Great news from Jeb Bush: I'll govern like Lyndon Johnson did

You’d think a guy who’ll be attacked endlessly for his brother’s policies on Iraq wouldn’t want to tie himself to the president responsible for Vietnam too.

In fairness, he’s talking about governing style here, not policy substance. But why he’d feel obliged to mention LBJ at all in making this point, I have no idea.

Bush did not address Johnson’s Great Society and War on Poverty programs, about which Ronald Reagan once famously quipped, “We had a war on poverty, and poverty won.”

Instead, he was referencing Johnson’s mastery of the so-called sausage-making process in Congress.

He vowed to approach the presidency as “master of the Senate,” as biographer Robert Caro described Johnson.

β€œHe went and he cajoled, he begged, he threatened, he loved, he hugged, he did what leaders do, which is they personally get engaged to make something happen,’’ Bush said of Johnson. Bush cited Caro’s latest book about Johnson, The Passage of Power, which covers the first part of Johnson’s presidency.

He went on to say that it’s “completely un-American” to let illegals live “in the shadows” because of course he did. Needless to say, his LBJ comments are a knock on Obama, who’s frequently compared to Johnson by lefties who are unhappy with the pace of what O’s achieved. LBJ knew how to schmooze and terrorize Congress to get what he wanted; The One, ever aloof, is too remote to get his hands dirty like that. On a basic level, all Jeb’s saying here is that he’ll be hands-on. But as a Twitter buddy pointed out, if he wanted to make the point that he’ll be a dealmaker as president, he could have reached for an example that’s far more appealing to conservatives — namely, Ronald Reagan. The fact that he reached back to the Great Society instead, knowing that conservatives already view him as suspect, is baffling. Jonah Goldberg wrote a column the other day expressing his mystification at the fact that Jeb seems to feel no need to woo the righty base at all. Granted, he’s not going to be the conservative choice in the primaries, but neither was Romney and he managed to win enough righty votes to build a winning coalition with centrists. More importantly, the more alienated conservatives feel from Bush, the less likely they may be to help his campaign in the general if he’s the nominee. There are plenty of righties, I think, who’ll grudgingly vote for the most “electable” candidate even in the primaries, despite their personal preference for someone who’s more conservative — so long as they feel that candidate is interested in their votes. As it is, you’ve got Jeb running around praising Lyndon Johnson and babbling about amnesty to anyone who’ll listen right at the moment that voters are starting to pay attention. What’s wrong with this picture?

Via the Corner, here’s Jonah talking about this at length. One quibble with what he says, though: I’m not sure that Jeb is DOA in Iowa or New Hampshire if he’s totally estranged from conservatives. It’ll make his task much harder, but there’s a fair chance that, between Christie’s troubles and Rubio’s hesitation if Bush runs, Jeb might clear the field in the party’s center if he jumps in. If that happens and the conservative field ends up crowded with Pauls and Cruzes and Pences and Carsons and Perrys (and Wests?), the righty vote could split enough to let Jeb squeak through. I have no idea why he’d want to gamble on all of that happening, but maybe he does.