Jeb Bush Makes a Deal With the Devil

Last October, when George W. Bush spoke to a group of Republican donors, attendees were surprised at the candidate on the GOP side that drew the most ire from the former president – Ted Cruz.

“I just don’t like the guy,” Bush said Sunday night, according to conversations with more than half a dozen donors who attended the event…

Bush also cast Cruz’s candidacy as an exercise in personal gain, not service. “He sort of looks at this like Cruz is doing it all for his own personal gain, and that’s juxtaposed against a family that’s been all about public service and doing it for the right reasons,” a donor said. “He’s frustrated to have watched Cruz basically hijack the Republican Party of Texas and the Republican Party in Washington.”

I suspect that pretty accurately reflects the views of most “establishment” Republicans: they don’t like Cruz because he is seen as a demagogue who has hijacked their party.

And yet, Jeb Bush has decided (along with a growing number of establishment Republicans) to endorse him in this primary race.

Bush says in a statement to be released by the Cruz campaign: “Ted is a consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests.”

“For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena, or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President Obama’s failed policies,” the statement continues…

“To win, Republicans need to make this election about proposing solutions to the many challenges we face, and I believe that we should vote for Ted as he will do just that,” the statement continues.

The first thing that strikes me about this is the question of why Jeb didn’t endorse the less offensive John Kasich. The answer is because he will lose.

“This is NOT an anti-John Kasich endorsement. Governor Bush has enormous respect for John Kasich and he enjoyed spending time with Governor Kasich over the past year – thinks he is a good guy and a good governor. At this point, the best path to victory is supporting the candidate who has been able to win states and win over voters.”

All of this is a pretty good indication of just how strongly establishment Republicans fear a Donald Trump candidacy. They’re literally willing to make a deal with the devil in order to try to stop him.

It is looking increasingly like they won’t be successful in doing that – which demonstrates their impotence with the Republican base at this point. But one has to wonder whether they have given any thought at all to what this means over the longer term – or even its implication for the general election. The reality is that, come November, Cruz isn’t likely to do any better in a match-up against Clinton. He could even conceivably do worse. And in the process, the prospects of retaining control of the Senate are put in doubt and perhaps even the House. That is why people like Michael Gerson are suggesting that the better alternative might be to nominate a third party place-holder who could give Republican voters who aren’t enamored with either Trump or Cruz a reason to go to the polls in November.

Obviously Jeb Bush is making a different calculation. I suspect that – after all the attacks on his manhood as well as the Bush family legacy – there is some personal animus against Trump involved in that decision. If so, making a deal with the devil is the short-sighted way to go.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.