Prescott & Jeb Bush: Distancing from McCarthy & Trump

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush in Bristol, Virginia. September 2015. (Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell)

By Lynn R. Mitchell

During the 2016 presidential debates, Governor Jeb Bush spent his time on and off stage trying to point out the dangers and inconsistencies of Donald Trump, a man who had mocked the disabled, disrespected Vietnam prisoners of war (while being a draft dodger), incited hatred toward immigrants especially Mexicans and Muslims, bullied candidates and citizens, encouraged violence at rallies, disparaged and mocked women, and was a blank slate on policy and governing.

Turns out Jeb was walking in his grandfather Senator Prescott Bush’s footsteps whose “most notable accomplishment may have been his denunciation of Senator Joseph McCarthy.” Yes — an earlier Bush pushed back against a fear-mongering, bullying Republican from an earlier era, as noted in the “Bush Family History” by Michael Kranish:

Initially, as a Senate candidate, Bush was reluctant to brush off McCarthy. The Wisconsin senator’s crusades against communists hit a nerve with many people in Connecticut, which had thousands of immigrants from countries that had been taken over by communists.

So in October 1952, just before Election Day, Bush agreed to appear at a rally with McCarthy in Connecticut.

“The place was packed,” Bush recalled. “I went out on stage with my knees shaking considerably to this podium, and I said I was very glad to welcome this Republican senator to our state and that we had many reasons to admire Joe McCarthy . . . I said, `But I must in all candor say that some of us, while we admire his objectives in this fight against Communism, we have very considerable reservations sometimes concerning the methods which he employs.’ And with that the roof went off with boos and hisses and catcalls and, `Throw him out.’ “

After the rally at Kline Memorial Hall in Bridgeport, where McCarthy said he held in his hand the names of 100 communists in the State Department, Bush accepted McCarthy’s invitation to dinner.

“This was all very friendly,” Bush said later. McCarthy asked if Bush wanted a large campaign contribution, but Bush said he was in good shape.

Bush remained friends with McCarthy, but by 1953, Bush was appalled at the way he was attacking fellow senators. After voting to censure McCarthy, Bush sent a message to President Eisenhower. Bush asked him to give a “a good pat on the back” publicly to another senator, who had authored the censure report. Eisenhower immediately took the suggestion, and within hours McCarthy was attacking more senators, who in turn abandoned him.

“So this was the end of Joe McCarthy, when his own crowd left him, do you see?” Bush said later…. “Joe never knew that I instigated this congratulatory meeting.”

Well done, Governor Bush, for standing up for your principles even while other candidates were off in the witness protection program, as you so candidly noted during the campaign. History will show that calling out Trump was the right thing to do.

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