A popular online dictionary offers four definitions for the word “bushed.”
The first is “overgrown with bushes.” The second is “exhausted, tired out.” The third is a Canadian colloquialism meaning “mentally unbalanced as a result of prolonged residence in a sparsely inhabited region.”
Each of these definitions seems to describe the Republican Party’s feeling about the Bush family. If that’s not true and the GOP nominates Jeb Bush for president — the third Bush since 1988 — then perhaps the fourth definition applies: “unable to find one’s direction; lost; confused.”
There’s a case to be made that George H.W. Bush is an underrated president, especially compared to the mediocrities and worse who have occupied the White House in recent years. In fact, I’ve made that case. But Bush 41, like Richard Nixon, mostly combined shrewd foreign-policy dealings with liberal domestic policy achievements.
It’s no accident that a recent New York Times reappraisal of Papa Bush’s single term in office mostly features Democrats — and a longtime Bush family employee — singing his praises.
George W. Bush promoted some conservative domestic policies, though they were largely the right-wing equivalent of school uniforms and midnight basketball. His tax cuts and pro-life initiatives were coupled with massive federal spending, including the biggest new entitlement program since LBJ. And of course his Iraq war was a a blunder that derailed his presidency.
Jeb Bush seems like a nice, even smart, enough guy. But if he runs for president, he looks like he will campaign on his father’s domestic policy and his brother’s foreign policy. Jeb also favors the immigration policy of both previous Bushes. His father signed a bill increasing legal immigration by 40 percent. His brother tried very hard to pass an amnesty.
How else can one explain the former Florida governor’s predilection for riling conservatives even before the primaries? Standard GOP operating procedure since Nixon has been to run to the right in the primaries and then tack back to the center in the general. At least give Jeb Bush this much credit: perhaps he respects conservatives too much to try to fool them.
Jeb’s Common Core advocacy is also squarely within the Bush family tradition. His father championed a forerunner of the Clinton education initiative Goals 2000. His brother gave us No Child Left Behind.
Both policies ended up increasing federal spending and growing the Department of Education, a Cabinet-level agency that Ronald Reagan and even Bob Dole pledged to abolish. Is our Republicans learning?
The latest heir of the Bush dynasty has also informed us that illegal immigration is an “act of love.” Jose Ernesto Medellin, the rapist and murderer at the heart of a Supreme Court case argued by Ted Cruz, wasn’t motivated by love, to cite just one example.