Bush family liberalism: The ghost of Prescott Bush haunts us still

The Bush Family

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2014 — A history of the Bush family, beginning with Yankee patriarch and Wall Street banker, Prescott Bush, is one of calculated pretense to being and sounding like whatever best advances the political and financial fortunes of the family.  But down deep the Bushes, arguably, have never been conservatives. In recent years, the Bushes have, it is true, sometimes sounded “conservative,” but in the darker recesses of their thinking, they reject basic principles that give essential life to conservatism.

Let’s go back and take a look at Prescott Bush. He was the archetypal patrician New England “progressive” Republican.  Just read a few lines from the Wikipedia about him:

 “Prescott Bush was politically active on social issues. He was involved with the American Birth Control League as early as 1942, and served as the treasurer of the first national capital campaign of Planned Parenthood in 1947 [….]

 “From 1947 to 1950, he served as Connecticut Republican finance chairman, and was the Republican candidate for the United States Senate in 1950. A columnist in Boston said that Bush “is coming on to be known as President Truman’sHarry Hopkins. Nobody knows Mr. Bush and he hasn’t a Chinaman’s chance.” (Harry Hopkins [a Communist fellow traveler] had been one of FDR‘s closest advisors.) Bush’s ties with Planned Parenthood also hurt him in heavily Catholic Connecticut, and were the basis of a last-minute campaign in churches by Bush’s opponents; the family vigorously denied the connection, but Bush lost to [William] Benton by only 1,000 votes.”

Prescott became US Senator from Connecticut through appointment in late 1952, and he served until 1963. Continuing on from the Wiki:

On December 2, 1954, Prescott Bush was part of the large (67–22) majority to censureWisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy after McCarthy had taken on the U.S. Army and the Eisenhower administration. During the debate leading to the censure, Bush said that McCarthy had ‘caused dangerous divisions among the American people because of his attitude and the attitude he has encouraged among his followers: that there can be no honest differences of opinion with him. Either  you  must  follow  Senator  McCarthy  blindly,  not  daring  to express any doubts or disagreements about any of his actions, or, in his eyes, you must be a Communist, a Communist sympathizer, or a fool who has been duped by the Communist line’    [….]                  

 “In terms of issues, Bush often agreed with New York GovernorNelson Rockefeller. According to Theodore H. White’s book about the 1964 election, Bush and Rockefeller were longtime friends. Bush favored a Nixon-Rockefeller ticket for 1960.”

This is the kind of silk-stocking, Rockefeller Wall Street Republicanism that George H. W. and succeeding members of the family inherited. And since 1992 the examples that confirm the persistence of this same heritage among the Bushes continue to surface, almost weekly.

Last September, for example, the latest Bush “papabile,” Jeb, made cozy with Hillary Clinton.  Here’s a brief paragraph from The Washington Times (September 13, 2013):

HOUSTON, September 13, 2013 – On Tuesday September 10, Jeb Bush, chairman of the board for the National Constitution Center and former governor of Florida, presented former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the group’s annual Liberty Medal. [!!!] It is widely speculated that both Bush and Clinton will run for their party’s nomination for the presidency in 2016.”

What this incident actually indicates is something profound about the Bush “establishment” ethos. Indeed, Jeb Bush has a whole bag of occasions where the ghost of Prescott has seeped out for–perhaps unwanted–public view. It’s not just his strong support for Common Core and what amounts to amnesty for illegal immigrants. A quick review of the Internet offers numerous examples of the survival of the spirit of Prescott in this latest representative of the clan.

George Bush the Younger doesn’t escape conservative scrutiny, either. Once again, there are various articles and stories in print and on the Web detailing the emergence of the real “Bush soul,” which is most definitely not conservative. A 2011 article in The Washington Monthly highlighted some of the issues that separated him from conservatives: “Bush was wrong about everything from education (NCLB) to health care (Medicare Part D), immigration (comprehensive reform) to international aid (PEPFAR), national service (AmeriCorps, USA Freedom Corp) to foreign policy (growing Republican skepticism about Afghanistan).”

Liberal columnist Richard Cohen also noticed what he termed Bush’s “neo-liberalism,” especially in education and the role of the Federal government:

“Bush has extended the [Education] department’s reach in a manner that Democrats could not have envisaged. I am referring, of course, to the 2001 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind. I will spare you the act’s details, but it pretty much tells the states to shape up or face a loss of federal funds. It is precisely the sort of law that conservatives predicted Washington would someday seek — and it did.”

Professor Jack Kerwick, in a fascinating article in the journal, Modern Age [“The Neoconservative Conundrum,” Modern Age, Winter/Spring 2013, vo. 55, nos. 1 & 2,  pp. 5-12], wrote recently of a philosophical outlook that he identifies as partaking of the revolutionary “rationalist mind,”  using the measures and research of the late English conservative political theorist Michael Oakeshott. Kerwick identifies this as essentially an ideologically a priori approach to statecraft, which rejects long-standing custom and the organicism of tradition, in favor of an imposed, “progressivist” universal standard based on supposedly self-evident “principles” born out of human reason. It was such a rationalist mindset that guided Bush II through much of his presidency, and it was one of the several reasons that made strong conservatives very uncomfortable with and suspicious of him.

Events have come full circle. Back in 1992 I argued strenuously with some of my Republican friends that voting for Pat Buchanan was the right thing to do. While admitting the deficiencies of George the First, their main argument was that voting for Buchanan would only assist Bill Clinton, and that a Bill Clinton presidency would give the man who couldn’t keep his pants up the opportunity to name Supreme Court justices. When I pointed out the Justices David Souter, Harry Blackmun, Earl Warren, William Brennan, Sandra Day O’Connor, and other Leftists were appointed by Republican presidents, responses were muted.  They continued to insist that a primary contest with Buchanan would weaken Bush in the 1992 general election.  But every poll, including immediate polls right after Buchanan’s famous “culture war” speech at the GOP national convention, gave the lie to such spurious charges. George H. W. lost because of what he did and what he said, and because the American electorate listened to the insidiously seductive and polished oratory and promises of “Slick Willie.”

Since George the First, the national GOP has given us the following presidential candidates: Bob Dole, George the Younger, John McCain, and the hapless Mitt Romney–not a real, philosophical conservative among the lot of them.  In fact, conservatives, who arguably make up a majority of the Republican base, haven’t controlled the party apparatus since Reagan. And even back then, based on the testimony of the few conservatives who worked in the Reagan White House, Reagan permitted George H. W. to control and fill most appointments from the get go. You can imagine what types of folks were approved for service.

The specter of Prescott still casts a spell over the Bush family.  If a few more pusillanimous conservatives had not run for “the tall grass” back in 1992, just perhaps we might have stopped the contagion twenty-two years ago. Pat Buchanan was right in 1992, as he is today. Begrudgingly, some of my friends who supported the Bushes then, recognize this now.

All along, despite some pleasant words, the Bushes have been enablers. As congressional Republicans continue to sell out America on everything from immigration to the debt ceiling, conservatives need to be told, once again, that the Republican “establishment” is not on their side. Prescott Bush’s ghost lives and prospers at the RNC and in the halls of the US Congress. Until it is fully exorcized (and the Karl Roves and John McCains finally interred for good), this nation will have no real opposition to the ongoing, steep decline into neo-Marxist multicultural totalitarianism.

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