Sunday, January 17, 2016


Jeb Bush can't manage to mount an effective attack against his rivals in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but Ashley Parker of The New York Times says it's not really his fault, because he's a Bush, and the Bushes are just too well bred and mannerly for that sort of thing:
Tennis. Boating. Summers at Walker’s Point.

Life among the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite (or WASPs, in sociological shorthand) was good for a young John Ellis Bush....

But that era of polite and high society ... is fast fading....

Against a frustrated, profoundly un-WASP-like Republican electorate that craves the visceral pugnaciousness of Donald J. Trump or the outsider anger of Senator Ted Cruz, Mr. Bush’s family values -- of cordial restraint, of civil discourse, of earnest public service -- can seem almost quaint.

Mr. Bush tells voters who wonder why he cannot summon Mr. Trump’s TV-friendly fury that he “wasn’t brought up that way.” ...

C. Boyden Gray, who served as White House counsel under the elder Bush, ticked through the code of conduct the Bush dynasty has long embodied: “Civility and good manners were kind of assumed,” he said.

“You would be generous to a loser, you would not boast about your victory, you would be civil during an engagement, but you’d use every trick you had, every skill you had to win,” Mr. Gray continued. “They represented a whole generation of people, and I think a whole way of looking at things has been lost.”
The story goes on like this for 1283 words. Yes, we have C. Boyden Gray saying that using "every trick you had" has always been part of the Bush ethic, and yes, we're told later that the Bush ethic goes back to "earlier eras" in which "the dirty work of politics, when necessary, was handled behind the scenes, or outsourced to aides." But the bulk of the argument is that Bushes just don't do this sort of thing.

Which means there isn't a word about George H.W. Bush's 1988 campaign against Michael Dukakis -- not just the Willie Horton ad, which Bush and allies have always insisted was created by an independent group, but the ad depicting criminals passing in and out of prison through a revolving door, which was created by the Bush campaign, and which dovetailed perfectly with the Horton ad. (Left out of most discussion of this line of attack was the fact that the furlough program was started under a Republican governor who served prior to Dukakis, and the fact that the majority of other states had similar programs.)

No mention is made of H.W. Bush's defense of Dan Quayle's failure to fight in Vietnam -- "he damned sure didn't burn the American flag" -- which was an allusion to a completely unfounded rumor that Dukakis's wife, Kitty, had once burned the flag at an anti-Vietnam War protest.

No mention is made of Poppy Bush's infantile, Trumpian trash talk in the 1992 campaign:
At a midday GOP rally at Macomb Community College, the president unleashed a rhetorical fusillade on Bill Clinton and running mate Sen. Albert Gore Jr., attacking their fitness for office, their character and charging, "My dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos."

In particular, Bush targeted Gore, whom he now calls "Ozone Man," or just plain "Ozone." "You know why I call him Ozone Man?" Bush said. "This guy is so far out in the environmental extreme, we'll be up to our neck in owls and outta work for every American...."
No mention is made of the whispering campaign conducted in South Carolina by George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, which suggested that rival John McCain had fathered a black child (the child was actually an adopted daughter from Bangladesh), and no mention is made of the deceitful Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry on W's behalf in the 2004 campaign, which was ostensibly the work of independent groups but which availed itself of the talents of two Bush campaign staffers, one of whom was Bush's top outside legal counsel. Both ultimately had to resign from the official Bush campaign.

Jeb, in fact, wrote a letter in 2005 praising the work of the Swift Boat attackers, so even he has an appreciation for the nasty work of politics, whether or not he's capable of it himself.

But in any case, the notion that Bush's just don't do this sort of thing is nonsense. The fact that it makes for a tidy narrative is no reason for a New York Times reporter to pretend it's true.


Bob Roth said...

Didn't Romney also suffer from the too nice syndrome? I recall he enjoyed "sport."

Fiddlin Bill said...

The mendacity is so thick with Republicans that it comes in layers, sediment laid down year by year. With the end of any semblance of an "objective mainstream media," there is almost no hope of any significant percentage of the electorate ever seeing reality again--until some day reality actually arrives from the real "outside" and delivers a blow to powerful to be ignored. That "outside" may be the climate, or perhaps some country too powerful to be bullied, or possibly the whole economic system will really fall into a depression. At any rate, the revolution will not be televised, not in the USA.

Victor said...

The Lord and Lady of the castle, and their offspring, never do any dirty work themselves.

The leave that to their minions, sycophants, hangers-on, and wannabe's.

So please, they can't be held responsible for what that riff-raff does.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Lee Atwater taught Bush pere how to fight dirty better than anybody else at the time, mostly by pretending to be coarse, ignorant, and stupid.

Imitating George Wallace, you might say.

Chai T. Ch'uan said...

Believing the narrative that Bushes are above boasting about victory would require averting the eyes from giant banners proclaiming Mission Accomplished and flightsuits with comically large codpieces, and ignoring (almost certainly fabulous) tales told of purloining Geronimo's skull.
Believing the narrative about generosity to a loser would mean ignoring the curled lips mockingly whispering, "Please, don't kill me."

Ten Bears said...

"Why let the facts get in the way of a good narrative?" Really? You, Mr We're Not Having Any "9/11" Talk Around Here?

Yes, Jeb? is the scion of old school blue blooded robber baron nazi financing American aristocracy. And the question is?

History only repeats to those paying attention.

Yastreblyansky said...

His enduring image is of a youthful Mr. Bush “playing tennis in tennis whites” — a white Lacoste shirt, white shorts and canvas sneakers.

“I’ll never forget Jeb kind of stepping back to take a high popper — a kind of lob — and doing an overheard smash that was so loud that it sent the ball down and then up onto the roof behind his opponents,” Mr. Bruner said.

While others remember him selling dope in the dorm and bullying the scrawny and weak at Philips Andover, showing plenty of leadership if your idea of leadership comes from Lord of the Flies. And

"the thing that really struck me about Jeb more than anyone I ever met, is he understood that he was from the world that really counted and the rest of us weren’t. It really was quite a waste of his time to engage us. This was kind of his family high school. There wasn’t anything he could do to be kicked out so he was relaxed about rules, doing the work. This was just his family’s place.”

Aunt Snow said...

Building on Chai T Chu'an's comment - the good manners the Bush family was supposedly raised on didn't take with George W. Bushm either - leaving Senator Max Cleland sitting in the Texas dust, refusing to accept his letter condemning Swift-boating; refusing to meet with a grieving mother. Dubya was petty, churlish, small-minded and insecure. Whatever personal failings led him to being a drunk remained even after he swore off the booze. You can come from a rich family, and still be poor in spirit.

The New York Crank said...

Leaving dirty work to the servants has been a traditional upper class mannerism that goes back at least to the 15th Century. Vlad the Impaler calmly ate lunch and watched while his his underlings threaded poles up the rectums and out of the upper torsos of thousands of his own subjects, the better to scare off the invading Turks.

I don't mean to imply that any of the Bushes would go that far, so don't jump all over me. I'm just saying.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

Roger said...

A movie inciting violence from deranged religious fanatics?

A great talking point!

Innocence of Texans, anyone?