Jeb Bush, or Jeb!, or John Ellis Bush! Bush, was recently asked who his favorite president is. This is a standard question that every candidate gets early on, and should have a canned answer ready. Bush! floated a few predictable names, like Washington and Lincoln, then his dad and his (shudder) brother. Then he went through the looking glass.
Jeb Bush admires James K. Polk.
If you just went, ‘Huh?’ bear with me a moment. Because this is the scariest thing he has said.
Back in December, Bush said that he would ‘lose the primary to win the general.’ I argued that this statement made no sense unless you consider the possibility that he is not speaking to you and me, but to wealthy Republican insiders and corporate donors. While Donald Trump bloviates about Mexican immigrants, Bush is able to tread more lightly, because he is fundamentally not having a conversation with America, but with GOP donors. Many of his statements operate on two levels, one meant to be boringly milquetoast for public consumption, and another meant to be revealing to the type of Wall Street, oil, and weapons donors who form the funding core of the Republican establishment, and have supported the Bush dynasty for most of the last half century. I have suspected for months that Bush! is communicating on a subliminal level, and his admiration for Polk, in my opinion, confirms it.
“One of the presidents that I really admire, and he’s not — I think people rank him pretty good, the historians who look at this — is James K. Polk,” Bush said.
“He said what he was going to do and he did what he said he was going to do, and then he left,” Bush said.
Bush is dead wrong about historians ranking Polk highly. In the waning months of Bush’s big brother’s presidency, historians already weighing in on W. predicted that he was headed for the bottom of the pile. The Washington Post noted that historians were comparing him to a previous president.
One other president bears comparison to Bush: James K. Polk. … Polk should be remembered primarily for launching that unprovoked attack on Mexico…
Remember those words, “unprovoked attack.” George W. Bush was our generation’s high priest of American Empire, but W.’s ‘preemptive war’ against Iraq was a nibble compared to Polk’s chomp on Mexico.
The story of the Mexican-American war of 1846-1848 is long and complicated. But, in a nutshell, Texas drifted away from Mexico, and the US annexed it. Mexico was outraged but could do nothing about it, while it was dealing with a rebellion. Sensing Mexico’s weakness, Polk tried to buy San Francisco Bay from Mexico. Mexico refused to even listen to the offer. Polk sent American troops through newly acquired Texas, deep into Mexican territory. An American patrol was attacked on Mexican soil. The White House lied and said Mexicans attacked American troops in the US. This gave Polk the pretext to attack. Following a year and a half of fighting, American troops occupied Mexico City. The US stole, at gunpoint, more than half of Mexico’s land. Today, most of the United States Southwest, from Texas to California, to Colorado, is land that was conquered from Mexico in the 1840s.
Why did Polk do this? To enlarge the territory where American slavery was practiced. Polk, who owned slaves, started this war so that the pro-slavery establishment could acquire more territory, and thus more representation in Congress, to increase slavery’s political power. The Mexican-American war deepened the division between North and South, between slaveholders and abolitionists. The fault line in American society existed even before the Founders wrote the Constitution. But the Mexican-American War set the stage for and was arguably the most proximate cause of America’s bloodiest war, the Civil War. In the 1840s, a vehement anti-war movement, including Abraham Lincoln and Henry David Thoreau, opposed what they called Polk’s War. Polk was the first president to launch a big war without approval from Congress.
Polk was the prophet of Manifest Destiny, American hyper-nationalism and white supremacy. He was its greatest champion between the Revolution and the Civil War. If you don’t remember hearing much about him in school, you can thank the Texas Board of Education which monopolizes the textbook industry, for sweeping him under the rug. He and his war have been efficiently scrubbed from the public’s understanding of American history.
Jeb Bush relies on this oversight of historical education. He knows the American public is mostly a bit fuzzy on the 1840s and the great impact of James Polk, the dark horse, the American Napoleon. But the deep pockets at Goldman Sachs, Exxon-Mobil and Lockheed Martin know exactly what he means. He will not flinch when they want to splatter blood abroad for profit. He will fight, kill, and carve out land for their interests. No racial slur that Donald Trump can mumble poses anywhere near the threat to poor black and brown people, in America and across the globe, as Bush’s implicit promise to wield the full weight of American empire in pursuit of corporate white nationalism. John Ellis is a scion of the House of Bush indeed.