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Jeb Bush, Obama’s EPA nominee, and the tie to Republican moderation.
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“We were on a roller coaster, exciting and thrilling, ups and downs. But the ride ends. And then you get off. And it’s not like, oh, can’t we be on a roller coaster the rest of our life? It’s like, no, the ride’s over.”
Moderate Republicanism is all about the ride. “It’s a hell of a ride” (Bush) and “a roller coaster, exciting and thrilling, ups and downs. But the ride ends. And then you get off” (Romney).
It’s the ride. The process — not the principles.
Bush 41’s “hell of a ride” process included appointing people like David Souter to the Supreme Court (because he was so low profile he was confirmable as opposed to a conservative) and, less remembered yet perhaps more telling: John Frohnmayer as head of the National Endowment for the Arts. Both of these men were Gina McCarthy-style appointees. Souter, a one-time New Hampshire Republican pushed by liberal New Hampshire Republican Senator Warren Rudman and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu, an ex-New Hampshire governor (and last year a big Romney backer), is now known as one of the Court’s most liberal Justices. Frohnmayer is less remembered. But as Podhoretz points out in vivid detail, Frohnmayer was a “liberal Republican concerned about his reputation in Democratic circles, someone who had everything to lose by siding with the outspoken members of his own party and every thing to gain by siding implicitly or explicitly with his own political opposition.” All of which led the Bush NEA leader to race quickly away from conservatives and embrace the liberal Establishment politically correct line of the day on the arts. The Bush government-backed film Poison, championed by Frohnmayer, was recalled almost twenty years later in the New York Times as “the inciting spark for what came to be known as the New Queer Cinema.” Now there’s a conservative legacy.
Like Romney appointing Gina McCarthy, Bush’s appointments of Souter and Frohnmayer were heedless of ideology. The ideology that had elected him president by a landslide in 1988 as Ronald Reagan’s heir. It was the last landslide victory for any GOP presidential candidate. In a nutshell, it explains why every GOP candidate from Bush’s 1992 re-election race to Romney’s 2012 defeat, Bush 43’s by-the-skin-of-his-teeth-wins included, have played out as they have. When moderates complain that five out of six of the last batch of GOP nominees have lost the popular vote — they never get around to mentioning all of them were moderates like Bush 41 in 1992 and Romney in 2012.
Both these men are good and decent men. But both, in their own fashion, have captured what lies at the core of GOP moderates: it’s all about the ride. The process. Not being seen — for reasons as much social as political in the Ruling Class — as “too extreme.” When it came time for Bush’s farewell address to be written, Podhoretz writes that Bush instructed “none of this right-wing agenda stuff.” In the end, no speech was given.
Why is any of this important now?
Over at Commentary magazine, where John Podhoretz the Older reigns today, former Bush 43 aides Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner have penned an article titled “How to Save the Republican Party.” And over at the Washington Post Jennifer Rubin, the Beltway champion of moderate Republicanism who spent last year insisting only Romney could win, advises that “It is time to get out of the 1980s and into the 21st century.”
Which is to say, this is Rubin’s unsubtle way of saying “dump Reagan.”
But of course. Apparently 11 out of 11 losses by moderate Republicans just isn’t enough for Rubin. Let’s all step on the roller coaster and have another content-free hell of a ride! Why learn anything from the guy who won the presidency twice in a landslide? Let’s listen to all the losers!
The ex-Bushies at Commentary, meanwhile, insist “the Republican Party is in trouble.”
And then the two go on to outline precisely what not to do.
First, they begin by acknowledging that the GOP “in 2010 gained an epic midterm electoral victory.” But yet, in 2012, mysteriously, “Obama won going away.” How could this be?
One can only ask the obvious? Which campaign — 2010 or 2012 — had more in common with the Reagan victories? Which campaign produced candidates that boldly challenged the notion that, as Reagan himself insisted, “a political party is not a fraternal order. A party is something where people are bound together by a shared philosophy.”
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