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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Eric Alterman Blows the Whistle on the New York Times’ Treatment of Jeb Bush as a “Moderate.”

Here’s Eric Alterman writing in The Nation:
….the most damaging of [The New York Times political] narratives is the one that posits a Republican Party with competing factions, one “conservative” and the other “moderate” or even “centrist.” In fact, the party has been wholly taken over by ideologues so extreme that their views–and policy proposals–bear no resemblance to the laws of science, economics or, in many cases, reality. But the Times’s reports consistently elide this truth, up to and including omitting crucial facts in order to craft a false and far more comforting fable.
The latest beneficiary of this tendency is soon-to-be presidential candidate Jeb Bush. According to the recent Times coverage, Bush is a “moderate” and “centrist” who wonders “whether he can secure the Republican nomination without pandering to the party’s conservative base,” as it explained in one story, and “whether he can prevail in a grueling primary battle without shifting his positions or altering his persona to satisfy his party’s hard-liners,” as it explained in another.
Reporter Jonathan Martin adds: “Though [Bush] is deeply conservative on some issues such as taxes and abortion…he has pushed for an immigration overhaul that would include a path to citizenship for people who are here illegally.” In fact, Bush did do this, before changing his mind because of opposition from Republican crazies and deciding that “permanent residency” for unauthorized immigrants “should not lead to citizenship,” calling that “an undeserving reward for conduct that we cannot afford to encourage.”
…Because at least Martin allowed for the fact that Jeb Bush is “deeply conservative on some issues such as taxes and abortion,” let’s take a look at some of the other positions he holds that apparently do not disqualify him from being called a “moderate” and “centrist” according to theTimes.
On economic matters, Bush endorsed Paul Ryan’s punitive budget that seeks to zero out virtually all federal assistance to the poor. He also supported George W. Bush’s deeply unpopular plan to privatize Social Security.
On social matters unrelated to abortion, Jeb sees “very strong justifications” for restrictive voter-ID laws that are transparently designed to reduce minority participation. He not only opposes gay marriage but says he “personally” believes that gay couples should be denied legal adoption rights; he also opposes all legal protections for LGBT people, calling them “special rights.”
He happily signed the NRA’s “stand your ground” legislation, which led to the legal murder of Trayvon Martin. Regarding science, he has moved from the completely ridiculous position of disputing the fact of global warming to the only slightly less ridiculous one of questioning whether it is “disproportionately man-made”–a position that puts him at odds with approximately 97 percent of the world’s qualified climatologists. On Cuba, he has also sided with the crazies. The list continues almost indefinitely.
True, Jeb Bush may be a “moderate” or “centrist” in a context where one of America’s two political parties has all but gone insane. But without such context, those labels are a lie–one that not only misinforms readers but also dishonors a great newspaper.

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