I respectfully submit that former President Bush is not the right man to decide what is and what is not a valid (much less an “absurd”) conservative criticism. Every single time one of these McCain backers attacks his conservative critics, it delays the time when those critics feel comfortable coming around to feeling any enthusiasm for the man — especially when the attacker was the man who did as much as anybody to subvert the conservative movement in favor of the old-style establishmentarian nonsense. I still well remember a Fred Barnes column (I have it on hard copy, but not electronically) from November or early December of 1988 in which he reported the long and vindictive memories of the people who organized the first Bush administration. Barnes said there was a clear hierarchy to who would get jobs under Bush 41: First, those who had been with Bush back in 1980 (against Reagan); then ones who had joined the Bush orbit (not the Reagan/Bush one) in the eight intervening years; then those who were strongly with Bush in 1988, and only then would Reaganites who had stayed neutral in 1988 get considered. In other words, even though Reagan saved Bush’s career from the scrap heap and even though Bush won the GOP race in 1988 in large part because of what seemed a tacit endorsement from Reagan, the Bush administration would still hold it against those who eight long years ago had supported the Gipper.
Worse, Bush then governed almost like the second coming of Gerald Ford. His lips lied. He denigrated “the vision thing.” He marginalized domestic policy thinkers in his administration such as Jim Pinkerton. And he almost fumbled, terribly, the opportunity to put the nail in the Soviet coffin, even going so far as to refuse to receive the then-rising, clearly anti-Communist Boris Yeltsin. And so on, leading directly into his pathetic loss to an already damaged Bill Clinton who seemd anything like a juggernaut at the time.
So the elder Bush says he “gets a little annoyed” about conservative criticisms of McCain. Some of us still get annoyed about how the elder Bush betrayed all those who got over their doubts about him and supported him as Reagan’s natural heir, only to find that he was anything but.