I don’t know about anyone else, but I veered between amusement and amazement as I recently saw Jeb Bush, AKA The Next in Line, in a TV interview and in a printed opinion piece in the Washington Post. The subject of both was Donald Trump, now no longer the presumptive Republican nominee for President, but the official one. The Post editorial had a title: “Donald Trump does not represent the future of the country–or the GOP.” The interview, naturally, had no title, but it if it had, Bush’s incredulous face and mannerisms conveyed it–“I can’t believe they rejected me in favor of this blowhard.”
Now, before I say anything more, I have made it perfectly clear on several occasions that I think Donald Trump is wholly unfit to be President of the United States. On what grounds? Any you would care to discuss, really: intellect, temperament, preparation, etc. He brings nothing to the contest to recommend him. So it might seem that I would agree with Jeb on some of his points. I don’t, except on the tangential matter of Trump’s suitability.
The interview was conducted by Nicole Wallace for MSNBC, but don’t think the network name will tell you the tale. Ms. Wallace is a former employee of Jeb Bush, when the latter was Governor of Florida, and she was not out to “get” him. She was as respectful as you might expect of a former employee of the interview subject, but that tended to put Jeb at his ease (I believe) and say how he really felt about things.
The interview was notable for the aura of vulnerability one could almost see around Jeb. He scoffed at some of the well-known Trumpisms of the campaign (so far) smiling slightly as he ticked off nuggets like a border wall (“There isn’t going to be any border wall, and Mexico isn’t going to pay for one…”) as well as a few others, like deporting all illegals and a ban on Muslims entering the United States, all of which he gave the consideration they deserved, i.e., very little, but light-heartedly, stopping to smile at times. Then he gave the punch line–people are going to be disappointed to find that these were just passing thoughts from der Drumpfster, unrelated to any genuine plans.
Then Jeb wandered a bit off the path to mention that Trump had referred to him (Bush) as “low energy.” He was at pains to deny that this had bothered him, but the very fact that he mentioned it to deny that it bothered him was probably a clue that it did, indeed, bother him–not because of the content of the insult or its frequency, but because it probably was damaging to some extent. So you have the two-term governor of one of the most important swing states for this fall’s election, the brother of one President and the son of another, bothered because this carnival barker had damaged the chances for this patrician, this scion of American royalty, to ascend to the Oval Office, with a junior high type of taunt.
One is tempted toward sympathy. Well, for a moment or two, anyway.
Skip forward a week, and the editorial in the Post comes along further to clarify Jeb’s thinking.
If you read the second paragraph closely, you will see a shining example of what Orwell called “doublethink,” as he states the following:
“While he has no doubt tapped into the anxiety so prevalent in the United States today, I do not believe Donald Trump reflects the principles or inclusive legacy of the Republican party.”
The first clause (before the comma) is not problematic, though it can’t be called “factual.” It’s Bush’s opinion and conclusion, though millions (me included) would agree with it. The second clause, though, is a mind blower. Donald Trump just won the hearts and minds of the Republican party, Jeb. The case can be made without even straining that he does reflect exactly the principles of the Republican party. He promises to repeal “Obamacare,” the favorite project of House Republicans–they’ve voted for exactly that more than 60 times. He opposes a raise in the federal minimum wage. He consults the NRA as to whether there should be any restriction on high-capacity firearm sales to the public. He advocates torture, which after all would represent a return to the policy of Bush-Cheney. He also wants to send more American troops to…well, just about anywhere where there might be someone who doesn’t want America to be “great” again, whatever that may mean to him. He promises to work for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage. Need more? Why? Trump is the poster child for the principles of today’s Republican party!
Inclusive legacy? Pardon me, I have to get up off the floor where I fell while laughing. Inclusive as long as you mean native-born white, Protestants. “Inclusiveness,” for the Republican party, started to go downhill in the campaign of 1968. Richard Nixon may not have invented dog-whistle politics, but he certainly became an avid practitioner, and of late Trump has begun to ape Nixon’s claim to be the “law and order” candidate, despite the fact that there is no rising crime rate or murder rate, both of which rose between 1974 and 1991, then began to taper off. No matter, Trump is today’s standard bearer for those who want “their” country back. No refugees, few immigrants (except models from Eastern Europe), and well-behaved unions. Yes, siree.
Bush goes on, “As much as I reject Donald Trump as our party leader, he did not create the political culture of the United States on his own.” Of course, we can all agree on that. Who can forget the Honorable Mitch McConnell’s statement on election night of 2008 to the effect that it would be his task to see that Barack Obama was a one-term president? Bush goes on to criticize Obama for overreach, and says “a few Republicans” (heh, heh) reacted by trying to “out- polarize” the president, “…making us seem (emphasis mine) anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker, and anti-common sense.” Well. This Obama guy is quite a skilled manipulator, isn’t he? It’s all his fault, you see.
The editorial continues for several more paragraphs, criticizing Hilary Clinton’s foreign policy as “disastrous,” which it might yet be, but more so than the last Republican administration’s? Don’t blame Jeb for not trying to flesh out that case.
The whole editorial should be seen as what it is–a pathetic plea, preparing Jeb’s fellow Republicans in case they do not carry this fall’s election, and keeping his powder dry for another attempt in 2020 at the office he, in his mind, deserves. I might have been more charitable if he had criticized his party for its drift into institutionalized fear, prejudice, and hate, but he didn’t do that. In the end, he did just what the party does: blame everything on Obama, and distort what is really afoot.
Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go out and read this editorial to my flower garden. It’s what Harry Truman famously referred to many years ago as “fertilizer.”