My take on Jeb's speech yesterday was that he represents just about everything ugly in GOP ideology. One such grim idea is that human maladies are all a matter of personal choice. Poor? Your fault. Sick? You made the wrong choice. Single motherhood? You deserve a red A.
For shame. That's the message according to Jeb! according to Catherine Rampell writing in the Washington Post.
"Profiles in Character" (which Bush co-authored with Brian Yablonski) is part compilation of platitudes about community, religiosity and integrity; part series of inspirational biographies (the "profiles" of the title); and part diatribe about bloated government. The juiciest and weirdest bits, though, are in a subchapter about the need to revive "shame."
"Society needs to relearn the art of public and private disapproval and how to make those who engage in undesirable behavior feel some sense of shame," Bush writes.
The book argues that the diminishment of dishonor has contributed to all sorts of depravity. If only we as a populace were a bit more judgmental, the poor would stop being so poor, the promiscuous would learn restraint, deadbeats would pay their bills, criminals would keep to the straight and narrow, school shooters would lay down their arms and bastard children would finally start getting "legitimize[d]" (their term, not mine) through marriage.
The Bushies spin their way out of this one, somehow. But it does provide a look at the soul of the guy who wants to lead America to a better future, a future that looks like this.
To contrast today’s shamefully shameless culture with the past, the book waxes wistful about ye olden times: "There was a time when neighbors and communities would frown on out-of-wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful. Infamous shotgun weddings and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter are reminders that public condemnation of irresponsible sexual behavior has strong historical roots."
Rampell provides a literature lesson to Jeb.
His priceless Andover education notwithstanding, Bush may be a little confused about one of the great American literary classics. Hawthorne’s unforgiving, shame-wielding Puritan Salemites were not exactly portrayed as worthy of imitation.
In the end it's hard not to think that Jeb's vision is Kansas, Toto.
But even if Bush no longer directly embraces, say, corporal punishment, his underlying philosophy is clear, and it’s consistent with attitudes we’ve seen among conservatives now in power in places such as Kansas and Wisconsin: that the main reason people are broke, unmarried, in prison or unemployed is because it’s all just too much gosh-darn fun.