Romney and Jeb Bush to Meet, Raising Speculation on Presidential Race

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

For Republicans, might makes right is back in fashion.

WASHINGTON — Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are scheduled to meet privately in Utah this week, raising the possibility that the two former governors will find a way to avoid competing presidential campaigns that would split the Republican establishment next year, two prominent party members said Wednesday night. The most notable Republican reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night did not come from official respondent Joni Ernst, the rookie senator from Red Oak, Iowa, with the camouflage high heels.

Mitt Romney at the Republican National Committee’s annual winter meeting aboard the USS Midway on Friday in San Diego.(Photo: Sandy Huffaker, Getty Images) Those who follow presidential politics will notice something curious about the rapidly emerging 2016 campaign. As he decides whether to run for president a third time, Romney has accepted an invitation to speak at Jacksonville Universitys spring graduation in the key presidential battleground of Florida. Obama’s foreign policy “was based on the premise that if we were friendly enough to other people and if we smile broadly enough and press the reset button, then peace is going to break out around the world,” Romney said. On his Facebook page, Romney countered Obama’s speech by zeroing in on the president’s proposal to pay for $235 billion in middle-class tax breaks, as well as new spending on education and infrastructure, by raising taxes on capital gains and inherited assets for the very wealthy by $320 billion. “His tax proposal is a maze of new taxes and complexities,” Romney wrote. “The best way to lower the tax burden on all American families is straightforward: lower rates and simplify the tax code.” This reaction may seem entirely predictable—after all, Romney spent his entire 2012 presidential campaign calling for across-the-board tax cuts that independent analysts found would disproportionately benefit the top 5 percent of taxpayers.

News that Mitt Romney is considering another run for the Republican nomination came via reports that he had met with multimillionaire contributors in New York City. His aides insist that Obama plays his best in the fourth quarter of the game, and they want him to finish strong, from an opening with Iran to closing Guantanamo.Obama owns foreign policy for another two years. What’s striking about Romney’s reaction, though, is precisely that it is such a rehash of his 2012 stance at a time when he has been seeking to recast himself as a different sort of Republican, one far more concerned with poverty, inequality, and middle-class wage stagnation.

Bush found himself making in 2002, when he was trying to explain how 9/11 could have happened, and also where conservatives found themselves in the twilight of the 1970s, when detente seemed to shift the axis of the world eastward. At a GOP gathering last week in San Diego, Romney lamented that, “Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse, and there are more people in poverty than ever before,” and called for Republicans to tackle the “scourge of poverty.” The GOP’s new anti-inequality platform has one problem: The party remains committed to fighting solutions that would come at the expense of the wealthiest Americans. The former Massachusetts governor also spent considerable time and money there in the fall campaign, though President Barack Obama won Florida again.

This weekend in Palm Springs, Calif., four other Republican hopefuls — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker — are expected to appear at a gathering of wealthy conservatives convened by the political operation of the billionaire Koch brothers, according to Politico. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has a powerful Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, in her corner and is hoping a tall pile of cash will scare off potential challengers. But when President Bush drew upon this support to make war with Iraq, and the result was chaos, and not the discovery of WMDs, the Might Makes Right faction in Republican politics took a blow.

The talks come as both men have been making a flurry of phone calls to Republican donors and officials to sound them out and gather commitments ahead of what could be a bruising primary race. Which is why a year before the Iowa caucuses, and two years before the next inauguration, the presidential wannabes are scurrying around the country, courting the biggest donors and those who “bundle” donations from friends and associates.

What’s interesting about the 2016 race is that the Republican and Democratic candidates are all positioned to run against Obama’s foreign policies. The impact is to give fat cats more influence in the political process, and to leave candidates even more indebted to a cadre of fabulously wealthy individuals who have their own agendas. External events, and surprises, surely push the pendulum of public opinion in one direction or another, but it inevitably swings back to the center of gravity.

Many of the contributors and elected officials they are courting are hoping to stave off a collision between the two that could imperil the party’s chances in a general election. Because the public perceives what Brookings’ Bill Gallston calls “an arc of crises” from Europe to North Africa and throughout the Middle East, with the U.S. seeming unable to influence their disposition, Republicans sense opportunity. It’s an experience that will always hold a very special place in my heart, but I wouldn’t put myself or my family through it again for anything in the world. Just look at what has been the first order of business for Republicans after they won full control of Congress for the first time in eight years this past fall.

In the Oct. 22, 2012, debate, Obama made breezy comments about how Al-Qaeda’s core leadership had been “decimated,” but a somber Romney had it exactly right: “It’s really not on the run. It’s not expanding the earned income tax credit, but rather pushing a Wall Street wish list for tweaks to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial reform law of 2010. This will likely prove to be the primary achievement of Obama’s new tax proposal, which, as he bluntly put it in Tuesday night’s speech, is targeted at “giveaways the superrich don’t need” and “lobbyists [who] have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight.” No, it’s not going anywhere in a GOP-led Congress. This is a group that is now involved in 10 or 12 countries, and it presents an enormous threat to our friends, to the world, to America long term, and we must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism.” It was a devastating exchange, in hindsight. Are you really (to paraphrase Fritz Kraemer) “so weak of will that you accept no risks and want to intervene with real force only when no sacrifices can be required?” Politicians who project strength at all cost tend to win these contests, even though Americans are operationally much more skeptical of actually intervening then they appear to be.

Bill Clinton calls this the tendency to embrace “strong and wrong” over “smart and right.” Surprises and shocks can move the needle a bit, but this preference is pretty stable. Before 9/11, Democrats and Republicans might have disagreed about foreign policy and the conduct of the Cold War, but the sources of contention were not generally ideological as much as they were generational and practical. In 2002 and 2004, after the rally effect died down, the Republicans deliberately linked their political opponents to the ideological misjudgments of their enemies.

Having my hypothetical abortion discussed on television and in newspapers because of my father’s response to a reporter’s question about what he would do if I became pregnant. Talk all you want about restoring shared prosperity, Obama is saying, but this is the kind of reform it will take to bring balance to an economy that has gotten so top-heavy and out of whack. The proposal will implicitly admonish not only Republicans but also Hillary Clinton, should her own Wall Street sympathies and upper-bracket aspirations keep her from adopting an aggressive platform to tackle inequality.

He dismissed Obama’s strategy of engagement, said he wouldn’t need congressional authorization to strike Iran militarily, and warned of the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon: “We can’t afford to wait much longer, and we certainly can’t afford to wait through four more years of an Obama administration. By then it will be far too late.” That was too militaristic: By the last debate, Romney had softened his tone but he still seemed to take his policy cues from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Bush, who in recent years has worked in the finance industry, would be vulnerable to the attacks that so damaged his own campaign against President Obama. These are the real stakes at play, Cannon and Obama both recognize, and they haven’t changed just because Romney and a handful of GOP presidential hopefuls have decided it’s time to show a new, more caring face. Some White House officials chafed at this fratricide in her 2014 memoir, “Hard Choices.” When I reviewed the book last year, I listed a series of issues where “Clinton displayed good judgment as secretary of state and understood some important issues earlier than her boss, President Obama.” Among Clinton’s prescient moments was her early embrace in 2009 of what became the “pivot” to Asia; her caution about dumping President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt in 2011; her support for arming the Syrian opposition in 2012 after the breakdown of U.N. mediation efforts; and her early warning in 2013 that trouble was ahead with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A large number of liberals (anywhere from pluralities to majorites in polls) do not support President Obama’s counter-terrorism strategy when it’s described to them. Your clothes, your more colorful extended family members, the way you talk, if you’re too edgy, if you aren’t edgy enough, what music you listen to, where you live, who you hang out with. If the economy remains strong and the Affordable Care Act becomes more popular, the best argument for change is that Obama, with Hillary Clinton’s essential help, squandered American power by trusting too much in feckless international institutions and too little in America’s innate superiority.

Honestly, though, the hardest part was the physical moment on stage on election night watching my father lose and concede the White House to President Obama. It is not just a rejection of your personal beliefs on the direction of your country that your parent personifies, it is a rejection of your entire family unit. When you believe in someone you love, and believe that they can change history and make your country a stronger, better place, it trumps everything else. Especially given that this time will most likely be harder than the last, not easier, and a lot of people in the party are looking for new, fresh blood to inspire voters.

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