From Esquire: Be warned, Florida: According to a Bush, your presumptive GOP candidate, Marco Rubio, is the sort of guy who can look you in the eye and tell you the honest truth about where he stands. The Bush in question is your ex-guv, Jeb, but you’ll recall the last guy to earn a Bush’s trust by the mere forthrightness of his gaze: Vladimir Putin. The trust he earned was George W.’s. And what a stalwart ally Putin turned out to be.
Now, I’m not comparing Rubio to Putin. Rubio’s handsome enough to win an election, but it takes true cunning to become an elected dictator like Putin. But Jeb’s comment shines a light on the creepy and, given the stakes, reckless Republican fetish for judging their fellow politicians by surface and intuition. Rich Lowry is convinced of Sarah Palin’s qualifications by the “little starbursts” she sets off when she smiles. Bush 43, if his eyes failed, trusted his gut. When Bush landed on an aircraft carrier in the early days of the war in Iraq, conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham felt the moment called for seriousness: “Speaking as a woman… seeing President Bush get out of that plane, carrying his helmet, he is a real man. He stands by his word.” Can’t forget all those rightist Christian leaders whose impeccable public credentials concealed the homosexuality they decried as a threat to America itself — the latest showed up just yesterday. And can’t forget Texas senator John Cornyn, either. For a lawyer, he’s one tough hombre — just listen to the song he wrote about himself.
Predictably, the fetish cuts the other way when a Democrat is being appraised. Never mind that President Obama has overseen more terrorist assassinations in his first year than Bush did in his entire second term; or that he’s wrenched major arms-reduction treaties out of a reluctant Russia; or brought China to heel on the issue of its artificially low exchange rate (which hurts U.S. exports); or thrown an abusive Israeli government back on its heels after eight years of silent obedience from Washington. No, what matters is that the president occasionally respects local customs by nodding his head in the vicinity of foreign leaders. My god, the nation might crumble.
In any case, we’ll find out in November whether the Florida race was a beauty pageant or a serious affair. I take it as encouraging, though, that the man now apparently leading the race, Charlie Crist, is the one who did the only sensible thing regarding a GOP hijacked by the Tea Party and run by starstruck adolescents: left it.