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James Carville: Does the US really want another Bush?

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The 2016 Republican presidential field, we are told, will be made up of adults, as compared to the clown car that was the 2012 field. But as Roger Simon recently noted, “the Republican Party’s clown car has become a clown van.” 

We are certainly very early in the cycle, but it strikes me there are certainly quite a few clowns so far for 2016. 

We are not even at springtime yet and we have already had the predictable questions about evolution, discussions of no-go zones, the rise of the moronic anti-vaxxers and Rudy Giuliani, who was exempted from the draft six times to avoid going to Vietnam, offering advice on patriotism to the president — God knows what’s next. 

And then, most interestingly, we saw the Washington commentariat and Republican establishment’s favorite adult, Jeb Bush, trek to Chicago to give his adult version of how adults would conduct foreign policy to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

It was kind of interesting that he chose to make his case in Chicago, considered the birthplace of the neo-cons. At any rate, this adult seemed to have his own set of issues making him worthy of a seat in the clown van (credit to Vox’s Zack Beauchamp for gathering much of this information).

The former Florida governor overstated the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s military strength by 10 times, saying the group had 200,000 fighters when CIA estimates have it between 20,000 and 31,500. Bush called Ukraine “the Ukraine,” which implies that it’s a territory and not an independent country. Finally, in his criticism of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia, Beauchamp notes, “he weirdly talked about how he ‘forced myself to go visit Asia four times a year,’ as if it were a hardship.”

My favorite assessment might be from The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart, who said on Twitter it “would have been smarter for Jeb Bush to wait to give this speech until he had actually developed some distinct ideas.” 

Some might say that this is typical Democratic nitpicking and that it is really Bush’s strategy and vision that counts; while I would agree that this is a little bit of nitpicking, I think the next most interesting poll question has not been asked yet. Let me suggest that poll question: “As you may have heard, Jeb Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush, is running for president in 2016. Jeb Bush has announced his eight-member foreign policy team, seven of which advised his brother to go to war with Iraq and how to conduct that war. Having heard this, are you more or less likely to vote for Jeb Bush for president?”

If we are to believe the Republican establishment and the Washington commentariat, the country is more likely to support him. 

Maybe they’re right — maybe the country is longing for a restoration of the policies and people of George W. Bush’s administration. 

But something deep inside my gut says, not so fast. 

I wonder who will be proven right: the establishment and commentariat, or the part of my gut with the residue of red beans from Monday’s lunch. 

Carville is a political contributor for ARISE News. He serves as a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife, Republican strategist Mary Matalin. His column appears twice a month in The Hill.