The former president has only been mentioned by GOP candidates 19 times in 10 debates. Why?
By Michael Cohen
The opinions expressed are his own.
There are a lot of words you can expect to hear at tonight’s Republican debate in Washington, D.C. – “apologist,” “exceptionalism,” maybe “Uz-beki-beki-stan.” But here are two words you are almost certainly not going to hear – “George Bush.” Two years and ten months ago a two-term Republican President departed office. Today those seeking his former job are loath to mention him.
I reviewed the transcripts of the first 10 Republican presidential debates and could find only 19 references by a candidate to Bush – four offered tepid applause, five were downright negative and the rest were offered in passing or referenced Bush’s tenure as Governor of Texas and his positions as a candidate in 2000. Criticisms ran the gamut, from Bush’s support for government bailouts; his hiring of Ben Bernanke to head the Federal Reserve; and his lack of ardor in isolating Iran.
But even when sticking up for the former President, there were caveats. For example, Mitt Romney, in offering support for government bailouts deemed “essential” to preventing a “complete meltdown of the financial system,” had this to say about the deeply unpopular policy: “Was it perfect? No. Was it well-implemented? No, not particularly. Were there some institutions that should not have been bailed out? Absolutely. Should they have used the funds to bail out General Motors and Chrysler? No, that was the wrong source for that funding.” Rarely has praise been so qualified.
The only contender to speak warmly of Bush was the man who is holding his former job – Texas Governor Rick Perry. Yet as quickly as Perry had kind words for Bush he just as soon made clear his policy differences over the prescription drug benefit for Medicare and No Child Left Behind (which Huntsman also criticized) – renewing a long-standing policy rift that has developed between the two men.