Posts Tagged ‘Jeb Bush’

Good Lord. Put CNBC together with the Republican presidential candidates and what do you get? A circus. Clowns on stage, clowns asking the questions. My God.

A few observations:

  • There’s no way Carly can get elected. She has no likable qualities whatsoever. That’s kind of important when you’re running for president.
  • Let’s remember What Chris Christie stands for: “As reported Sunday by Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, Christie met with 200 citizens at the Jersey shore last week and, regarding state worker retirement benefits, declared: ‘Promises were made that can’t be kept… Welcome to the real world, folks.'” Those were pensions that were earned. They weren’t gifts. Christie doesn’t give a shit.
  • Trump: “I used the bankruptcy laws to my benefit.” We get it, Donald. You use everything to your benefit. Never mind anybody else who got screwed because you welched on your debts.
  • Huckabee is always angry. It’s not a good look for a candidate, if you ask me. But then, conservatives in general seem to always be angry with, well, everything.
  • A note to Marco Rubio: A good, polished answer to the now oft-asked question about your mismanagement of your personal finances. However: I didn’t inherit any money, either. My Dad disappeared when I was a kid. My mom worked a full time job to raise her kids. I had to work to pay for my schooling, too; nobody gave me a single penny of help. On the other hand, I didn’t borrow money to do it. I didn’t buy a second house to have it foreclosed. I didn’t buy extravagances like speedboats that I couldn’t afford. I haven’t raided my IRA. I’ve never intermingled business and personal funds. You did. I’m not impressed.
  • Carson claims he’s had nothing to do with fraudulent Mannatech? Um… Ben Carson: “The wonderful thing about a company like Mannatech is that they recognize that when God made us, He gave us the right fuel. And that fuel was the right kind of healthy food. You know we live in a society that is very sophisticated, and sometimes we’re not able to achieve the original diet. And we have to alter our diet to fit our lifestyle. Many of the natural things are not included in our diet. Basically what the company is doing is trying to find a way to restore natural diet as a medicine or as a mechanism for maintaining health.” See him talk about the virtues of snake oil Mannatech here
  • When asked about H1B visas, Rubio says we need “reforms.” What he means is, we need regulations. He even went on to list a few. For example, before you hire anyone from abroad, you would have to advertise the job for 180 days. You also have to prove that you would pay these people more than you would pay someone else. It cracks me up to listen to these guys claim regulations are from satan while at the same time citing the need for regulations. And then he linked H1B visas to a lack of vocational education. We’re not bringing in auto mechanics on H1B visas, Marco.
  • In addition to the regulations boogeyman, there’s the timeworn conservative complaint that Democrats simply promise freebies to people. So it was interesting to hear Jeb! crow about how his tax plan gives $2000 to every family. On the other hand, Jeb! is toast. Done. Remember when everyone told us he was the smart brother? Maybe, but he’s a terrible politician. But at least his fantasy football team is seven and oh!
  • And another thing. These guys constantly complain that everyone–everyone–is smarter than us hapless Americans. ISIS, Mexico, Iran… Even more amusing is the fact that conservatives actually believe they’re the dumbest of dumb Americans. How many times do we hear about how smart and shrewd those dirty, rotten liberals are–out-manuveuring conservatives at every turn? Why, it’s the reason the liberal agenda is winning. (Oh, sorry, I think I read this type of whining at BV4.)
  • Jeb!: We need regulation for fantasy football because “they can’t regulate themselves.” Dammit! I though regulations were bad for America.
  • Rand Paul: It’s the greatest generation’s fault that Medicare and Social Security are broken, because they “had too many damn kids.” Way to throw the Greatest Generation under the bus, Rand! My son watched that part, then turned and left, muttering, “He has no chance to be president.” Couldn’t agree more.
  • Ted Cruz: Let’s go back to the gold standard!
  • Carly: “We need a proven leader who produces results.” Better start looking for him (or her), Carly, because you haven’t produced any results ever.
  • Trump: “I’m such a great negotiator that I coerced CNBC to cut the length of the debate by an hour! Imagine what I could do for America!”
  • Is CNBC really a part of the “mainstream media”? I think this is the first time I’ve ever watched it. Doesn’t seem very mainstream to me, and judging by their on-screen personalities–clowns like Jim Cramer and Rick Santelli–it’s hard to imagine anyone considering them mainstream.
  • Honesty was almost as big a loser at the third Republican debate as Jeb!. Kevin Drum offers just a few examples.
  • To me, Marco Rubio is the most formidable candidate of the bunch. My money’s on him to get the nomination. Carly has no chance, as noted above. Huckabee is just an angry old man who has no chance. Kasich doesn’t play to the base; he has no chance. Jeb! is just a terrible candidate; Rubio ate him for lunch. Can we just trim the field now?
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How often have we heard from conservatives about the deep Republican “bench”? In their telling, there are literally a dozen or more highly qualified candidates just waiting in the wings to take back the White House. And that doesn’t even include such singular talents as Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, who so far have chosen to sit this one out. Why, according to conservatives, any one of these candidates would be a brilliant choice as president.

Then came The Donald who, intentionally or not, exposed the entire field for what it really is. This point was put forth today by, of all people, Rich Lowry, in an article on Politico entitled, “The GOP Field That Failed.”

The rise of Donald Trump is, in part, a function of a vacuum.

He is thriving in a Republican field that is large, talented and, so far, underwhelming. There’s 17 candidates and nothing on. Except Donald Trump.

Now, this has much to do with the media, and with Trump’s unique qualities as a showman. He has the advantage of not caring, about anything apparently — the facts, his reputation, or, ultimately, winning the presidency. In consequence, he is a free man.

The Jorge Ramos incident was Trump in microcosm. He did what no other Republican politician could get away with (having a security guy manhandle a Latino reporter) and displayed a cavalier disregard for reality by denying he was having Ramos removed, even as he had him removed. But the episode was mesmerizing, and Trump — in his madcap way — was commanding in how he handled it.

If any other candidate had done that or something similar, it would have been a signature event of his campaign, but for Trump it was just another day on the trail, to be eclipsed by some other memorable event tomorrow.

Trump has at least half a dozen such indelible moments — his bizarre announcement, the John McCain diss, the Lindsey Graham cellphone, the Megyn Kelly fight (x2), the Mobile rally — when the rest of the field has almost none. No speech, no policy proposal, no argument, nothing from the other candidates has come close to capturing the imagination of voters, giving Trump the space to loom all the larger.

The weakness starts at the top, or what was supposed to be the top. In the normal course of things, the establishment front-runner provides coherence to the field. Hence, the expectation that the field would have Jeb Bush and a not-Bush, or maybe two. For the moment, this assumption has collapsed, as the current shape of the field is Trump and everyone else.

This is quite the comedown for Bush. His “shock and awe” has turned into getting sand kicked on him at the beach by a loudmouth and bully. It’s not just that Bush is trailing Trump badly in the polls; he has acceded to the terms of the debate being set by the mogul. It wasn’t long ago that Bush swore off talking about Trump, as basically beneath him. Now, he is sniping with him daily.

Before he got in the race, Bush spoke of only wanting to do it if he could run joyfully. Little did he know that he would be joyously grappling with an ill-informed blowhard who takes it as his daily obligation to insult Bush and trample on the pieties he holds dear.

In the argument with Trump over mass deportation, clearly Bush is right. But the split screen with Trump doesn’t necessarily do him any favors. Trump is such a forceful communicator that he comes off as some sort of throwback alpha male, whereas Bush is such an earnest wonk he looks and sounds like a sensitive dad from a contemporary sitcom. It’s like watching a WWE wrestler get a stern talking to from Ned Flanders.

Bush is not a natural performer to begin with (he struggles with set speeches), and he believes his contribution to the race is to be the nonthreatening Republican, which is often indistinguishable from the uninteresting Republican. So while Bush has methodically built the superstructure of an impressive campaign — with fundraising, organization and policy proposals — he has so far barely warmed up an ember among voters.

Scott Walker, in contrast, had a surge early in the campaign. It dissipated over time when his limited preparation on national issues didn’t match his outsized early press exposure. A so-so debate performance and the rise of Trump have continued his long fade to middle of the pack in the latest early state polling (tied for fourth in New Hampshire and tied for seventh in South Carolina).

Walker’s ability to appeal to both the establishment and activist wings of the party had looked like a strength, but now it seems a precarious balancing act, made all the more difficult by a panicky reaction to Trump.

No sooner had Walker pronounced himself “aggressively normal” in the debate than he seemed to opt for just “aggressive” in an attempt to play to the passions tapped by Trump. Who could have predicted that the Midwestern candidate who tells stories about buying shirts for $1 at Kohl’s would have to play populist catch-up with the New York billionaire who travels by eponymous helicopter?

Walker had already changed his mind about immigration, shifting from support for a “comprehensive” approach to strong opposition to amnesty. Trump has pushed him further, and Walker has gotten tangled up on the issue of birthright citizenship.

At the Iowa State Fair, he seemed at one point to say that he was opposed to it. Then, he told John Harwood of CNBC he wouldn’t take a position on it. Finally, on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” he danced around a question on the 14th Amendment before saying that anything that goes beyond simply enforcing our immigration laws is a red herring.

Earlier this week, Walker blasted President Barack Obama for hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping for a state visit, even though as governor he had been friendly to China and obligingly wore a Chinese-American flag pin in an appearance on Chinese state TV.
It’s one thing to play to the mood of voters; it’s another to give the appearance of not quite knowing who you are, which is much more deadly than an August dip in the polls.

As for Marco Rubio, for whom expectations have been so high, he has been the least reactive to Trump. His campaign is still betting on the long game. It believes his natural talent will tell over time, but he doesn’t have a natural geographic or ideological base, and his 21st-century economic agenda — although thoughtful — is not likely to stoke enthusiasm among primary voters.

Ted Cruz may be benefiting most from the Trump surge in his strategic positioning. He has a cogent theory of the case, which is that if he is nice to Trump — and the other outsider candidates — he eventually can inherent his supporters. This makes intuitive sense, although Cruz — exceedingly careful in crafting his words and in calculating his interest — is hardly a natural anti-politician.

It is still August, of course. The rules of gravity say Trump will come back down to earth. The media interest that is so intense now could burn out. His lack of seriousness should be a drag over time, and he will still have to weather more debates and presumably — should he stay strong — a barrage of negative ads.

Even if he fades, though, someone else will have to fill the screen. To this point, No one else has been big or vivid enough to do it.

life-in-hell-mistakes-were-made

So now Jeb Bush has admitted that when it came to his brother’s 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation, “mistakes were made.” It must have been hard throwing his brother under the bus like that.

But as Josh Marshall writes, Republicans are now spinning the fiasco as simply a good faith mistake, rather than a deliberate effort by the Bush administration and its cronies to lie their way into war.

As the GOP has quickly settled into a new consensus that the decision to invade Iraq was – at least in retrospect – a mistake, it has come with a willful amnesia bordering on a whole new generation of deceit about exactly what happened in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. To hear Republican presidential candidates tell it, Americans believed Saddam Hussein had a stockpile of Weapons of Mass Destruction which justified and necessitated the invasion. Since he didn’t, there was no reason to invade. The carnage and collateral effects we’ve seen over the last dozen years only drives home the point: knowing what we know now, the invasion was a mistake. We wouldn’t do it again.

While it’s welcome to see the would-be heirs of President Bush, including his own brother, acknowledging the obvious, this history is such a staggering crock that it’s critical to go back and review what actually happened. Some of this was obvious to anyone who was paying attention. Some was only obvious to reporters covering the story who were steeped in the details. And some was only obvious to government officials who in the nature of things controlled access to information. But in the tightest concentric circle of information, at the White House, it was obviously all a crock at the time.

After summarizing the lies claiming that Saddam possessed a stockpile of nuclear weapons and that he was behind the 9/11 attacks, Marshall writes:

There you have the two pillars of the grand deception: Saddam with nuclear warheads and in active alliance with the reviled figure who had just pulled off a brutal and devastating terror attack on one of America’s biggest cities. Now that both 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq 18 months later have receded somewhat into history and we can see the events of that time with some distance and perspective, it’s no mystery that connecting these two dots would prime the country for almost anything. After all who would want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud?

It is very important to remember that before we invaded, Saddam Hussein actually did allow inspectors back into the country, thus undermining the key argument for following through with the threat of invasion in the first place. But the critical point is that we didn’t invade Iraq because we had “faulty” intelligence that Iraq still had stockpiles of sarin gas. The invasion was justified and sold to the American public on the twin frauds of the Iraq-al Qaeda alliance and the Saddam’s supposedly hidden nuclear program. As much as the White House and the key administration war hawks like Vice President Cheney tried to get the Intelligence Community to buy into these theories, they never did. And to anyone paying attention, certainly anyone reporting on these matters at the time, it was clear at the time this was nonsense and a willful deception.

There was of course still more involved. The White House insisted – over the vociferous disagreement of the Pentagon’s uniformed leadership – that the occupation would be quick and could be managed with a light force. We would, as the painful cliche had it, be greeted as liberators. It is probably true that if the insurgency had never happened and Iraq had become a stable and strong US ally, as predicted, the collapse of the original premise for the invasion would have been largely forgotten. It is the mix of immense costs of the invasion (human and financial) and the chaos in Iraq we are still wrestling with today combined with the collapse of any clear rationale for the invasion in the first place that explains why it remains such a charged and explosive issue even today.

The story we’re hearing today is: Yes, it was a mistake. We wouldn’t do it again knowing what we know now. But we acted on information that just turned out to be wrong. But that is quite simply a crock. The Bush administration was at best in deep denial about the true costs of the invasion. And it lead the country to war based on claims that were quite simply willful deceptions – lies. It may be too much to say that it was obvious to everyone at the time. But to reporters working the story and certainly anyone in the government, it was clear that the White House was involved in a mammoth exaggeration. Only later did it emerge that there was even more willful deception than those following closely realized at the time. Looking back and looking at the time it has always been somewhat difficult to find the bright line where flagrant lying met willful self-deception. But the truth is painful and clear: Iraq wasn’t a good faith mistake. It was a calamity based on lies and willful deceptions. Much of that was clear at the time. It’s all clear now.

And let’s remember that among Jeb Bush’s 21 foreign policy advisors, 17 worked in his brother’s administration, including such stalwart “thinkers” as Paul Wolfowitz, who was wrong about virtually everything having to do with Iraq. These people need to be called out. They were a disaster for the country and the Middle East. Yes, mistakes were made.

In a follow-up post, Marshall, who was closely reporting on the lead-up to the war back in 2002-3, delves further into the Bush administration’s motivations. Just why would they lie their way into war?

On the chaos that engulfed the country not long after the invasion, I think this was much more a matter of extreme negligence and self-deception – but with one exception. The architects of the war knew that equipping the invasion and occupation in a way that would ultimately prove necessary would dramatically up the costs of the endeavor and make it a much tougher sell. So let’s chalk this up to self-interested self-deception and culpable negligence. The key was to get in and make it happen, create a fait accompli. Once that happened there’d be no easy getting out. So the key was simply to get it, create a fact on the ground.

So why did they want to do it? At some level I think it had simply become an idee fixe for many of these people. Because for many of them, when I would have frank conversations with them, they had a difficult time getting past the rationales, even in what I think were off-the-record and unguarded conversations. The real underlying reason, to the extent there was one, was the notion of creating a transformative event, a democratizing wave in the region that would get away from managing and on to ‘solving’ deep and lingering obstacles to American power.

In this sense, chaos wasn’t a problem. It was actually the goal. They just ended up getting a very different kind of chaos from what they expected – not a wave of destabilization pushing out from Iraq and crashing over enemy states in Iran, Syria and even Saudi Arabia but one crashing in on the architects and the US and its military itself. I explored the idea in some depth in this 2003 article in The Washington Monthly, ‘Practice to Deceive’.