First came The Donald. Speaking to a friendly audience of Teabaggers at a "Freedom Summit" sponsored by Citizens United and Americans For Prosperity, all was going swimmingly. The routine Obamacare-bashing drew enthusiastic cheers from the partisan crowd, basking in the self-stroking reassurance of its own derangement.
But then, the name was dropped:
When Trump mentioned former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who has been mentioned as a possible moderate Republican presidential candidate, the audience loudly booed and groaned. The boos crescendoed when he mentioned Bush's comment that people who illegally immigrated to the United States may have “broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love.”After this reception, Business Insider went so far as to characterize Bush as conservatives' "Public Enemy #1:"
One attendee named Sue, who didn't want to provide her last name, said Bush's problems go far beyond his most recognizable obstacle — his last name.Greg Sargent believes Bush's statements expressing sympathy for undocumented immigrants amount to a moral challenge to the GOP base to change their position. How a party that hasn't demonstrated morality on any issue in recent memory will respond to a "moral challenge" is left to our imagination, but the Tea Party's track record doesn't suggest any move towards inclusiveness is imminent. It's not only Bush's moderate stance on immigration, though, that is creating heartburn for him, but his support for Common Core standards, a relatively recent flashpoint for conservative ire:
"You look at some of his positions and you say, 'He just doesn't really seem in step with us,'" she said.
Bush didn't get directly slammed for his support of the Common Core standards, but it was clear his stance on the issue will be a problem come 2016. Almost every speaker mentioned Common Core at the Freedom Summit. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the other leading GOP presidential hopeful at the summit, said the standards should be repealed.It appears that Jeb Bush is rapidly discovering exactly what the Republican Party has transformed into in the last six years:
“He’s pro-amnesty, pro-Common Core, pro-Big Business & he wants to be president,” Michelle Malkin tweeted on Monday. On NewsMax TV, former Rep. Allen West called Bush an “elitist” and said his immigration comments were “disrespectful to the American people.” And national radio talk show host Mark Levin has called the prospect of another Bush presidency “extremely unhealthy for the Republic.”As reported here, Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard has already preemptively declared Bush will not run. It now looks like the Standard is doubling down, calling out those who are pushing for a Jeb candidacy as hazardous to the GOP's health:
[C]ertain Republican party donors have come to believe there exists a widespread nostalgia for the Bush era. They are urging Jeb Bush, the ex-president’s younger brother and the former governor of Florida, to explore a presidential campaign. They are nuts.The Standard's Christopher Caldwell ticks off all of the reasons wealthy donors have lately fixated on a Bush Candidacy, and finds them chimerical:
Jeb Bush’s Mexican wife, his record of promoting Hispanics and his one-time tally of 61 per cent of the Latino vote have all piqued the interest of Republican strategists. But he cannot replicate these numbers nationally. An ABC News/Washington Post poll taken in March found 48 per cent of voters would “definitely not vote for him” under any circumstances. There is no reason to believe they are playing coy. Bush would need to get 96 per cent of the undecided vote to win.But even Caldwell acknowledges the real albatross hanging over Jeb's candidacy can be summed up in four letters: "B U S H."
Certain Bush advisers have crowed to the newspapers that the likely candidacy of Hillary Clinton, the wife of a former president, would neutralise popular resentment of Bush’s privileged family background. But there is a difference. Hillary has an approval rating well over 50 per cent. Americans remember Bill Clinton’s administration fondly. They look on the elder George Bush as a failed president, and the younger George W. Bush as a catastrophic one.Howard Kurtz wryly notes in a column for Fox News that Bush already appears to have lost the "Conservative Pundit primary," having been roundly criticized by the likes of Jonah Goldberg, Charles Krauthammer and Rush Limbaugh for his statements on immigration. Kurtz believes that Jeb may have been deliberately testing the waters by amplifying views that he knew would risk antipathy among the Republican base:
Here, according to my handy-dandy pundit psychoanalyzing machine, is the subtext of his comments.Well, they always said he was the smarter one.
So you think you want another Bush on the ticket? You’d be getting a guy who believes in compassion for illegal immigrants. I’m not going to play the self-deportation pandering game. Message: I care, as my dad used to say. You’re also getting a guy who believes in education reform, including Common Core, the program that Republicans love to hate. If I do this, I’m going to run a hopeful campaign, not a slash-and-burn operation. And if you don’t want me, fine. I don’t need this gig.
If I’m right, this was a rather shrewd testing of the waters by a man who recognizes the steep obstacles to his candidacy.
The ever-acerbic Maureen Dowd is also shaking her head in dismay:
Jeb thinks Republicans have lost their way. He may soon learn that a lot of conservatives think they have found their way — and it's not the joyful, loving, government-can-be-a-force-for-good way. It's the mean, cruel, gut-the-government way.Whether or not Jeb Bush manages to mollify a Republican base virulently out of step with the rest of the country, the fact is that Democrats couldn't ask for a better opportunity to remind the public--over and over again--of the pain and damage that eight years of his brother's malfeasance wreaked on all of us. It would also have the virtue of being a good history lesson for a younger demographic grown perhaps too accustomed to living with a President who actually cares about the American people. While for Jeb, the entire tortuous campaign would be spent explaining--over and over again--point after point, policy after policy--why he wouldn't be following his brother's lead. With two failed wars and the near-complete destruction of the economy to work with, Dick Cheney himself couldn't have devised a more debilitating form of political torture.
When this crowd thinks of A Thousand Points of Light, they're thinking of torches as they march toward the Capitol.
What was it that Dubya said?
"Bring It On!"