Republican candidates are beginning to target the presidency of George W. Bush, viewing it as an Achilles’ heel for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush even though they are attacking the most recent chief executive from their own party.
This week, both Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich suggested massive failures on the part of the older Bush brother during his presidency, seeking to diminish Jeb by degrading the Bush brand. The tactic had been expected to be deployed by Democrats if Jeb got the nomination, but Republican candidates clearly think the GOP base will not recoil from attacks on a president whose conservatives bona fides were always suspect.
The strategy is consistent with the burgeoning effort by Republican candidates, led by Donald Trump, to bring Jeb Bush down before his polls rise to levels commensurate with his massive fundraising.
Appearing on “The Laura Ingraham Show” Wednesday, Carly Fiorina said the 2008 financial meltdown occurred because quasi-government lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac churned out high-risk loans to borrowers who could not afford to make their mortgage payments. Wall Street investors bought up that “paper” and re-sold it, she said, adding that then-President George W. Bush, along with leaders of both parties, supported those policies.
“He certainly was contributory … President Bush said that American home ownership is part of the American dream, and therefore Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should keep doing what they’re doing,” she said. “This is what happens when government decides, for political purposes, that it’s going to get engaged in a marketplace. Bad things happen.”
Fiorina’s criticism of the Bush legacy comes on the heels of similar comments made Tuesday by Ohio Gov. John Kasich in an interview, also on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”
Kasich pointed to the reversal of the balanced federal budgets that Kasich helped craft as then-chairman of the House Budget Committee
“How ’bout the first term when they blew the $5 trillion surplus that we all created and spent it all away?” Kasich asked in response to a question about whether he found fault with the policies of the Bush administration.
Fiorina contrasted the Bush record with the philosophy of Ronald Reagan.
“Reagan was a leader who understood that you must confront adversaries in a real and serious way,” she said.
That has not happened in the arena of international trade, according to Fiorina. She said China agreed to a set of rules in exchange for entry into the World Trade Organization.
“They haven’t lived up to any of them and there have been no consequences for their bad behavior, neither under Republicans or Democrats,” she said.
Kasich also invoked Reagan, suggested he would return to the GOP policies that preceded George W. Bush.
Kasich recalled that he ran on the conservative policies of Reagan in 1982 and won, despite the rough election year for Republicans. “I ran on the Reagan philosophy, and I was the only Republican to defeat an incumbent that year,” he said.
Fiorina homed in on the suspicion that many conservatives have about the Bushes: that in their hearts, they are big government conservatives — heirs to the Nelson Rockefeller wing of the party who mouth the free market conservatism of Ronald Reagan but don’t really have it in their blood.
Fiorina said his strong support of Common Core highlights his blinders to the dangers of concentrated power.
“I think Jeb Bush has more faith in the power of government than I do. I think bureaucracies always get out of control,” said Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. “So the name of the game is to reduce their scope, their power, their cost, their complexity, move as much of the decision-making and funding out of Washington and into the states. I think Jeb Bush and I fundamentally disagree on that.”
Fiorina said she is bracing for attacks from the Bush campaign if her poll numbers continue to rise.
“They may come after me, but they will not destroy me,” she said. “I am very proud of my record. I’m not perfect. But I have nothing to hide.”
Fiorina also took issue with frontrunner Donald Trump, whom she accused of inconsistencies on immigration. She noted that he criticized 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants and voiced support for amnesty.
“I have a very different record than Donald Trump,” she said.
This piece first appeared on Polizette. Reporter Brendan Kirby contributed to it.