Betcha Jeb Goes After Trump From the Right

Martin Longman has an interesting post up at Ten Miles Square that looks forward with some relish at a likely collision between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump in the first GOP presidential debate, which is approaching pretty fast. He quotes extensively from a Politico piece suggesting that Bush is likely to depict himself as a “mature substantive leader who rises above toxic discourse” and arguing that a “Republican will never win striking fear in people’s hearts,” and then has some fun with the Bush family history of doing exactly that. But his more fundamental point is that Bush sounds like he’s forgotten which party he belongs to:

Jeb should take a look around and even listen to himself as one Republican after another tells the public that we’re all going to die because the president has reached an agreement with Iran on their nuclear program. We’re all going to die if even one prisoner at Gitmo is brought here to stand trial or serve time. We’re all going to die if we don’t invade Iraq and take away their WMD. We’re all going to die if we don’t reinvade Iraq and now Syria to deal with ISIS. We’re all going to die if we give one inch to the commies in Korea or Vietnam or Angola or Cuba or Nicaragua.

And if we’re not going to die, then our culture and our religion are going to die. Our freedom is going to die. Our guns will be confiscated. Our children will be indoctrinated.

Striking fear into the hearts of Americans is pretty much all Fox News does, all day long, every day. There are almost two dozen Republican candidates for the presidency, and every single one of them is out there saying that our whole way of life is going to be destroyed.

In other words, if Bush gets medieval on Republican fear-mongering, he may have more problems than Donald Trump.

But that’s why I don’t think Jeb is doing any such thing.

Remember 2012, when Mitt Romney was the object of a primary-within-the-primary to see who would emerge as the “true conservative” alternative to the Mittster? Did he go after them as the “mature” candidate of the center? Hell’s no! With his large campaign and Super-PAC resources he serially tore apart Rick Perry as the candidate who loved him some illegal aliens; he blasted Newt Gingrich as a consultant to Freddie Mac, one of the federal entities that supported mortgages for those people, causing the Great Recession; he attacked Rick Santorum as a big-spending earmark-loving Washingtonian.

I’d be shocked if Jeb didn’t use the same tactic against Donald Trump, attacking him not on immigration but for his contributions to Democratic candidates, his past support for liberal ideological totems like single-payer health care, and anything else lefty-sounding in the man’s vast archive of loose talk. What’s the point of having over $100 million in early Super-PAC donations if it’s not used to make Republican see Trump as a Democratic Trojan Horse? Bush could also, I imagine, be preparing a Super-PAC assault on Scott Walker for the Holidays late this year, knowing that a Walker loss in Iowa could knock him right out of the race. But I’m pretty sure he’s got the resources for at least a two-front war fought from the supposed ground of True Conservatism.

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.