For some reason, it took Hurricane Katrina to expose the utter incompetence and disgusting lack of any semblance of humanity or leadership in the Bush Administration. Paul Krugman wonders in Monday’s column what it will take for Republican voters to see these same features in their favorite tough guys today, like Trump, Christie and Jeb Bush.
Among the lessons that Krugman says should have been learned from Katrina, but clearly wasn’t is “the huge gap between image and reality. Ever since 9/11, former President George W. Bush had been posing as a strong, effective leader keeping America safe. He wasn’t. But as long as he was talking tough about terrorists, it was hard for the public to see what a lousy job he was doing. It took a domestic disaster, which made his administration’s cronyism and incompetence obvious to anyone with a TV set, to burst his bubble.”
Now, we have a Republican field chock full of tough talking “political poseurs,” who are easily exposed by a modicum of digging into their actual record. Of course, Trump is the obvious example, but Chris Christie and Jeb Bush spring to Krugman’s mind as well. On Christie:
Not that long ago he was regarded as a strong contender for the presidency, in part because for a while his tough-guy act played so well with the people of New Jersey. But he has, in fact, been a terrible governor, who has presided over repeated credit downgrades, and who compromised New Jersey’s economic future by killing a much-needed rail tunnel project.
Now that Christie seems pathetic, it is not that he has actually changed, it’s just that the public has seen what he truly is.
Then there’s Jeb, “once hailed on the right as ‘the best governor in America,'” Krugman writes, “when in fact all he did was have the good luck to hold office during a huge housing bubble. Many people now seem baffled by Mr. Bush’s inability to come up with coherent policy proposals, or any good rationale for his campaign. What happened to Jeb the smart, effective leader? He never existed.
Krugman attempts to be even-handed, to find similar examples on the Democratic side, but comes up short. “In modern America, cults of personality built around undeserving politicians seem to be a Republican thing,” he writes.
Obama may not have turned out to be all that “starry-eyed liberals” had hoped he’d be, but he’s not utterly incompetent. Clinton’s e-mail scandal, ridiculous.
Then there’s Trump, whose rise everyone, except perhaps Krugman, seems to find shocking.
Both the Republican establishment and the punditocracy have been shocked by Mr. Trump’s continuing appeal to the party’s base. He’s a ludicrous figure, they complain. His policy proposals, such as they are, are unworkable, and anyway, don’t people realize the difference between actual leadership and being a star on reality TV?
But Mr. Trump isn’t alone in talking policy nonsense. Trying to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants would be a logistical and human rights nightmare, but might conceivably be possible; doubling America’s rate of economic growth, as Jeb Bush has promised he would, is a complete fantasy.
And while Mr. Trump doesn’t exude presidential dignity, he’s seeking the nomination of a party that once considered it a great idea to put George W. Bush in a flight suit and have him land on an aircraft carrier.
Conclusion: Don’t expect America to recognize this Emperor has no clothes for a long time.