Jeb Bush 2016

The Ben Carson Show (Passing)

“I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary, and it has become what is scientifically, politically correct.” (Dr. Ben Carson, 2012)

The Ben Carson phenomenon might well be passing; having emerged as a social conservative frontrunner, displacing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker out of the race, as well as the perennial Pennsylvania tantrum otherwise known as Rick Santorum, and comic relief upstart Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, both of whom should consider following the Cowardly Badger off the field.

It was only two weeks ago that Rich Lowry toddled over from his corner at National Review to explain for Politico why Dr. Carson is “the superior outsider”.

Carson’s rise suggests that it’s possible to catch the populist wave roiling Republican politics and yet not be an obnoxious braggart who abuses anyone who crosses him and will say or do anything as long as he’s getting attention. Ben Carson is a superior outsider to Donald Trump.

He is more gentlemanly and more conservative, with a more compelling life story. Carson is a man of faith who, despite his manifest accomplishments, has a quiet dignity and winsome modesty about him. Ben Carson is a throwback, whereas Donald Trump is a bold-faced name straight out of our swinish celebrity culture.

Then again, this is the same Rich Lowry who wrote the now-obscure rave review of Sarah Palin’s 2008 vice presidential debate performance, and we needn’t wonder why the National Review editor would rather that one be hard to find. And there is, of course, a reason we note Mr. Lowry’s poor judgment.

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The Marco Rubio Show (Gaffe Rig)

Marco Rubio: A New American Century

There are so many places to go and bizarre spectacles to see, but for the moment these paragraphs from Steve Benen ought to be devastating:

Rubio, a member of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, is basing much of his campaign on his alleged expertise on international affairs. The far-right Floridian would love nothing more than to be seen as the candidate who has a “deep understanding” of “the threats that the world is facing.”

But Rubio has run into Trump-like problems of his own. Just last week, in a big speech on foreign policy, the GOP senator told an embarrassing whopper about military preparedness, touching on an issue Rubio should have understood far better.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., arrives for the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)In June, Rubio was asked about his approach towards Iraq. Told that his policy sounds like nation-building, the senator responded, “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

Just this year, Rubio has flubbed the details of Iran’s Green Revolution. His criticisms on the Obama administration’s approach towards Israel were quickly discredited as nonsense. His statements of nuclear diplomacy were practically gibberish.

In the spring, Rubio had a memorable confrontation with Secretary of State John Kerry, which was a debacle – the senator stumbled badly on several key details, and Kerry made him look pretty foolish.

Soon after, Rhonda Swan, a Florida-based journalist, wrote that the Republican senator “should be embarrassed.” Swan added, “By his own standard that the next president have a ‘clear view of what’s happening in the world’ and a ‘practical plan for how to engage America in global affairs,’ Rubio fails the test.”

What’s more, as readers may recall, when Rubio has tried to articulate a substantive vision, he’s relied a little too heavily on shallow, bumper-sticker-style sloganeering, rather than actual policy measures. Rubio declared “our strategy” on national security should mirror Liam Neeson’s catchphrase in the film “Taken”: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.”

Soon after, the candidate’s team unveiled the “Rubio Doctrine”, described by Charles Pierce as “three banalities strung together in such a way as to sound profound and to say nothing.”

And yet the narrative leads with Donald Trump.

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The Marco Rubio Show (Fadeout)

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) listens to a question at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, 13 May 2015. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

One of the interesting things about the Trumpapalooza going on in the GOP nomination contest has to do with the cover lesser candidates are getting. Then again, this is the GOP nomination contest, so taking cover from seemingly inevitable flak has its drawbacks; rhetorical martyrdom is the way to score points with the conservative base, so perhaps Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was hoping for louder criticism:

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio sounded the alarm about the state of U.S. armed forces in a foreign-policy speech today. But his claims and campaign promises don’t account for the impact of improvements in U.S. military technology or in some cases their production schedule.

Rubio, a Florida senator, said the U.S. Navy is “now smaller than at any time since before World War I” and the Air Force “has the smallest and oldest combat force in its history.”

Yet the numbers of ships and planes don’t define U.S. military capabilities.

Mike Dorning and John Walcott of Bloomberg Politics consider the issue, and let us simply pause for a moment to appreciate the magnitude of Mr. Rubio’s utter stupidity.

When Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made the same argument — that the U.S. Navy is smaller than at any time since 1917 — during a 2012 campaign debate, President Barack Obama responded with a mocking rejoinder.

“We also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed,” Obama said. “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

Yes, really. Mr. Rubio hoped to get attention by recycling a damaging argumentative failure from Mitt Romney’s disastrous 2012 presidential campaign.

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The Donald Trump Show (Un-Obama)

Donald Trump pauses during a speech while making a surprise appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., Thursday, 10 February 2011. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

This really is putting the cart before the horse, as excerpts go―

Trump is likely to have a tough time getting the Republican nomination. Back in 2000, John McCain had exactly the right message after Bill Clinton: straight talk. But conservatives didn’t trust McCain. McCain had challenged conservatives’ ascendancy over the Republican Party, so conservatives rallied behind George W. Bush. And ran a vicious campaign in the South Carolina primary to stop McCain.

Now another Bush is trying to stop the frontrunner by attacking his conservative credentials. “Mr. Trump doesn’t have a proven conservative record,” Jeb Bush charged last week. “People will vote for a proven conservative leader.” Bush is going to have to get a lot tougher than that. The Bush family proved in 1988 and 2000 that they can get pretty nasty.

Trump offers decisiveness, which is something a lot of voters are missing in President Obama. That’s why Trump has acquired a following. But brashness and boorishness come with the package, and that will make it tough for Trump to expand his following. Most voters find those qualities repugnant. And unpresidential. Too much unlike Obama.

―but the path Bill Schneider forges to that reach conclusion really is worth the time to read.

He makes a reasonable point.

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Image note: Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., Thursday, 10 February 2011. (Detail of photo by Gage Skidmore)

Schneider, Bill. “The Un-Obama”. The Huffington Post. 23 August 2015.

The Jeb Bush Show (Seriously Inadequate)

Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush waits for his introduction at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, 7 March 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

Consider, please, that while Donald Trump managed to get into a stupid fight with Rick Perry and win, this is actually about Jeb Bush:

Almost immediately after Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) military service, Republican officials denounced the criticism in a specific way. “There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably,” the Republican National Committee said in an official statement.

The problem, of course, is that Republicans appear to apply that principle selectively. In 2004, John Kerry faced ridiculous lies about his heroic military service, and at the time, GOP leaders saw great political value in smearing a decorated war veteran.

Take Jeb Bush, for example. In January 2005, the day before his brother’s second inaugural, the Florida governor wrote a letter to the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” ringleader, expressing his appreciation for the smear campaign. Celebrating the “Swifties,” as Jeb Bush called them, the Republican wrote to retired Col. Bud Day, “Please let them know that I am personally appreciative of their service to our nation. As someone who truly understands the risk of standing up for something, I simply cannot express in words how much I value their willingness to stand up against John Kerry.”

In this case, “stand up to” was apparently a euphemism for “tell lies about.”

(Benen)

And while we might refer to the former Florida governor by his derisive title as the Serious Clown, the question remains as to why anybody thought Mr. Bush was a serious candidate. Maybe he needs another do-over.

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The Donald Trump Show (Coattails and Kid Gloves)

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in New York City, New York, 16 June 2015.  (Photo: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

Why is it always Donald, Donald, Donald?

Over at The Hill, it seems a fine way to spend a weekend:

Oh, yeah …: The Hill staff offer an overview of the Sunday interview shows, including notes about Donald on Trump, Lindsey on Trump, Carly trying to hop on Trump’s coattails, and a strange reminder that former U.S. Senator Jim Webb is running for the Democratic nomination.

Speaking of Sunday shows: Mark Hensch reports on Meet the Press attempting to consider a nexus of ideas: Donald Trump and flip-flop.

Imagine that: And Alexander Bolton explains why the obvious advice for Jeb Bush is to “walk a fine line” in dealing with the Donald, or, as the headline has it, “Treat trump with kid gloves”.

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Image note: Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in New York City, New York, 16 June 2015. (Photo: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

The Jeb Bush Show (Radical Restructure Remix)

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waits in a hallway after a campaign event Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Henderson, Nev. (Photo by John Locher/AP)

“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours.”

Jeb Bush

This is an occasion when it is instructive to read past the superficial narrative. True, this is another occasion on which Mr. Bush required a do-overα, and the line really didn’t sound all that good. Still, though, the rebound was good enough to get Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)―the ostenisble House GOP budget wonk and former vice-presidential nominee―onboard. And even Democratic-sympathizing pundits and politicians alike can find a reason to go with the later iteration; to wit, Steve Benen:

For what it’s worth, the Florida Republican, not long after his interview, clarified that his comments were about part-time vs. full-time employment. The Washington Post reported Bush saying, “You can take it out of context all you want, but high-sustained growth means that people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours and that by our success, they have money, disposable income for their families to decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in line and being dependent on government.”

As a matter of Economics 101, Bush’s broader points have at least some technical merit. When an economy has more full-time workers, it means more economic activity. When employees work more hours, it means more output and greater growth. None of this is controversial.

The problem with Bush’s rhetoric, however, is the real-world implications, and the degree to which he fails to understand the issue.

For example, the Republican candidate, who made $5.8 million in “consulting and speaking” income in 2013, makes it sound as if sluggish economic growth is your fault – you’re just not working enough hours. In reality, however, full-time employment is soaring when compared to part-time employment, and Americans are already working, on average, 47-hour weeks.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-VT), running for the Democratic nomination, is also willing to follow that course.

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The Jeb Bush Show (Fancy & Shame)

Republican U.S. presidential hopeful and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush waves after he spoke during the 'Road to Majority' conference June 19, 2015, in Washington, DC. Conservatives gathered at the annual event held by the Faith & Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America. (Detail of photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It would seem we were not the only ones who noticed.

Matthew Yglesias looked into the Jeb Bush’s suggestion of four percent GDP growth:

But 4 percent is not really a round number. The US economy grew faster than 2 percent in 2014, 2013, and 2012 and is projected by most economists to grow faster than 2 percent in 2015. Economists surveyed by the Associated Press, Politico, and the New York Times all doubted that 4 percent growth was achievable.

Wednesday, speaking in Iowa, Jeb defended the 4 percent target on the grounds that “aspirational goals” are important in politics.

According to James Glassman, Bush originally selected this goal at random, backed by zero substantive analysis of any kind:

That ambitious goal was first raised as Bush and other advisers to the George W. Bush Institute discussed a distinctive economic program the organization could promote, recalled James Glassman, then the institute’s executive director.

“Even if we don’t make 4 percent it would be nice to grow at 3 or 3.5,” said Glassman, now a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In that conference call, “we were looking for a niche and Jeb in that very laconic way said, ‘four percent growth.’ It was obvious to everybody that this was a very good idea.”

No, really, is there any telling that doesn’t make the story sound incredibly stupid? As Howard Schneider and Steve Holland explained for Reuters, “Asked by Reuters during a campaign-style stop in New Hampshire on Thursday how he had arrived at the figure, Bush said: ‘It’s a nice round number. It’s double the growth that we are growing at. It’s not just an aspiration. It’s doable.'”

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The Jeb Bush Show (Launching the Light Fantastic)

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signs autographs from the window of a food truck afterhe formally announced that he would join the race for president with a speech at Miami Dade college, Monday, June 15, 2015, in Miami.  (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

“It depends how radically Mr. Bush plans to restructure the economy.”

John Cochrane

Okay, work with me, here: If we bear in mind that a writer should always accommodate the intended audience, then what are we supposed to think about articles like “6 takeaways from Bush’s launch” by Niall Stanage of The Hill, which actually does, in fact, feature a sentence that reads, “Here are six takeaways from a positive day for the Bush campaign”?

To the other―

Jeb Bush had a lot riding on his official presidential launch on Monday.

Stumbles over the last few months have stripped the sense that the former Florida governor is the front-runner for the Republican nomination next year.

Bush has looked rusty at times on the campaign trail, and a reshuffling of his campaign team just last week highlighted the sense that he needs to get his candidacy in order. But the professionalism of Monday’s launch is likely to calm the nerves of some early Bush backers disconcerted by the early missteps.

Here are six takeaways from a positive day for the Bush campaign.

―it really is a pretty good primer, and carries the metavalue of aptly demonstrating the lowered expectations permeating the GOP’s 2016 nomination contest.

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Madness for a New American Century

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announces his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on 13 April 2015.  (AP Photo)

Trevor Timm for The Guardian:

The New York Times detailed many of the Republican candidates’ nebulous “criticisms” of the Obama administration, most of which assume a fantasy world in which Obama is not sending the US military to fight Isis at all, even though he’s authorized thousands of airstrikes per month in both Iraq and Syria. Most of the candidates, while competing with each other over who can sound more “muscular” and “tough”, are too cowardly to overtly call for what they likely actually want: another ground war in the Middle East involving tens of thousands of US troops.Project for the New American Century

The vague, bullshitt-y statements made by Republican candidates would be hilarious if it wasn’t possible that they’ll lead to more American soldiers dying in the coming years. “Restrain them, tighten the noose, and then taking them out is the strategy” is Jeb Bush’s hot take on Isis. Thanks, Jeb – I can’t believe the Obama administration hasn’t thought of that! Marco Rubio’s “solution” is even more embarrassing: according to The Times, he responded to a question about what he would do differently – and this is real – by quoting from the movie Taken: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.”

Rubio has also called for “strategic overhaul”, but his radical plan seems to be virtually indistinguishable from what the Obama administration is actually doing – yet another sign that Republicans tend to live in a fantasy land where Obama is an anti-war president rather than someone who has bombed more countries than his Republican predecessor. (That is not a compliment, by the way.)

This is one of those things where we won’t be able to say we weren’t warned. Consider that Mr. Rubio’s campaign slogan is “A New American Century”.

Just think about that for a moment.

They really are promising us a war.

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Image Note: Top ― Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announces his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on 13 April 2015. (AP Photo) Right ― Logo of the Project for the New American Century.

Timm, Trevor. “Republicans’ ‘plans’ for Isis would drag us into Iraq for another ground war”. The Guardian. 27 May 2015.

SourceWatch. “Project for the New American Century”. 19 February 2012.