If the Name Is Bush, the Game Is “RINO”

Jeb Bush’s heretical utterances about Ronald Reagan may have created some temporary heartburn for conservatives who are invested to a remarkable degree in the idea that they are just trying to get a country nearly ruined by wild-eyed socialist Barack Obama back to the sane center-right created by Reagan.

But on another level, Jebbie simplified things for conservatives now that they’ve stop writing his name on their notebooks as a possible 2016 or 2020 hearththrob. Until the 2000 cycle, they thought of Poppy as just an inveterate squish, a product of that New England, Episcopolian milieu that was never hospitable to movement conservativism in its full savagery. W., though, the swaggering evangelical Texan, was another matter: As Robert Novak famously said in 1998, in one of the most influential op-eds of recent years, W. may have been the biological heir of his father, but was the ideological heir of Ronald Reagan. That perception helped make W. the semi-universal candidate of movement conservatives in 2000.

Lately, of course, W.’s one-time maximum fans have been pretending he was never One of Them, typically blaming Obama’s 2008 victory in equal parts on ACORN skullduggery, media cheerleeding, McCain’s own squishiness–and George W. Bush’s big-spending perfidy.

Jebbie, however, hasn’t been included in the family indictment until now. Indeed, National Review’s Rich Lowry campaigned avidly for a Bush 2012 run early in the cycle–a plea that didn’t go far partly because the object of his affection wasn’t interested, but also because Republicans feared the dynastic issue.

Now it’s resolved. All those damn Bush boys are tainted by moderation, and can be written off as a group. That may mean foreswearing that one-time future Hispanic-American superstar George P. Bush. But it’s probably worth it psychologically in order to execute the crucial revisionist history whereby none of the clan were True Believers to begin with, and the GOP’s ongoing lurch to the right is simply a return to the Reagan legacy the Bushes betrayed.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.