Jeb’s Quiet Wingnutty Past: Why He Has to Distance Himself from...Himself

One of the more amusing aspects of he Republican establishment’s quest to anoint Jeb Bush as the “moderate” candidate who can bring all sides together is that the poor man is going to have to walk a tightrope made of dental floss over the next year or so — as he attempts to obscure his wingnutty past from the donor class, without alienating the right wingers he needs to vote for him. Managing these two competing constituencies is a difficult task for all the GOP presidential hopefuls, but Bush’s is perhaps the toughest.


There has been a lot of talk about how he will have to find a way to adequately explain his support for immigration reform and the Common Core education curriculum to the base, which loathes those two programs with a fervor they usually reserve for gay marriage and arugula. He seems to be picking his way through that and we’ll see soon enough if he still has the political chops he developed as Governor of Florida to successfully dogwhistle the base while offering a sheen of “reasonableness” that will keep the political press onboard the establishment train. Those issues will be in contrast with his almost maniacal adherence to the social conservative agenda in the Schiavo case and if he plays his cards right it’s possible he could neutralize his heresies. It will take skill and cunning he hasn’t heretofore demonstrated but you never know.

Where Bush has a more serious problem is in foreign policy and national security.  Some of the reasons for that are more obvious than others. The most glaring, of course, is the fact that he’s George W. Bush’s brother. Despite what people say, W never lost the base of the party — that 28% approval rating he had at the end were the bitter-enders who loved him for his big swinging swagger. But he was unpopular with the very people the Big Money Boyz are banking on getting behind Jeb: independents and moderate Republicans. Aside from the obvious fact that Jeb doesn’t want to run against his own brother’s policies, he will have a big problem with the base if he strays too far from the right’s blood-thirsty foreign policy orthodoxy. But if he tacks too close a whole lot of normal Americans will instinctively recoil.

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