In April, former president George W. Bush told a group of supporters that he wanted to sit out of his brother’s campaign because voters have an aversion to the Oval Office becoming a family affair. On September 10, W. will be the man in charge at a fundraiser for Jeb in New York City.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush being assisted by George W. Bush is just one sign that the new class of would-be presidents is shamelessly, painfully close to what we have seen before. And this includes their stance on keeping American empire strong.
Indeed, there’s a reason the Bushes have done so well in politics. Back in 2013, Barbara Bush said that she didn’t want to see another member of the clan as president. The country, she said, had had enough Bushes. Back then, this seemed like a refreshing acceptance that yes, maybe a father and son should be the limit, and we didn’t need to add a brother with the same damned name to the Oval Office. But Mrs. Bush backed off these comments two years later – presumably once she got the memo that Jeb was serious.
Never mind that. The novelty of Bushes paying lip service to the danger of dynasty is long gone. Bush W. and Jeb have managed to sound nuanced and even self-deprecating when they talk about their family’s hunger for power. A flicker of self-awareness means only more savvy campaigning. Oh, I know you’re all sick of Bushes! This isn’t a dynasty! But gosh, I just have so many swell ideas, how could I not run?!
That same name is bad enough. But Bush palling around with his brother’s foreign policy buddies – including none other than Paul Wolfowitz – is enough to make him a truly frightening candidate. And no, being browbeaten into admitting the War in Iraq was not wise does not count as knowing such an endeavor was inherently disastrous. This progress is particularly underwhelming when you consider the fact that W. is also one of Jeb’s foreign policy advisers.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to her exceedingly arguable credit, doesn’t pull that card of shucks, I know you don’t want another Clinton, but…. Nor do her supporters. For them it is “her turn” and her family tie to a former president is nothing but a win. Her warmongering bonafides are already well-established, however that does not matter to her fans. Anyone dying for a Hillary Clinton presidency is a straw liberal who cares about power quotas for oppressed minorities such as rich, well-educated, white American women. Never mind the real oppressed minorities being bombed abroad, it’s time for a woman president!
In the face of a potential choice between a Bush and a Clinton, no wonder the lunatic, xenophobic populist train of Donald Trump’s candidacy has pulled out of the station and is chugging along so fiercely. In an alternate universe, Trump is a ballsy businessman who never supported the war in Iraq, and wants to have a powerful military that is never used. In reality, he’s a principle-less, self-aggrandizing cipher who clearly says whatever comes to mind. No matter his occasional flashes of what appears to be sense, is there anyone who believes President Trump would be restrained, and would stress diplomacy over war? The man thinks absurd, walrus-faced hawk John Bolton, the former UN ambassador, is a good foreign policy adviser.
Rounding out the GOP class are happy interventionists such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz, former Gov. Scott Walker, and neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Many of these candidates have no chance, but regardless of differences in focus, all of them are painfully pro-Israel, and all are willing to use military force against ISIS. No Republican candidate is for the deal with Iran. Almost none of them have expressed the slightest desire to have a less aggressive foreign policy. Rand Paul is the obvious exception there, and he still seems a bit less gung-ho about war-making than the rest of them. Still, he’s gone appallingly hawkish during the last few months. Besides, enthusiastic or “regretful” war-making is most often just an aesthetic choice. Are you going to make sad faces after bombing, or are you going to act like a cowboy? It may not matter so much in the end, not unless a president – and a Congress, and a country – is truly dead set on avoiding war.
(Oddly, the completely ignored, polling at less-than-one-percent Lincoln Chafee has the positive legacy of being the only Republican senator to vote against the war in Iraq. His campaign website even says he “will end drone strikes, torture of prisoners, and warrantless wiretaps.” He switched parties, however, making him even more of a dub to partisans.)
Now, Bernie Sanders is one feasible candidate who has a promising, if slightly underwhelming anti-interventionist history. He does not, however, seem terribly interested in making anti-interventionism a prominent point of his campaign. When I asked former Rep. Ron Paul about this in an interview which went up on the site last week, Paul qualified some of Sanders’ antiwar bonafides, but admitted that the man had some good principles. Unfortunately for folks such as Ron Paul, Sanders is a democratic socialist who has subsequently alarming policy goals to anyone interested in a smaller government all around.
So, those are our choices if we’re looking for even a scrap of antiwar feeling. A demagogue with nightmare hair who claims he won’t use the military much, but changes his mind on issues every other day (except for xenophobia). A socialist who also hates open borders. A chip off the old block but not enough, who seems to have taken a neocon turn. The third Bush in 30 years, who can be successfully pushed into halfway admitting that his brother made a mistake when he began a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and destabilized an entire region. An antiwar Democrat with no chance in hell. It’s going to be a long election.
Lucy Steigerwald is a contributing editor for Antiwar.com and a columnist for VICE.com. She previously worked as an Associate Editor for Reason magazine. She is most angry about police, prisons, and wars. Steigerwald blogs at www.thestagblog.com.