Wrong About More Than Iraq

The attention being given to Jeb Bush’s disastrous handling of a simple and predictable question about the Iraq War has mainly revolved around his efforts to do anything other than admit mistakes–his brother’s mistakes over a decade ago, and now his own mistakes in answering the question. It is, as many have noted, a bit of a family trait, and not a good one in a family that has produced two presidents and aims at a third.

As Paul Krugman notes in his latest column, the Bushes aren’t alone in a Republican Party that has gotten a lot of things wrong lately, and not just in Iraq:

If you look at the list of economists who appear to have significant influence on Republican leaders, including the likely presidential candidates, you find that nearly all of them agreed, back during the “Bush boom,” that there was no housing bubble and the American economic future was bright; that nearly all of them predicted that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight the economic crisis that developed when that nonexistent bubble popped would lead to severe inflation; and that nearly all of them predicted that Obamacare, which went fully into effect in 2014, would be a huge job-killer.

Given how badly these predictions turned out — we had the biggest housing bust in history, inflation paranoia has been wrong for six years and counting, and 2014 delivered the best job growth since 1999 — you might think that there would be some room in the G.O.P. for economists who didn’t get everything wrong. But there isn’t. Having been completely wrong about the economy, like having been completely wrong about Iraq, seems to be a required credential.

If Jeb Bush was ensnared in this comedy of errors about Iraq as the Republican nominee, he’d undoubtedly have his entire party’s support in fighting off the criticism and laughter and moving on. It’s a very self-forgiving community, after all. But this is happening at the worst possible time for him, when a gigantic presidential nominating field sees an opportunity to take him down several notches before he corners all the money in the world and starts spending it. Krugman’s right, though: the array of reactions might be even more revealing if Jeb was squirming over his brother’s economic policies. How many GOPers are willing to admit that knowing what we know now those were mistaken, too?

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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.