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.
But let’s acknowledge that many people do violate immigration laws with noble motives, like trying to improve their family’s financial situation. Unfortunately, much of the world would be better off financially if they relocated to the United States. At least 5 billion people live in countries with lower per capita GDP than Mexico’s, much less the U.S.
Bush is right that there’s not necessarily a conflict between “believing in the rule of law and having some sensitivity to the immigrant experience.” Note the word “necessarily.” At the moment, President Obama is essentially telling House Republicans to enact another immigration amnesty or else. It would be nice to have a presidential candidate who stood up to this sort of thing.
The federal government’s fiduciary duty is to the many people struggling to provide for their families here, a group that is itself disproportionately black and Latino.
The whole Republican platform isn’t negotiable to Bush, however. He is reportedly worried about “neo-isolationism” in the GOP, which he appears to define loosely as non-unanimous Republican support for more wars. He prefers a responsible foreign policy, which is why he speaks at confabs organized by someone who advocates dropping an atomic bomb on Iran — but just out in the desert, where it won’t hurt anybody.
Neither President Bush left the Republican Party in better shape than he found it. They were both succeeded by unified Democratic control of the federal government. In both cases, that control was short-lived — thanks to the Republican landslides of 1994 and 2010 — but you only need so much time to raise taxes or pass Obamacare.
Thank the GOP’s first family for their service. Viewed under a thousand points of light, they’ve done a heckuva job.But somewhere in this kinder, gentler nation there must be an alternative.
Sometimes voting against Bushes is an act of love.
W. James Antle III is the editor of The Daily Caller News Foundation and author of the book Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? Follow him on Twitter.
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