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“Doubling Down On W”: Determined To Take What Didn’t Work From 2001 To 2008 And Do It Again, In A More Extreme Form

2015 was, of course, the year of Donald Trump, whose rise has inspired horror among establishment Republicans and, let’s face it, glee — call it Trumpenfreude — among many Democrats. But Trumpism has in one way worked to the G.O.P. establishment’s advantage: it has distracted pundits and the press from the hard right turn even conventional Republican candidates have taken, a turn whose radicalism would have seemed implausible not long ago.

After all, you might have expected the debacle of George W. Bush’s presidency — a debacle not just for the nation, but for the Republican Party, which saw Democrats both take the White House and achieve some major parts of their agenda — to inspire some reconsideration of W-type policies. What we’ve seen instead is a doubling down, a determination to take whatever didn’t work from 2001 to 2008 and do it again, in a more extreme form.

Start with the example that’s easiest to quantify, tax cuts.

Big tax cuts tilted toward the wealthy were the Bush administration’s signature domestic policy. They were sold at the time as fiscally responsible, a matter of giving back part of the budget surplus America was running when W took office. (Alan Greenspan infamously argued that tax cuts were needed to avoid paying off federal debt too fast.) Since then, however, over-the-top warnings about the evils of debt and deficits have become a routine part of Republican rhetoric; and even conservatives occasionally admit that soaring inequality is a problem.

Moreover, it’s harder than ever to claim that tax cuts are the key to prosperity. At this point the private sector has added more than twice as many jobs under President Obama as it did over the corresponding period under W, a period that doesn’t include the Great Recession.

You might think, then, that Bush-style tax cuts would be out of favor. In fact, however, establishment candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are proposing much bigger tax cuts than W ever did. And independent analysis of Jeb’s proposal shows that it’s even more tilted toward the wealthy than anything his brother did.

What about other economic policies? The Bush administration’s determination to dismantle any restraints on banks — at one staged event, a top official used a chain saw on stacks of regulations — looks remarkably bad in retrospect. But conservatives have bought into the thoroughly debunked narrative that government somehow caused the Great Recession, and all of the Republican candidates have declared their determination to repeal Dodd-Frank, the fairly modest set of regulations imposed after the financial crisis.

The only real move away from W-era economic ideology has been on monetary policy, and it has been a move toward right-wing fantasyland. True, Ted Cruz is alone among the top contenders in calling explicitly for a return to the gold standard — you could say that he wants to Cruzify mankind upon a cross of gold. (Sorry.) But where the Bush administration once endorsed “aggressive monetary policy” to fight recessions, these days hostility toward the Fed’s efforts to help the economy is G.O.P. orthodoxy, even though the right’s warnings about imminent inflation have been wrong again and again.

Last but not least, there’s foreign policy. You might have imagined that the story of the Iraq war, where we were not, in fact, welcomed as liberators, where a vast expenditure of blood and treasure left the Middle East less stable than before, would inspire some caution about military force as the policy of first resort. Yet swagger-and-bomb posturing is more or less universal among the leading candidates. And let’s not forget that back when Jeb Bush was considered the front-runner, he assembled a foreign-policy team literally dominated by the architects of debacle in Iraq.

The point is that while the mainstream contenders may have better manners than Mr. Trump or the widely loathed Mr. Cruz, when you get to substance it becomes clear that all of them are frighteningly radical, and that none of them seem to have learned anything from past disasters.

Why does this matter? Right now conventional wisdom, as captured by the bookies and the betting markets, suggests even or better-than-even odds that Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz will be the nominee, in which case everyone will be aware of the candidate’s extremism. But there’s still a substantial chance that the outsiders will falter and someone less obviously out there — probably Mr. Rubio — will end up on top.

And if this happens, it will be important to realize that not being Donald Trump doesn’t make someone a moderate, or even halfway reasonable. The truth is that there are no moderates in the Republican primary, and being reasonable appears to be a disqualifying characteristic for anyone seeking the party’s nod.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, December 29, 2015

December 31, 2015 Posted by | 2015, George W Bush, GOP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Your Family Has Delighted Us Long Enough”: Bush League; Jeb Has Become A 2016 Nonentity, For Good Reason

It’s universally acknowledged that Jeb Bush has fallen the furthest and fastest of any Republican in the primary race for president. It’s sad the former frontrunner has come to this: calling frontrunner Donald Trump “a jerk.”

How pedestrian.

Then again, the Bush men – Jeb, his brother George W. and their father George H.W. – can be famously inept with words. That is not the least of their sins and one reason Jeb is a room-emptier of a candidate. (He says he will “campaign my heart out.”) He has not made news in a good way – I mean, with something original, witty, smart or sparkling. Not one laugh has crossed state lines. Perhaps his best riposte came in the last debate, stating Trump can’t “insult his way to the presidency.” We’ll see.

The petulant preppie’s charm deficit has thrust his harsh substance into sharper relief for critics like me. As we know by now, Jeb Bush strongly opposes women’s reproductive rights; that as governor of Florida he dismissed large swathes of state employees; and that he has almost the same list of foreign policy “experts” as his brother, President George W. Bush. He rashly declared early on, “My brother kept us safe,” which gave Trump his first stinging salvo.

The fact is, 9/11 happened on his brother’s watch and defined his stay in the White House as a “war president.” America is still trying to awaken from the nightmare of Bush’s misbegotten wars, especially the Iraq invasion which took a serpentine trail to the birth of the Islamic State group. But Bushes are loyal team players and Jeb would never undermine George’s judgment. That cuts to the core of the Bushes: Winning is in the end about them, not us. It’s like a giant game of horseshoes in Kennebunkport, Maine, site of the waterfront family compound.

Jeb did one surprising thing, though. He made me freshly appreciate his brother George’s political talent, a long time coming. Suddenly, I saw the twinkle in his eye, his carriage, his presence, his range of expression. He is much more compelling as a leader than his brother, never mind (for a moment) his ruinous war record abroad. and on the Katrina front at home.

Ironically, the younger George’s time in office did much the same. I appreciated his father “Poppy’s” presidency so much more than I ever did during the son’s presidency. The elder George, who I thought of as a tonedeaf elitist with a mean streak, suddenly appeared as a wise statesman with the so-called “vision thing.” He had the vision not to start a “kill Saddam in Iraq” campaign after winning the war in Kuwait with a truly multinational coalition. How great was that? He did not cross that line in the sand.

The older Bush also handled German reunification and the end of the Cold War like an old foreign policy hand, which he actually was. Not a shot was fired in anger. The recession happening at home was his undoing in running for re-election in 1992, as he sensed it would be. The governor of Arkansas with the golden tongue, young enough to be his son, proved the man of the people.

But two Bush presidents are plenty, thanks, Jeb. As Jane Austen would say, your family has delighted us long enough.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, December 21, 2015

December 22, 2015 Posted by | George H. W. Bush, George W Bush, GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Do We Have Basic Minimum Standards?”: Crossing Over From Bravado Into Mental Illness.

Do you think this is the kind of country that would replace Barack Obama with a president who mocks people for their disabilities? This is actually a serious question.

And before you object, I know all about the previous occupant of the White House. I remember when George W. Bush did an interview back in 1999 with Tucker Carlson and decided to make fun of Karla Faye Tucker for pleading for her life:

The most disquieting aspect of Mr. Carlson’s report of Mr. Bush’s language is not what it says about Mr. Bush’s ability to dignify politics after President Clinton’s squalor. Rather, it is that Mr. Bush may have been showing off for Mr. Carlson, daring to be naughty. He may be proving his independence, which Mr. Carlson likes, but it is independence from standards of public taste — not the sort of independence many voters will be seeking in a successor to Mr. Clinton.

Mr. Carlson reports asking Mr. Bush whether he met with any people who came to Texas to protest the execution of the murderer Karla Faye Tucker. Mr. Bush said no, adding: “I watched [Larry King’s] interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like `What would you say to Governor Bush?’ ” Mr. Carlson asked, “What was her answer?” and writes:

” `Please,’ Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, `don’t kill me.’ “

Ms. [Karen] Hughes, who says Mr. Bush’s decision not to commute Tucker’s sentence was “very difficult and very emotional,” says Mr. Carlson’s report is “a total misread” of Mr. Bush. Mr. Carlson, who describes Mr. Bush as “smirking,” says: “I took it down as he said it.”

Nothing remotely resembling the King-Tucker exchange that Mr. Bush describes appears in the transcript of Mr. King’s hour-long Jan. 14, 1998, program. And it is difficult to imagine anything Mr. Bush said that Mr. Carlson may have “misread” that could do Mr. Bush credit.

I also know that the Bushes were the precursors to the current post-truth party. For example, after Carlson reported on Bush’s mocking of a woman he had condemned to death, and also on Bush’s liberal use of profanity, he got some major pushback from the campaign.

“Then I heard that Karen Hughes accused me of lying. And so I called Karen and asked her why she was saying this, and she had this almost Orwellian rap that she laid on me about how things she’d heard — that I watched her hear — she in fact had never heard, and she’d never heard Bush use profanity ever. It was insane. I’ve obviously been lied to a lot by campaign operatives, but the striking thing about the way she lied was she knew I knew she was lying, and she did it anyway. There is no word in English that captures that. It almost crosses over from bravado into mental illness. They get carried away, consultants do, in the heat of the campaign, they’re really invested in this. A lot of times they really like the candidate. That’s all conventional. But on some level, you think, there’s a hint of recognition that there is reality — even if they don’t recognize reality exists — there is an objective truth. With Karen you didn’t get that sense at all. A lot of people like her. A lot of people I know like her. I’m not one of them.”

When Carlson says that Karen Hughes “almost crosse[d] over from bravado into mental illness,” he could just as easily be describing Donald Trump.

There is one difference, however.

When Bush mocked Karla Faye Tucker, he did it in the privacy of the backseat of a car. His campaign could and did deny that it ever happened.

Donald Trump mocked New York Times investigative reporter Serge Kovaleski’s disability on a stage in front of thousands of supporters. There’s no denying that he did it or what he meant by it. At another point, Trump said that conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer, who is partially paralyzed, “couldn’t buy a pair of pants.” That was also captured on camera.

So, even if there isn’t as much difference between George W. Bush and Donald Trump as people might think, there’s a lot more ammo to use against Trump.

So, I ask again, is this the kind of country that would replace Barack Obama with a president who mocks people for their disabilities?

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, November 26, 2015

November 27, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, George W Bush, People With Disabilities | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Have No Sense Of Recent History”: President Obama’s Critics Demand He Be More Like George W. Bush

Today President Obama made another public statement about how his administration is trying to take down ISIS, and I can promise you one thing: his critics will not be satisfied. That’s because a new question has emerged, one that anyone with any sense of recent history ought to be shocked to hear: Why can’t Barack Obama be more like George W. Bush?

Here’s part of what Obama said today:

Let me remind the American people of what our coalition of some 65 nations is doing to destroy these terrorists and defeat their ideology. So far our military and our partners have conducted more than 8,000 airstrikes on ISIL strongholds and equipment. Those airstrikes along with the efforts of our partners on the ground have taken out key leaders, have taken back territory from ISIL in both Iraq and Syria. We continue to work to choke off their financing and their supply lines, and counter their recruiting and their messaging…So we’re stepping up the pressure on ISIL where it lives, and we will not let up, adjusting our tactics when necessary, until they are beaten…

The bottom line is this: I want the American people to know, entering the holidays, that the combined resources of our military, our intelligence, and our homeland security agencies are on the case. They’re vigilant, relentless, and effective…While the threat of terrorism is a troubling reality of our age, we are both equipped to prevent attacks and we are resilient in the face of those who would try to do us harm. And that’s something we can all be thankful for.

You could almost hear Obama’s critics rolling their eyes and saying, “Boo-ring! Where’s the anger, the outrage, the Churchillian resolve?” In recent days, Obama has been getting a lot of criticism in the media not just for the fact that he hasn’t yet vanquished ISIS, but for the quality of his emoting when he talks about terrorism. To cite only one example, here’s what Peggy Noonan said in her critique of Obama’s response to the Paris attacks:

Finally, continued travels through the country show me that people continue to miss Ronald Reagan’s strength and certitude…What people hunger for now from their leaders is an air of shown and felt confidence: I can do this. We can do it.

Who will provide that? Where will it come from? Isn’t it part of what we need in the next president?

There’s been a lot more like this. Just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with critiquing the president’s performance qua performance. One of his jobs is to be a communicator, to guide the public through complex and troubling events. But the essence of the current criticism seems to be that Obama needs to do more of what George W. Bush did: tough talk, oversimplifying the challenges we face, and fooling us into thinking that this is all going to be over soon.

Which is curious, to say the least. In the wake of September 11, the news media were flooded with stories about what an extraordinary leader — how masterful and glorious and just short of god-like — Bush had become. All pretense of objectivity was cast aside as reporters rushed to assure us that the previously callow man was transformed by events into precisely the leader all Americans needed. As Newsweek described him in December 2001, “He has been a model of unblinking, eyes-on-the-prize decisiveness…He has been eloquent in public, commanding in private…Where does this optimism, the defiant confidence, come from?…He feels destined to win — and to serve.” That’s the kind of hard-hitting journalism we saw from the liberal media in those days.

But as we would soon find out, standing atop a pile of rubble and promising vengeance made people feel very good in the moment, but weren’t a substitute for taking wise actions. Bush got us into two wars whose effects we’re still feeling, with nearly seven thousand American service-members dead, a couple of trillion dollars spent, and our goals in both Iraq and Afghanistan still unfulfilled over a decade later.

So you might think that experience would help contextualize what’s happening right now. Of all the things you can criticize Obama for, it seems odd to focus on his unwillingness to pretend that ISIS is a simple problem that can be easily dispatched with enough resolve.

That, however, is exactly what the candidates say. But if you’re been looking for a realistic plan to deal with ISIS from them, you’ll likely be disappointed. What most of the Republicans have offered is a mix of things the administration is already doing (such as work with our allies in the region!). This includes Hillary Clinton, who hasn’t offered much beyond Obama’s plan, except perhaps for more air strikes and a “no fly” zone.

Meanwhile, some Republican candidates have offered things that have zero relationship to this particular conflict (increase the military budget!), or notions so vaguely worded as to be essentially meaningless (put pressure on Iran!), and utterly unrealistic fantasies. In this last category you find things like Marco Rubio saying: “I would build a multinational coalition of countries willing to send troops into Iraq and Syria to aid local forces on the ground.”

Well, that sounds nice. Who’s in this coalition willing to send their troops into Syria’s civil war? Why haven’t they done it up until now? Is it because they’re just waiting for a leader of Marco Rubio’s stature to ask?

To be fair, multiple candidates have advocated a greater role for U.S. troops — forward air controllers, more special forces troops, the establishment of “safe zones.” But they haven’t grappled with one of the central problems: obliterating ISIS on our own, or even with the limited help our allies are willing to give, would require a large troop presence, essentially another invasion, and then we’d have to stay there indefinitely to secure the peace, probably watching while that invasion creates a whole new generation of anti-American terrorists. In other words, we’d be doing the Iraq War all over again. And it worked out so well the first time.

That’s the thought that has plainly restrained Obama, both in what he’s willing to do in the Middle East and in his willingness to act triumphal about it. You can say his performance on this topic hasn’t reached the emotional heights you’d like. But you can’t say he doesn’t have good reason for being restrained by that thought.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributer, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, November 25, 2015

November 26, 2015 Posted by | George W Bush, ISIS, National Security, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Very Different Dynamic”: The Difference Between Presidential Pride And Embarrassment

At this point in the 2008 presidential race, a relatively crowded field of national Republican candidates was confronted with an unyielding reality: their party’s two-term president was deeply unpopular. According to Gallup, as of mid-October 2007, then-President George W. Bush’s approval rating was a woeful 32% – about 14 points lower than President Obama’s standing now.

And so, GOP candidates were pretty cautious about their associations with the flailing Bush/Cheney administration. The very last thing Republican presidential hopefuls wanted was to be perceived as offering Bush’s “third term.”

Fast forward eight years. Another two-term president is nearing the end of his tenure, but note what happened in last night’s debate when Anderson Cooper offered Hillary Clinton a chance to distance herself from President Obama. From the transcript:

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, how would you not be a third term of President Obama?

 CLINTON: Well, I think that’s pretty obvious. I think being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we’ve had up until this point, including President Obama.

 COOPER: Is there a policy difference?

 CLINTON: Well, there’s a lot that I would like to do to build on the successes of President Obama, but also, as I’m laying out, to go beyond.

The response didn’t cause much of a stir, but it was a pretty extraordinary answer given the political world’s general assumptions about Obama, his standing, and the public’s appetite for an entirely different policy agenda.

Given a chance to distance herself from the president – Clinton’s former rival – the Democratic frontrunner made no effort whatsoever to play along.

She wasn’t the only one. Vox had a good piece on this:

The president’s name was invoked 21 times – and largely by Hillary Clinton. She referred to him 13 times, usually in a positive manner, talking about the things “President Obama and I” did. When Lincoln Chafee questioned her judgment because she voted for the Iraq War, she said, “I recall very well being on a debate stage, I think, about 25 times with then-Senator Obama, debating this very issue. After the election, he asked me to become secretary of state.” […]

 Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb referred to Obama twice, Martin O’Malley referred to him three times, and Chafee did once. Words like “admiration,” “affection,” and “support” were thrown around, but Clinton drove home the point that she worked, arm in arm, with the sitting president, who is very popular among Democrats.

That last point is of particular interest. I think the general media narrative is that President Obama is unpopular. I also think that narrative is wrong – Obama is arguably the nation’s most well-liked politician, and among Democrats, his support is generally between 80% and 90%.

Republicans wanted nothing to do with Bush towards the end of his presidency, but we’re looking at a very different dynamic, at least for now, with Democrats in the 2016 race.

It’ll be especially interesting to see how this plays out next year as Election Day approaches. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, think about the national surrogates who’ll be able to hit the trail on her behalf: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, in addition to Clinton and her running mate.

The GOP nominee will have … who? George W. Bush probably won’t be headlining many rallies. So the nominee might turn to John McCain? Mitt Romney? Other national figures who lost major races?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 14, 2015

October 15, 2015 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, George W Bush, President Obama | , , , , | 1 Comment

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