Jeb Bush may or may not be running for president, but almost every Republican in the race is running to be George W. Bush II. So the media look for ‘Democrats in Disarray.’ (More)

Amidst GOP Stumbles, Media Look for ‘Democrats in Disarray’

Yesterday Jeb Bush said he was running for president and, seconds later, said he wasn’t a candidate yet:

“I’m running for president in 2016, and the focus is going to be about how we, if I run, how do you create high sustained economic growth,” Jeb Bush said.

He also made clear earlier in his exchange with reporters that he was not yet a candidate. “No, no I’m not an official candidate. I’ve been traveling the country for the last three months and making up my mind, trying to determine the support I may have should I go forward,” he said.

Despite that muddle, Bush was clear on one point. He won’t answer questions on whether he would have invaded Iraq:

“A net-plus politically for George W. Bush”

Republicans love to talk about “Supporting Our Troops, Standing by Our Heroes” – despite criticizing veterans’ care as a too-costly “entitlement” – so it’s hardly surprising that Bush equates criticizing his brother with criticizing the young men and women that his brother sent to war.

Besides, the Iraq War was political gold for Republicans in 2004:

[W]hile this is only a satellite effect of our involvement in Iraq, it actually served as a net-plus politically for George W. Bush in his re-election effort against John Kerry – a net-plus without which Bush probably would not have won. […] And if anybody thinks that subsequent Bush performance made that a Pyrrhic victory, I have two names for them: Roberts and (especially) Alito. As frustrating as the Supreme Court is, imagine how badly off the country would be if Justices Rehnquist and O’Connor had been replaced by justices Laurence Tribe and Hillary Rodham Clinton. And imagine how much more badly bungled so much other domestic policy would have been under Kerry. Ugh. Meanwhile, the War on Terror for the second Bush term certainly was a lot more successful at protecting American lives and interests than it would have been under Kerry.

No, Saddam Hussein didn’t actually have WMDs. Yes, the U.S. invasion set off a civil war that has killed over 200,000 Iraqis, and left 4425 Americans dead and almost 32,000 wounded. Yes, it cost over $2 trillion. But the Iraq War helped George W. Bush win reelection in 2004, and he then appointed John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court. So the war was worth it. Talk about “a lot of disservice for a lot of people who sacrificed a lot.”

“Republicans still believe that the application of military force is a great way to solve problems around the world”

This isn’t just a Jeb Bush problem. Except for Sen. Rand Paul, every major Republican is running to be George W. Bush II:

All the candidates agree that we should increase military spending. With the exception of Rand Paul, all express an unrestrained enthusiasm for military adventurism. That’s one thing Iraq hasn’t changed: Republicans still believe that the application of military force is a great way to solve problems around the world.

The only difference of opinion comes after the first wave of bombing. Ted Cruz explicitly warns against nation-building, but he doesn’t express any reservations about the use of military force. Later today, Marco Rubio will give a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations about his foreign policy views, and they sound an awful lot like George W. Bush’s: increase military spending and spread American values with “moral clarity.”

Scott Walker wants to dump any deal on Iran’s nuclear program the moment he takes office, making military action there far more likely. So does Marco Rubio. None of the GOP candidates will say he wants to occupy Iran. But military action against the country’s nuclear facilities ought to be, as any of them will tell you, “on the table.”

“The world is at its safest when America is at its strongest”

For example, consider Sen. Marco Rubio’s self-styled Rubio Doctrine:

My foreign policy doctrine consists of three pillars.

The first is American Strength.

This is an idea that stems from a simple truth: the world is at its safest when America is at its strongest. When America has the mightiest Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and intelligence community in the world, the result is more peace, not more conflict.

Please ignore the obvious contradiction in his speech:

Then again, this is a very odd thing for Rubio to say, since he spends so much time in the rest of the speech emphasizing how chaotic and dangerous the world is. He is greatly exaggerating disorder around the world to score points, but according to him these conflicts shouldn’t be happening. After all, the U.S. does have the “mightiest” military and intelligence agencies in the world right now. Rubio might want the military to be even more powerful than it is, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is already the most powerful in the world. That tells us that U.S. military preeminence doesn’t have the pacifying effect on various conflicts around the world that Rubio imagines that it should have. Those conflicts have other causes, and they aren’t going to be remedied by overawing the world through increased military spending.

As Paul Waldman notes:

Again with the exception of Paul, none of the candidates seems willing to grapple with the possibility that there are unintended consequences to military action that we need to be wary of. At most, they think the problems come only when you stick around too long after reducing a nation to rubble. And when you listen to them talk about Barack Obama’s foreign policy record, the word they use over and over again is “weak.” The problem is never that some situations we confront offer no good options, or that our decisions can backfire, or that there are places where America may not be able to set things right to the benefit of all. The problem is always weakness, and strength is always the solution.

“The inescapable reality is that the Democrats have fallen into a ditch arguably as deep and dismal as the one Republicans have dug for themselves”

Faced with such absurdity, our media might ask why the Republican Party can’t learn from mistakes. But perhaps fearing accusations of ‘liberal media bias,’ they instead manufacture stories of Democrats in Disarray:

For all the much-discussed ailments of the Republican Party – its failure to win the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections; the corrosive bickering between its mainstream and its Tea Party stalwarts; and the plummeting number of Americans who identify themselves as Republicans – the inescapable reality is that the Democrats have fallen into a ditch arguably as deep and dismal as the one Republicans have dug for themselves. “It isn’t that the Democratic Party is struggling,” says Jonathan Cowan, the president of the centrist policy center Third Way. “It’s that at the subpresidential level, it’s in a free fall.” The Democrats lost their majority in the Senate last November; to regain it, they will need to pick up five additional seats (or four if there’s a Democratic vice president who can cast the tiebreaking vote), and nonpartisan analysts do not rate their chances as good. The party’s situation in the House is far more dire. Only 188 of the lower chamber’s 435 seats are held by Democrats. Owing in part to the aggressiveness of Republican-controlled State Legislatures that redrew numerous congressional districts following the 2010 census, few believe that the Democratic Party is likely to retake power until after the next census in 2020, and even then, the respected political analyst Charles Cook rates the chances of the Democrats’ winning the House majority by 2022 as a long shot at best.

Politico’s Manu Raju chimed in with an article titled “Scenes from the Democratic meltdown” over President Obama’s trade deal. Never mind that President Obama and Senate Democrats found a solution within 24 hours. The sky is falling on Democrats because … well, it really isn’t, as Ed Kilgore explains:

Maybe I’m prejudiced because I wrote a whole book – not a long book, but still a book – about 2014 without once considering the argument that Democrats lost because they were in the grip of mad lefty hippies, or because they had sold their souls to Wall Street. Yes, I was aware there was a sizable and vocal group of people who subscribed to each proposition, but let myself be seduced by political scientists and other dispassionate people that things like turnout patterns, the economy, the electoral landscape, and the long history of second-term midterm disasters for the party controlling the White House, probably mattered more than the struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party some have been waging for decades.

Yes, Democrats will struggle in midterms until we improve voter turnout. Yes, the U.S. House is presently out of reach. But more Americans voted for House Democrats than for House Republicans in 2012, and House Republicans had only a narrow margin among voters in 2014. That is partly a function of gerrymandering and mostly a matter of Democratic voters living in dense, overwhelmingly Democratic districts. It says a lot about why we need proportional representation and nothing about “the struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party.”

But our media prefer personal spats over institutional analysis, so expect to hear a lot more about ‘Democrats in Disarray’ … and next to nothing about the GOP’s blind allegiance to saber-rattling.

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Happy Thursday!