeb is just a part of the package.”

I’d say a majority of Americans, even those who have voted for a Bush or two, have somewhat more ambivalent feelings about “the whole package.” But then they aren’t members of a tight-knit donor community that feels a responsibility to name the Next President of the United States.


By; Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 2, 2014

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Bush Family, Election 2016 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The ‘Toil And Trouble’ Of The Bush Dynasty”: The Resurrection Of A Dangerous Political Family

Here’s how I picture Jeb Bush, with his father George and his big brother George, huddled around a boiling cauldron: “When shall we three meet again?/in Florida, Texas or in Maine?”

Any resemblance to the Macbeth witches in thunder, lightning or rain is, of course, intentional. The Washington buzz that Jeb Bush will follow in his brother’s and his father’s footsteps in running for president is a bit scary for democracy. They are not done with us yet. Good and bad things come in threes.

Beware the current wave of nostalgia for Bush rule. They are not the brightest dynasty under the sun, but the House of Bush has staying power. If genial Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida runs, then we the people will be in for another pounding by an Eastern elitist family. They masquerade their cultural origins as south by southwest. But it all started with Prescott Bush, a Connecticut senator.

As the faithful gathered this past weekend in Texas to mark the 25th anniversary of the first Bush presidency, the Bush men are also re-engineering the family story with help from friends like Jim Baker and conservative cheerleaders in the national media. Even columnist George Will, who scorned the elder Bush, is on-message for Jeb as a moderate man of substance. He practically invented school choice. The rest of the story line goes something like this.

Apparently, the one-term president George H.W. Bush, aka “Poppy,” was a seasoned foreign policy hand who conducted the end of the Cold War with magisterial ease. Skeptics like me think it just happened to happen on his watch. His son, George W. Bush, upset a lot of China with wars of choice that proved feckless. But wait, we now know he has the perceptive sensibility of an artist. We know he could see into the soul of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, after Putin “dissed” Bush’s dog Barney. The 43rd president told this tale as he explained his portrait of Putin – which is rather good, actually.

A pity that W. missed his calling. He never should have been president of the United States, and not only for his military misadventures. He never lost sleep over commandeering civil liberties. The “war president” did not write home much to a beleaguered, rattled public in the years after 9/11, though his visit to the site of the fallen towers is seen as a high point. While Washington slept, New Orleans wept as Hurricane Katrina raged past the broken levees of the beguiling city. The lame presidential response was the domestic analogue of the haphazard way the wars were being waged abroad. And then came the economy’s pitch downward.

The Bushes set great store by winning, any which way. The fury of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearing back in 1991 went down the way it did because H.W. Bush would not back down on a divisive nominee who made many women’s blood boil. If you remember the Willie Horton political ads against Michael Dukakis in 1988, that was also Poppy’s way of doing business. He has said he’ll do whatever it takes to win, though vision was never his thing.

The family penchant for winning at all costs came to a head in Florida in the Bush v. Gore showdown in 2000. Shakespeare could not have set the scene or the stakes better, with the fate of the nation hanging on a state governed by a brother Bush. All family human resources rushed down there, with Baker leading the way and strategy. If the fight seemed fierce, the outcome felt preordained. The Supreme Court stopped the vote count cold. It was all over, by a 5-4 vote. Indeed Thomas was “the best man for the job,” as Poppy put it in 1991.

Let it not be forgot, this is how the Bush dynasty defines “one man, one vote.”


By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, April 7, 2014

April 8, 2014 Posted by | Bush Family, Democracy | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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