In a snapshot? Jeb Bush and John McCain have just illustrated exactly why Donald Trump is surging in the polls.
The other day, Governor Bush came out four square for lobbyist reform. As reported in the Hill:
Bush called for three reforms: 1) broadening the official definition of lobbyist to include ambiguous work such as “government relations”; 2) increasing lobbying disclosure from quarterly to weekly; and 3) extending the lobbying “cooling off” period to six years for former members of Congress. He also pledged to limit lobbying of his White House by former administration officials.
But back in January? Here’s the headline from Politico:
Jeb Bush courts D.C. lobbyists: His allies are being asked to raise $50,000 each for the likely 2016 hopeful.
Among other things the article reports:
Jeb Bush’s wooing of Washington has officially begun.
The former Florida governor held two meetings with association executives and lobbyists Tuesday at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors headquarters, outlining his thinking about running for president and taking questions from veteran GOP operatives.
Bush is expected to hold a similar meeting Wednesday with another group of Republican allies. He is slated to return to Washington in February as part of 60 fundraisers across the country his team has planned.…
Bush recently launched a leadership political action committee and a super PAC, both of which were mentioned at the meetings. Invitations to the confabs included a request for $5,000. Supporters are being asked to contribute $5,000 each and to raise $50,000, according to several sources.…
More than 30 association executives attended the Bush meeting at the NAW headquarters.
So on the one hand, in July Governor Bush is saying he’s all for lobbying reform. But in January — a mere seven months ago — there is the self-same Jeb Bush hat-in-hand to Washington lobbyists asking them to pony up $5,000 personally while raising $50,000 for him.
Does the disconnect here ever cross Bush’s mind? Does he even know — one suspects he does, but who knows — that his proposed “reforms” have more holes than Swiss cheese? To say, for example, that a Member of Congress can’t lobby for six years after leaving office ignores the reality that a lobbying firm will simply hire the ex-Member, give him a desk, add his name to the roster as “Of Counsel” or “Senior Adviser” or some such, sternly tell him he’s not to lobby — then make sure he gets invited to every fundraiser in town along with the firm’s “real” lobbyist. Making certain that whoever is the lobbying target knows that the ex-Member is “on board.” But not a lobbyist, of course.
Then there’s Senator McCain. In all the uproar over Donald Trump’s remarks about McCain, the GOP Establishment types have tried to paint a portrait of Trump as — bizarrely and untruthfully — anti-veteran. And McCain is, we are told, a serious champion of veterans. OK. Got it.
What is one of Trump’s main criticisms of Washington politicians? That would be that they are “incompetent.” And what is the big scandal in the world of veterans? That’s right -that would be the Veterans Administration and its wretched treatment of the very veterans it is supposed to serve. In the middle of this domestic version of Benghazi is the Phoenix VA.
On May 23, 2014, in an updated story from May 9, CBS 5 in Phoenix reported of a forum on the VA hosted by Phoenix radio station 550. Senator McCain was in attendance. The story headlined:
Tense forum with Sen. John McCain on VA scandal
It reads in part:
PHOENIX (CBS5) — A forum Friday on the Veterans Affairs scandal hosted by local radio station 550 KFYI and featuring Senator John McCain got heated at times.
One by one, veterans and their families told story after tragic story of a loved one who died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA.
“I don’t care if the IG [Inspector General] says preliminary reports don’t indicate that there was anything done wrong. My dad, a veteran, is no longer here and I know there was something done wrong,” a lady said as she wept.”
The story said this of McCain:
But McCain says he can’t provide answers on why it took so long to pay attention to issues at the VA until he gets some of his own from embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki next week.
In other words? John McCain, for decades the Senator from Arizona, a war hero and veteran, had no “answers on why it took so long to pay attention to issues at the VA” in Phoenix. He was, it seems, clueless that all of this mistreatment of veterans was going on in the VA hospital in his own hometown right under his nose. He was clueless.
So here you have Donald Trump surging in the polls. The GOP Establishment is agog. They can’t understand. Perhaps this will help.
When Trump said this of Jeb Bush?
“Jeb Bush, let’s say he’s president. Oy, yoy, yoy… He’ll be called by special interests that supported him, his lobbyists who push him around like a piece of candy, his donors…”
In fact, as those two stories on Bush illustrate vividly, Trump is right. Bush is busy playing the politics-as-usual business. On the one hand he is busily posing as a reformer on lobbying. On the other hand his hand is out — asking for $5,000 personally from Washington lobbyists with a request they also raise him $50,000 each.
Of McCain Trump has said:
“We have incompetent politicians, not only the president. I mean, right here in your own state, you have John McCain. I just hate to see when people don’t have common sense, don’t have an understanding of what’s going on or perhaps don’t want to know.”
And sure enough, there the CBS Phoenix affiliate reporting that John McCain himself has admitted to his angry constituents he had no idea what was going on with veterans in the Phoenix VA. Which is to say, this fits the idea of the politician-as-incompetent exactly.
There is a long, long way to go in this campaign. But instead of bashing Trump, it might do the GOP Establishment some good to take a long, long look in the mirror and realize a central fact.
Donald Trump’s success is coming about precisely because of the conduct of Republican Establishment politicians like Jeb Bush and John McCain. And make no mistake. The base of the GOP gets this exactly.
And to say they are mad at this stew of hypocrisy, incompetence, and timidity is an understatement. There’s a phrase for this. That would be, “You reap what you sow.”
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