Political Animal


December 27, 2014 4:42 PM People like it when you stand for things

Don’t look now, but President Obama’s approval rating is going up:

President Barack Obama is ending the year, and his sixth year in office, on a high note — even performing better than his predecessor. A recent Gallup poll shows Obama with a 43 percent December approval rating at the end of his sixth year in office. This puts him ahead of former President George W. Bush, who saw a 37 percent approval rating at the end of his sixth year in 2006.
The poll, published Dec. 19, also shows that former presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan enjoyed 67 percent and 48 percent approval ratings at the same point in their tenures, respectively.
But for Obama, it’s the latest in a number of recent polls that have been favorable for the president. Earlier this week, a CNN/ORC poll gave Obama a 48 percent approval rating — his highest since May 2013. And the president’s high approval ratings come amidst a growing confidence among Americans in the expanding economy, with growing jobs numbers to match.

Part of the increase in the president’s approval rating comes from Latinos appreciative of his stand on immigration. But that doesn’t account for all of it.

People were willing for a long time to forgive the Bush Administration its multiple failures and corruptions because at least until Katrina they never seemed to lack for certainty and resolution. You may not have liked what Bush stood for—in fact, you might have felt it was downright evil—but you never doubted that he had the courage to act on his beliefs.

Too often the Obama Administration has seemed listless, adrift and reactive. The President’s stands on immigration and Cuba, and even minor things like calling on only women at a press conference, show a President newly energized, engaged and empowered. He seems like a new man who has stopped caring about trying to be the most nuanced adult in the room. This is a common trap for liberals, culturally speaking, and it’s part of why liberals have a hard time becoming and remaining popular with the broader American public.

The new Obama is a more likable Obama. There’s a lesson to be learned there.

December 27, 2014 4:30 PM “Let Us March On ‘Til Victory Is Won”

First of all, thank you, the reader, for your help and your support.
For the past 45 years, you’ve stood with us. Those who distort
The truth are not thrilled at the fact that we have fought back for so long.
We fought for you, and fought for each person who can tell right from wrong.

We were there when Richard Nixon
Split the country with his hate
Before hanging in the noose of hubris
Known as Watergate.

We were there when Gerald Ford
Pledged that he would whip inflation.
Of course, *he* got whipped two years later;
‘Twas a moment of elation.

We were there, noting the boldness
And foresight of Jimmy Carter,
While the wingnuts mocked his policies
And ridiculed his daughter.

We were there when Ronald Reagan
Walked onto a large soundstage
And began the dark, sick process
That unleashed such wingnut rage.

Remember when he pounded PATCO
And shafted the working man?
What was worse—this true class warfare
Or those weapons to Iran?

We were there when Poppy Bush
Told the nation “Read my lips”—
Before keeping his own mouth shut
As the U.S. economy dipped.

We were there to see Bill Clinton
Emerge from a place called Hope
To fight off well-financed attacks
From scores of right-wing dopes.

We bore witness to the robbery
And assault on Al Gore
And the rise of that son-of-a-Bush
Whose actions we deplored:

His torture chambers, oil wars
And lies just made us sick.
(And as for his heartless VP,
Just three words: You suck, Dick!)

And then we watched a Senator
Who spoke of profound change
Become President—one sabotaged
By opponents so deranged.

The birthers and the racists
And Tea Partiers conspired
To smear our noble President
As a Kenyan commie liar.

They seized control of Congress
After two midterm elections
And put David Koch on speed-dial
To provide them with directions.

In 2015, they will seek
To turn our country back—
But not if we stand in their way
And launch a counterattack.

With your help, we will strike the blows
Against the Right’s empire
And prove that the wingnutters’ wrath
Can’t stop our strong desire

To bring folks to a better day
Where American ideals
Are not just words in an old song
But a standard that is real.

So many dreams yet unfulfilled
Yet we’re still undeterred.
(We know what Langston Hughes once said
About a dream deferred!)

We dream of the day when women
Are paid the same for work
And LGBT neighbors and friends
Aren’t bashed by bigoted jerks.

We dream of the day when dark skin
Won’t mean one’s hopes are shattered
(And when it won’t be controversial
To say that black lives matter!)

We dream of the day when the guns
Are kept far from the crazed;
Not one more mother needs to cry,
Nor one more father dazed.

We dream of the day when we keep
Our children out of wars
Conceived by bitter, greedy men
Who just want more wealth to store.

We dream of the day when our daughters
Never have to fear
That their right to choose will be denied
By judges insincere.

And we dream of climate justice!
With Big Oil’s lies rejected,
Those who come after us will be sure
Their atmosphere’s protected.

These fights aren’t over yet—all of these dreams
Must be made true.
These fights must carry on…and for us to win,
We do need you.

Without your support, the forces
Of backwardness advance.
The stakes are just too high, with so many
In a Fox News trance.

We must continue fighting
Against those who would dumb down
This country to the point that folks think
Hannity’s profound!

It is a classic fight, indeed,
Open minds fighting dogmatism,
And supporters of equality
Vs. racism and sexism.

It is a fight that we can win.
And damn it to hell, we must!
So that our children can be free
In a culture that’s just.

We need your help to beat back those
Whose minds are beyond depraved,
And to ensure that in 2016
We’ll have leaders progressive and brave.

In whatever amount you can afford,
Please make a contribution.
With your help, and in your name,
We’ll keep fighting for solutions.

December 27, 2014 2:21 PM A tax break that’s worth it

America’s tax code is filled with breaks of questionable morality and economic utility. But the tax break you get when you support the quality commentary and journalism of the Washington Monthly is an exception.

Like much of the rest of the economy, journalism is in a state of flux, trying to find its way through rapidly changing technological and funding structures. And as with much of the rest of the economy, those changes have resulted in job losses, wage declines, an emphasis on faster and shorter production times—often with a concomitant reduction in quality.

The Washington Monthly is attempting to embrace the good aspects of these changes without falling prey to the bad. Today’s funding model for sites like the Political Animal increasingly requires the good will and generosity of reader support to accomplish that.

It’s a tax break that’s worth taking advantage of, and actually does the country good.

December 27, 2014 12:30 PM Sharp Focus

Back in 2001, I got into a long argument with a friend about Jesse Jackson, who had just acknowledged having fathered a child with a mistress. I insisted that Jackson’s retirement from the American political scene was long overdue, and that Jackson probably should have called it a career after the 1984 “Hymietown” controversy. Jackson, I asserted, had long since become an obnoxious, ineffective blowhard.

My friend disagreed. While not defending Jackson’s adultery or anti-Semitic rhetoric, he suggested that the best way for Jackson to leave the political stage was for white racism to decline dramatically, and that the folks who wanted Jackson to go away should work harder to combat the manifestations of discrimination. After all, he stated, “If racism goes away, what does Jesse have to complain about?”

I haven’t spoken to that old friend in some time, but I keep thinking about his remarks whenever I see Al Sharpton speak out about police brutality. I can’t say that I’ve ever been a Sharpton fan; I don’t watch his MSNBC program, and even when he makes points I agree with about police violence against African-Americans, I can’t help wondering if it might be better for American race relations to have those points made by someone with, frankly, a less controversial track record than Sharpton.

Yet the point my old friend made about Jackson also applies to Sharpton, no? If we all work harder to combat racism, discrimination, income inequality and police brutality, would we not, in effect, retire Sharpton? Is Sharpton not a reminder of our collective unfinished work?

When we hear complaints about Sharpton’s rhetoric and image, do we really think about how we should best answer those complaints? Getting rid of Sharpton wouldn’t get rid of racism…but getting rid of racism would get rid of Sharpton, no?

I’ll admit it: when I see Sharpton, I still think of Tawana Brawley and Freddie’s Fashion Mart and the other controversies of his past, not his calls for racial justice in the present. For many years, I regarded Sharpton as a voice of racial discord and resentment, and it’s tough for those memories of Sharpton to fade.

However, I can’t deny the validity of the argument that Sharpton’s grievances have to be addressed before he can depart from the platform of American politics. There are millions of Americans—left, right and center—who secretly want Sharpton to shut up and go away. The best way to achieve that goal, of course, is to actually fix the problems Sharpton is talking about.

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December 27, 2014 8:45 AM The red state economic miracle that wasn’t

For years progressives in blue states have had to put up with listening to conservatives in red states bray about their supposed economic “miracles” of low-tax, low-investment paradises of low employment in places like Texas and North Dakota.

The fact that these economies were creating mostly minimum-wage jobs with terrible safety nets and awful infrastructure fell on deaf ears. So did the response that those jobs were temporary and fossil-fuel based, and would not last. Undiversified economies based on a single natural resource tend to fare poorly over time.

And indeed it looks like progressives are getting the last laugh due to low oil prices:

States dependent on oil and gas revenue are bracing for layoffs, slashing agency budgets and growing increasingly anxious about the ripple effect that falling oil prices may have on their local economies. The concerns are cutting across traditional oil states like Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Alaska as well as those like North Dakota that are benefiting from the nation’s latest energy boom.
“The crunch is coming,” said Gunnar Knapp, a professor of economics and the director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Michael Hiltzik at the L.A. Times had more on the topic earlier this week:

A greater danger to the state’s boom-era reputation is that the receding tide may expose a lot of economic wreckage to public view. One consequence of the state’s low-tax, low-service credo is that infrastructure spending has been starved, just at the moment when it’s most needed. As the Texas Tribune reported last year, local roads have become so damaged by heavy oil-patch traffic that in some districts the only option has been to convert paved roads to gravel — there’s no money for repaving, despite the state’s burgeoning wealth.
That shows how little pressure has been placed on the oil industry to carry its fair share of the public cost of the boom or contribute adequately to public investment. When the boom becomes a bust, there will be even less money, and you can bet that the oil industry will be pleading poverty.

When it isn’t simply padding the bottom lines of the wealthiest Americans, most conservative economic policy tends to be about taking the easiest, most aggressive and short-sighted approach to any problem. Eliminating taxes so you can entice corporate grifters may net some immediate transitory gains, but it’s destructive in the long run. Similarly, putting your eggs into the fossil fuel basket doesn’t just destroy your local environment and add to the climate change already ravaging your state, it also puts you at severe risk of economic seizures if fossil fuel prices decline.

Help us here at the Washington Monthly end our fundraising drive on a high note. Your support is greatly appreciated.

December 27, 2014 7:30 AM The Choice Is Yours

December 30, 1994 was the second day of infamy in this country.

That day, a radical anti-abortion activist named John Salvi murdered two employees—Shannon Lowney, 25, and Lee Ann Nichols, 38—at two Planned Parenthood facilities in Brookline, Massachusetts, and shot and wounded five others. He was later apprehended in Norfolk, Virginia after attacking another women’s health clinic.

This domestic terrorist was found guilty of murder in March 1996; he hanged himself in his prison cell just a few months later. (In 1997, his conviction was posthumously vacated on a technicality.)

Salvi was one of many depraved anti-abortion zealots who couldn’t stand the fact that women had the right to choose in this country. As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted earlier this year:

Some of the people who were witnesses to [the Salvi] shooting were people who were there at the clinic working as clinic escorts because of the hostile and intimidating and occasionally violent intense protests that had been happening regularly outside of those clinics.
That day when John Salvi went into the two clinics in Brookline and opened fire and he shot all those people, there were antiabortion protesters right outside the clinic when he did it, as he did it. At the Brookline Planned Parenthood where he killed a 25-year-old receptionist that day, the protesters outside the clinic [attempted] to intimidate people [by] filming everybody as they arrived to work at the clinic, filming people as they arrived to volunteer, filming people who were working as escorts for patients coming into the clinic. And they filmed the patients, themselves, including taking great pains to be seen videotaping their license plates, trying to be very intimidating and very scary to people so they wouldn`t go into that clinic.
But that day when John Salvi got into that clinic and shot it up and he killed the receptionist and wounded other people, as they brought the bodies of the wounded and the killed out of that clinic that day, the antiabortion protesters in the parking lot, they kept filming. They filmed that, too.

read more »

December 27, 2014 6:30 AM Daylight Video

We hope that you and your family are having a terrific holiday season. We at the Washington Monthly wish you a successful and happy New Year. In 2015, we hope to continue playing a critical role in fighting the forces that want to keep success and happiness limited to the one percent…but we can only do so with your help.

In whatever amount you can, please make a tax-deductible donation today. Thank you.


Thirty years ago this week, Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” was the nation’s number-one single.

December 26, 2014 5:03 PM Day’s End and Weekend Watch

With company coming in, it’s going to be another active weekend (not to mention dealing with the copy edits on my upcoming book), but I will definitely finish up thinking about summary themes to end 2014 with a bang at PA. You can help end our annual fundraising drive with a bang by donating whatever you can afford, and we’ll appreciate it!

* Dave Weigel treats furor over The Interview as yet another 2014 overreaction to a “threat.”

* Sam Baker adds up all the bad news for liberals SCOTUS might provide in 2015.

* Reagan economic adviser Feldstein lobbies for freaking out over inflation.

* At TNR, Dennis Jett compiles the long list of treaties the GOP is blocking.

* At Ten Miles Square, Julia Azari mulls meaning of better economy for Democrats longing for populism.

And in non-political news:

* Retrospective on career of one of my favorite actors, Robert Mitchum, 17 years after his death.

That’s it for Friday. David Atkins and D.R. Tucker will be in for weekend blogging tomorrow. Let’s close with one more Metallica performance: “Hit the Lights,” in Sofia in 2010.


December 26, 2014 3:17 PM Another Dumb Battle in the Phony War For Obama’s Soul

I read Jennifer Epstein’s Politico piece on Obama and religion yesterday, noted it briefly as “annoying” in a roundup, and intended to forget about it. But then Charlie Pierce wrote about it, and as a regular critic of the MSM’s incredibly consistent beffudlement of almost everything that involves the overlap of religion and politics, I figured I should weigh in.

The only thing the least bit “newsy” about Epstein’s piece is that she provides an update on the number of Presidential Appearances in Church at the six-month mark of the Obama administration:

[H]e’s attended Sunday services only occasionally, visiting a patchwork of congregations 19 times in all since taking office, according to a POLITICO analysis of White House pool reports….
In all, Obama has gone to services on about 6 percent of the Sundays of his presidency and just once on Christmas Day, in 2011, which also happened to be a Sunday. George W. Bush, by contrast, went to church on close to 30 percent of Sundays during his eight years in office.

So there’s that for those of you who like to count spiritual beans.

But for the most part Epstein just recycles the conservative smears of Obama’s alleged godlessness and association with Jeremiah Wright, and turns to what Digby and others have so aptly called the Religious Industrial Complex for a response. So once again we get to hear from the Rev. Joshua DuBois, the guy who worked so hard to make Obama’s “religious outreach” extend almost entirely to conservatives.

Maybe this is all accurate and Obama’s grasp of Christianity is so shallow that he identifies it with people who don’t agree with him on much of anything. But I prefer to pay a bit more attention to his own words, and the president who delivered the 2009 Notre Dame commencement speech on doubt as essential to faith is the authority on the 44th president’s religion I will continue to consult.

December 26, 2014 1:48 PM Lunch Buffet

Got home about 1:00 AM this morning after long flight delay, just in time for short winter’s sleep before a return to PST blogging schedule. So that’s another reason other than likely low readership for taking it a little light this afternoon, though not so light that we’ll forget to remind you there’s just five more days to make a tax-deductible donation to the Washington Monthly! Thank you for your continuing support.

Here are some midday news/views snacks left over from yesterday’s revels:

* Bernie Sanders sets March deadline for deciding for or against presidential run.

* Krugman really baits the trolls, declares 2014 the year of “yes, we can.” Heads exploding across the land.

* 2016 paradox: unusually diverse GOP prez field will spend most of its time denying identities and appealing to same old honkified base.

* Budowsky declares “Ready for Pope Francis” movement.

* Hillary Clinton speech at RFK award event being touted as example of her efforts to reach out to the Left.

And in non-political news:

* Will Jim Harbaugh turn down blandishments from alma mater plus enough money to choke a wolverine?

As we break for lunch, here’s Metallica performing the violent but vaguely antiwar “For Whom the Bell Tolls” on the Late Late Show.

December 26, 2014 1:05 PM Keep Up, Barry

Since I spent most of the days leading up to Christmas in the district of soon-to-be U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, I wish I’d found the opportunity to offer the young coot some advice: Keep up! The “War on Xmas” meme is so worn out that even Bill O’Reilly is declaring victory and moving on. So Loudermilk was definitely behind the curve with this pronouncement (picked up by Right Wing Watch):

Republican congressman-elect Barry Loudermilk of Georgia wants to reassure his future constituents that he will never give in to the anti-Christmas belligerents. On “Washington Watch” this week, Loudermilk told Josh Duggar that he is looking forward to Christmas despite the left’s best attempts to ruin the holiday.
“It’s always been an honored time but just recently it seems like it has gotten to the point where we have to even defend our rights that are given to us to celebrate the birth of Christ and even just the celebration of Christmas has been under fire by the far-left,” he said.

Well before Loudermilk won the nomination to succeed that great solon Phil Gingrey in Congress, I fingered him as an ideological successor to Paul Broun (who, like Gingrey, left the House to pursue an unsuccessful Senate race) as an unusually wingnutty wingnut in a state House delegation famous for spawning them.
But championing yesterday’s crusade is not a good sign. Fortunately for Loudermilk, the same remarks show he’s caught onto another meme:

Loudermilk later said that people throughout the country “lost their sense of hope” and pride but will ultimately persevere, comparing America to George Bailey of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” He added: “There is some momentum that we haven’t seen in many years in this nation that people are just tired of political correctness, they’re tired of having their rights stepped upon and they’re ready for something different.”

Sounds like he’s using “political correctness” in the same special way as Dr. Ben Carson, as an all-purpose attack on anyone questioning the Right’s exotic world view and outrageous expressions of same. So maybe there’s hope for Barry yet.

December 26, 2014 12:13 PM Crickets

While I was stunned to go to Brother Benen’s site today and see that he’s taking a brief holiday break from news-cycle blogging, I did as usual find a leftover nugget from before Xmas: his recording of crickets from Republicans about the positive economic indicators that have been popping up of late:

For those hoping to see the American economy succeed, there are a lot of reasons to smile this morning. Economic growth is at an 11-year high. Job growth is at a 15-year high. The stock market is soaring. Wages are rising. Gas prices are plummeting. American manufacturing is improving. The uninsured rate is dropping.
President Obama is boasting about “America’s resurgence,” and in a twist, the public may be starting to believe him.
And this got me thinking: what’s the Republican response to all of this?
As we discussed earlier, GOP officials have been heavily invested in a simple proposition: the combination of the Affordable Care Act, federal regulations, Dodd-Frank reforms, and higher taxes approved last year are a brutal “wet blanket” on economic growth. Obama’s entire agenda has been a disaster for the economy, they argue, and if we want conditions to improve, we’ll have to do the exact opposite of what the White House has done.
So, what’s the Republican reaction to the latest GDP numbers, for example?
Note, I don’t mean “nothing” in a colloquial sense, as if they issued press releases that struck me as vapid and meaningless. Rather, I mean “nothing” in a literal sense. I went to the homepages for John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, the RNC, the NRSC, the NRCC, and the RGA. Collectively, they didn’t publish a single word about the striking economic growth.
So, I moved on to Twitter, checking the feeds for Boehner, McConnell, Reince Priebus, the RNC, the NRSC, the NRCC, and the RGA. Again, literally nothing.
Sure, it’s a couple of days before Christmas, so it’s easy to imagine a lot of staffers are away from the office today, but here’s the thing: Republicans are publishing on other topics of interest. They’re just choosing to ignore the strongest economic growth in 11 years.

He goes on to note that Republican reluctance to admit a positive development of the Obama Era is in this case compounded by the GOP’s own cluelessness about economic policy, other than the usual let’s-do-less-and-let-the-job-creators-take-care-of-us prescription. That’s only marginally persuasive when everything’s going bad. So it’s no surprise good news is not welcome.

December 26, 2014 11:03 AM How to Pander to the Base

So Paul Waldman turns the page to 2015 at the Plum Line today, and suggests we’re already into the gala base-pandering phase of the 2016 presidential campaign.

After all, the Iowa caucuses are only 401 days away. For quite a while yet, the candidates are going to spend their time figuring out how to bring base voters over to their side.

He goes on to do some comparisons of D versus R base-pandering. What I’d add is an observation about the different approaches to base-pandering in the GOP, where this is an essential blood sport.

There’s the “The base, c’est moi” tack of Ted Cruz, who so embodies conservative radicalism that he’s out there leading parades before they even begin.

There’s the hand-waving “Hey look me over” tack of Bobby Jindal, a candidate who will spend the early days of the cycle looking for litmus tests to sign and kingmaker rings to kiss.

And there’s the “For the win!” appeal of Rand Paul, who will try to convince “base” activists that he can expand their electoral reach without modifying the deep crazy goodness of his “core values.”

But for my money, the most effective base-pandering is at the stealth level, where commitments are made that media ignore and most non-base voters don’t understand. And Mitt Romney proved himself the master of this technique in 2012—which he definitely needed with the baggage he carried into that cycle.

The crown jewel of stealth base-pandering in 2012 was the “Cut, Cap and Balance” pledge, devised by the House Republican Study Committee and popularized by Jim DeMint. It sounded like yet another recitation of the old Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment chestnut. But it actually involved enshrining a permanently reduced federal government in the Constitution via “cuts” turned into “caps.” Here’s how I described it at TNR back in 2011:

The logic of CCB itself gives away the potentially disastrous stance of its adherents. Republicans are taking this very hard line not, as is so often asserted, as a way of returning to the GOP’s ancient creed of deficit hawkery, abandoned in favor of supply-side free lunch nostrums in the 1980s and beyond. Yes, it has indeed become fashionable again for conservatives to deplore the public debts being passed on to future generations, a habit that they generally lost during the administration of George W. Bush. But when you look at the content of the CCB proposal, pledge, or bill, it’s obvious the “balance” part of the formula is entirely subordinate to “cut” and “cap,” and to another phrase not in the headline: “tax limitation.” CCB rules out revenue increases as an element of budget-balancing and erects the kind of super-majority requirement against future revenue increases that has done so much to frustrate budget-balancing in California. Moreover, it makes huge cuts in spending both a statutory and a constitutional mandate, and only then, with government shrunken and taxes frozen, will it enable a balanced budget.

During the runup to the 2012 presidential nomination contest, all but one GOP candidate—predictably, the base-spurning failure Jon Huntsman—refused to sign the CCB pledge. It was an especially big moment when the supposedly pragmatic Mitt Romney came on board, signalling a commitment to Constitutional Conservatism as the central principle of fiscal management, and making all of Mitt’s more specific fiscal proposals mere details.

Will anyone in the 2016 field master quiet but symbolic base-panders the way Mitt did? That’s hard to say. So far Jeb Bush has taken the opposite tack, sharing a lot of right-wing policy positions but combining that with richly symbolic and even LOUD revolts against the base on hot-button issues like immigration and Common Core. And maybe conservative activists will insist on more overt measures of solidarity this time around, all but demanding that candidates sacrifice general election street cred in tribute to The Cause. As a progressive blogger, I’m sure I would enjoy watching a vast presidential field follow Bobby Jindal around the track chasing the rabbit of True Conservatism. But it’s perilous for the country.

December 26, 2014 10:00 AM Where Books Will Never Die

My favorite Christmas gift may well turn out to be a hand-me-down iPad with limited functionality that will nonetheless make it easier for me to buy and read ebooks. This is emotionally important to me because like a lot of us old folks, I just can’t live without books. And one of the most charming—and important—things about the Washington Monthly is that it is among the last major outlets for reviews of political books. Indeed, keeping that tradition alive is reason enough to make a tax-deductible donation to WaMo in whatever amount you can afford before the end of the year.

In 2014, WaMo published 21 book reviews, iwith something for just about every taste. There was Kathleen Geier on Thomas Picketty; Moshe Marvit on FDR’s “Four Freedoms;” Steve Waldman on journalism’s failure to anticipate the financial collapse of 2008; and yours truly on Rick Perlstein’s Reagan book. I am quite sure the new year will bring a new batch of memorable and relevant reviews.

If you love books, and appreciate some help in determining the “can’t miss” reads on politics, then Washington Monthly is a “can’t miss” publication in this and every season.

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December 26, 2014 9:32 AM Jeb Bush Counts on Short Memories

So not that very long ago, Jeb Bush’s aggressive and controversial business tactics, mostly focused on the politically perilous area of private equity management in conjunction with shadowy foreign partners, especially in China, convinced some observers he sure wasn’t acting like somebody planning a presidential campaign. Now there are signs that what Bush has been engaged in lately is the tail-end of a financial fattening-up period before the long hard winter of a campaign. Here’s how the L.A. Times’ Joseph Tanfani puts it:

After leaving office in 2007, he set up Jeb Bush and Associates, a management consulting firm. His son, Jeb Bush Jr., serves as managing partner. Bush has said the firm’s clients range from Fortune 500 companies to small tech startups, but Campbell declined to discuss the company’s business or identify its clients.
That same year, Bush also was hired as an advisor to Lehman Brothers, the New York investment bank and financial services firm. When Lehman collapsed in bankruptcy in 2008 amid the global financial crisis, Bush shifted to Barclays, the London-based multinational banking and financial services giant that bought Lehman Brothers’ North American divisions.
He got involved in a venture that provides disaster response services. He and two partners also set up another company, Maghicle Driverless, that is trying to develop self-driving vehicles for passengers and cargo.
“He was grabbing at a lot of things to make money quickly,” said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida.

Now he appears to be trying to clean up his act now that he’s all sleek with wealth and ready to focus on a restoration of the family dynasty.

[Kristy] Campbell, the Bush spokeswoman, said he will leave Barclays by Dec. 31 to focus on a possible presidential run. She said his work for Lehman Brothers and Barclays was mostly offering clients “his perspective on the impact of economic trends, regulations and policies.”

Yeah, it’s a total coincidence Jeb associated himself with two of the world’s most recent examples of financial malfeasance. But that’s not the sort of thing Team Jeb is most worried about; it’s this:

[O]n Wednesday, Bush resigned from the board of directors of Tenet Healthcare Corp., also effective Dec. 31, according to a corporate filing. The Dallas-based company actively supported the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and has seen its revenue rise from it, an issue that could draw fire in Republican primaries.
Bush earned cash and stock awards worth nearly $300,000 from Tenet in 2013, according to corporate filings. He also sold Tenet stock worth $1.1 million that year, the records show.

Can’t be associating with Obamacare lovers, can he?

Jeb appears to hope his whole pattern of financial system bottom-feeding and door-opening for shadowy global interests will be forgotten once the campaign is underway. In that respect as in others, he is the appropriate representative of a Republican Establishment that views lack of wealth as the most unforgivable character flaw.

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