Mark down 2016 as the year that, for better or worse, the Republican Party, under its new standard-bearer, divorced itself from the Bush clan.
First came the humiliation that Donald Trump rained on Jeb Bush, son and brother of two presidents, in the GOP primaries.
Former President George H.W. Bush has since said he’s voting for Hillary Clinton.
And on Monday, photos were posted of Barbara Bush, a daughter of former President George W. Bush, at a Clinton fundraiser in Paris co-hosted by Huma Abedin.
The political breakup now seems complete, but it means more than a personal feud. It carries through to core campaign issues at stake in Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate and in Sunday’s second presidential debate.
The last Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq under a later-debunked claim about weapons of mass destruction leads the list. Earlier this year, Trump slammed “lies” that led up to the war, which Democrats and lefties had said for years.
“The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush,” Trump said at one point. “He kept us safe? That is not safe.” The previous October, he claimed, without evidence, that the Bush administration had “advance warning.”
Political alliances shift quickly.
Rudy Giuliani, now an enthusiastic Trump booster, was an enthusiastic Bush booster in 2004. Speaking at the Republicans’ New York City convention that year, the ex-mayor recalled the towers’ collapse.
“Without really thinking, based on just emotion, spontaneous,” he said, “I grabbed the arm of then-Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and I said to him, ‘Bernie, thank God George Bush is our president.’ ”
Giuliani went on to hail Bush’s leadership against terrorism.
Under Trump, Republicans also have ditched the last GOP president’s public postures on Social Security, foreign trade deals, Russia and immigration.
The Bush camp, Jeb included, talked tough against Russia at times. While in the race, the former Florida governor called Vladimir Putin a bully and said the U.S. and Europe should extend sanctions after his military aggression in Ukraine.
But among several remarks Trump delivered on the topic in August was this: “The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were,” that is, under the sphere of the Ukrainian government.
Following his successful 2004 re-election campaign, President George W. Bush designated Social Security reform as his top domestic priority.
Several years earlier he had declared: “We should trust Americans by giving them the option of investing part of their Social Security contributions in private accounts.”
Trump gives the impression that he believes his planned tax cuts will so stimulate the economy that funding Social Security will no longer be a problem.
Both major-party candidates have spoken of securing U.S. borders. Trump proposes a great wall and launched his campaign saying Mexico is “sending people that have lots of problems. . . . They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Bush’s tone in the White House was markedly different. He drew flak for backing an immigration reform bill that some in his party deemed “amnesty” for those here illegally.
“Massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic. It’s just not going to work,” Bush said.
By contrast, Trump has said: “We have to take people that are here illegally and we have to move them out, and you know what? It’s going to be done.”
The first president Bush initiated the North American Free Trade Agreement, and President Bill Clinton pushed it through. The second president Bush shepherded the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump trashes these agreements as job-killers for Americans — another in a series of stances that bury the Bush record, for better or worse.