A New Bush and an Old McCain Will Represent the Past in 2015

A New Bush and an Old McCain Will Represent the Past in 2015

It looks very much like 2015 will see a new Bush coming out and an angry old McCain coming back. From the looks of it, John McCain plans to take full advantage of Republican control of the Senate to restore his oft-tarnished legacy at the expensive of our president, while Jeb Bush is apparently more than posturing and figures to do the same for the Bush family name.

Bush and McCain both present themselves as moderates in a party of extremists, and their own extremism does seem to get a bit lost in a glare of all that madness. There are certainly men and woman more extreme than them.

But that doesn’t change the fact that neither man would sit comfortably with the label of a pre-Goldwater Republican, let alone an Eisenhower. In fact, McCain’s exuberance where the use of American muscle is concerned reminds one of Goldwater’s desire to “defoliate Vietnam with nuclear weapons.” (Lyndon Johnson may have seemed thuggish to some, but he was a thug we were lucky to have.)

According to CNN, “John McCain is still angry.” Well, nothing new there, right? But soon, he’ll have the power he has lacked in recent years, “and an old enemy, President Barack Obama, is already in his sights.”

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As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain will hold the White House to account for what he sees as a feckless foreign policy that has enabled “genocide” in Syria, left “evil” to fill a leadership vacuum elsewhere and splintered America’s moral example around the world.

But you can’t help but get the sense that McCain is being a little petulant and whiny because the president has been ignoring his repeated calls for war with this country or that, for a deeper involvement in Syria’s civil war, for not getting “all up” in Putin’s face.

According to McCain, we are facing a “vacuum created by the lack of American leadership which has been filled in by evil influences.”

He and I are remembering the last six years very differently. And I suspect I am far more representative of how Americans feel about Obama’s foreign policy than McCain.

Where Syria is concerned, McCain lamented that,

We are watching one of the great episodes of genocide certainly in our century. Two hundred thousand people dead, 3.5 million refugees, 150,000 still languishing in (Syrian leader) Bashar al-Assad’s prisons.

Though this is a far lower list of woes than the Iraq War McCain voted for and supported, he asserts that, “We have basically sat by and done very little … what we are doing is not only unworkable, it’s immoral.”

Apparently, the U.S. waging war on somebody – not just carrying a big stick but using it – is the only thing McCain thinks the world understands. You get the idea that if McCain doesn’t understand Obama – and he clearly doesn’t – he also doesn’t understand the value of diplomacy.

McCain is a cold warrior in a post-cold war world. And he doesn’t sit comfortably in a position of power.

Meanwhile, the GOP has a new darling they hope can save them from the specter of Hilary Clinton, at least if a new CNN/ORC poll can be trusted, and that is Jeb Bush, with CNN telling us that “Former governor Jeb Bush is the front runner in a poll of GOP candidates for the 2016 presidential race.”

Readily apparent in the new poll is the dropping stock of Chris Christie:


Of course, we remember how Jeb’s announcement flopped on Facebook and how, even before that, he was booed by conservatives who think he’s not extreme enough.

We would do well to remember, despite the opinion of these conservatives, that that Bush is no moderate, and no more trustworthy than any Republican is expected to be:

At the same time, he seems to be positioning himself to be, in competition with the wiley Rand Paul, of course, the GOP’s “obligatory sane candidate” by saying things like “Reagan would not win in today’s GOP.” This is true. But this is more a case of Bush trying to disguise his own post-Reagan extremism, which would be a lot more obvious if the world weren’t filled with the likes of Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry and, well, you get the idea.

Which is why we found Nate Silver asking earlier this month if Jeb Bush is too liberal to win the Republican nomination in 2016, observing that “Bush is not especially moderate by the standard of recent GOP nominees.” On Silver’s scale, in fact, McCain scored a 39 to Bush’s 37, making McCain slightly more conservative than Bush.

As Joe Hagan wrote at New York Magazine in 2012, Jeb Bush has a “complicated legacy” and that is certainly true. He will be violently opposed by the Religious Right, though it would not be surprising to see him moving further right, as Romney did, to attract their votes, while he will be the darling of the establishment, simply because he doesn’t come across as a loon every time he opens his mouth.

And if he wins the primary, he will be fighting not only against his Democrat opponent but against the memory of his brother, who led our country to ruin. McCain will be a living reminder of his brother’s legacy, a clueless hawk who, as he gets older, sometimes sounds like the pragmatic Obama and sometimes like Rick Perry. Americans were glad to get out of the two wars Jeb’s brother started and McCain supported, eager to bring our troops home when McCain wanted them to stay.

These men want to make 2015 about them, and Democrats should be more than happy to grant their wishes, because we certainly have a great many questions for them, questions we would like answered, and with the release of the torture report, probably more questions than either man would like to answer. Bush and McCain are a conversation America should have, and the sooner the better.

If Democrats frame the narrative right, I’ve got a feeling the past might get to be just a bit more uncomfortable for them than either gentleman would like to think. After all, there’s a reason Republicans have spent the past six years pretending George W. Bush never existed.

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