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Sun Nov 22, 2015, 03:45 PM

On Bush & Timber [View all]

“The thing that has been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun.” -- Ecclesiastes 1


Two days ago, short upon new reading material, I purchased a copy of Jon Meacham’s new book “The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush: Destiny and Power.” In part, I bought it because of the limited options when I got it; and in part because of some of the anti-Cheney & Rumsfeld information in the book’s reviews. More, in terms of my library, I have a good selection on modern presidents -- including the most toxic of republicans.

As a previous OP about the book on DU:GD accurately noted, the book is largely an exercise in cheerleading. Numerous important dynamics in Bush the Elder’s career are glossed over, at best, or completely ignored. Now, my opinion of this fellow is admittedly low …..but I can be objective enough to say this particular book is largely fluff. Perhaps its greatest value is found in tid-bits of gossip. It’s obvious weakness is it is shallow. Thus, one might question both the author’s intent, in putting this out at a time when Jeb is struggling in the republican primaries? And what impact, if any, it might have on voters? Can a hollow book be important?

The high point in gossip might be on page 291, when an enraged George W. Bush tells Garry Trudeau that he “really wanted to kick your ass” for the comic strip’s brutal humor. It’s good to know that the Bush family was offended by the truth in “Doonesbury.”

Perhaps the single best insight into the potential value of the book comes in a quote from Bush’s diary, durng the 1988 republican primary. It is best understood, I believe, in the fuller context of his loss to Reagan in the 1980 primaries. Bush had felt himself to be far more qualified for the office than Reagan. In fact, Bush holds Reagan in mild contempt: the crest of the newest wave of right-wing nuts, who’s appeal is entirely due to his use of the television.

For eight years of service as vice president, Bush plans his 1988 run. The book provides a thin history of the Iran-Contra scandal. It ignores that Bush’s role should have disqualified him from finishing the term as VP, much less ever serving for president. Yet, the ‘88 campaign was too important for the Bush family: he allowed others to twist in the wind for his actions.

In the 1988 republican primary, Bush found himself running against others, including Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, and Pat Robertson. The personal dislike between Dole and Bush is real -- in fact, Donald Rumsfeld campaigned for Dole. But Bush The Elder’s machine proves capable of defeating the opposition. Kemp attempts to strike a deal to get out of the race, in exchange for a promise of the vice presidency. But he was in no position to make such a request.

Bush realizes that the Dole supporters will fall in line -- for they are republicans. But other things strike him as different. He senses, when Donald Trump communicates that he would “be willing” to serve as VP, that the republican party was at risk of falling apart. What bothered him the most were the Pat Robertson supporters.

These people, he noted, were motivated by religious ideology, rather than political party. They were distinct from the followers of Barry Goldwater, or even Ronald Reagan (although they became a force during Reagan’s terms in office). They were mutants threatening mutiny, if they did not get their own way.

In Kingsport, Tennessee, candidate Bush encountered a Robertson disciple. “Look,” he told her, “this is a political campaign. We’ll be together when it’s over.” But the woman’s hostility towards him did not waver: she refused to shake his outstretched hand -- leaving Bush shaken. That night, he wrote in his diary:

“Still, this staring, glaring ugly -- there’s something terrible about those who carry it to extremes. They’re scary. They’re there for spooky, extraordinary right-wing reasons. They don’t care about Party. They don’t care about anything. They’re the excesses. They could be Nazis, they could be Communists, they could be whatever. In this case, they are religious fanatics, and they’re spooky. They will destroy this party if they’re permitted to take over. There is not enough of them, but this woman reminded me of my John Birch days in Houston. The lights go out and they pass out the ugly literature. Guilt by association. Nastiness. Ugliness. Believing the Trilateral Commission, the conspiracy theories. And I couldn’t tell -- it may not be fair to that one woman, but that’s the problem that Robertson brings to bear on the agenda.” (pages 325-6)

It is not difficult to apply this same thinking to Jeb Bush & Co. today. For the “smart son” is confronted not only by an up-dated version of a Reagan-like campaign -- by a fellow who offered to be his daddy’s VP -- and who is adapt at manipulating social media as the Gipper did TV -- but he also is confronted by the Ben Carson zealot-zombies. Registered republicans who are entrenched in the delusions of their religious belief systems, to the extent that they make a willful effort, each and every day, to deny reality. Indeed, to identify reality as “evil.”

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