The rehabilitation of Rice is just part of a broader restoration of the Bush brand and of those who worked with our 43rd president. Fewer than four years after George W. Bush left office, his team members are back in high places, their reputation is being reconsidered, and the Bush name is regaining its old luster and then some.
Among those joining Rice at Romney’s June retreat for top donors were former top Bush administration officials such as Karl Rove, who also addressed the 800 attendees; former homeland security czar Michael Chertoff; former Florida governor Jeb Bush; and even luminaries from the George H.W. Bush administration such as former secretary of state James Baker III. Jeb Bush was also a GOP convention headliner, delivering a well-received speech on education.
Particularly striking is the degree to which Bush 43 foreign policy players have assumed leading roles in shaping policy for Romney. John Bolton, Bush’s U.N. ambassador and an especially combative member of the neoconservative contingent so closely linked with that administration, has been part of Romney’s inner circle throughout the year.
Cofer Black, a former top executive at the Bush-era security contractor once called Blackwater, is a top adviser to Romney on intelligence issues, shaping his views on subjects such as interrogations of terrorism suspects. And Dan Senor, who was a top official in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in the year after the invasion, is now at the right hand of vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Senor was also cited as one of the influential thinkers behind some of Romney’s controversial comments during his trip to Israel, when he said the innate superiority of Israeli culture is one reason the Israelis are doing better economically than the Palestinians.
Barack Obama was swept into the presidency four years ago in part because of his explicit rejection of Bush’s policies. The Bush vision of an America unhesitant to impose its will with or without international support had cost the country too much in lives, resources and international standing, and the neocons and other top Bush figures had fallen into disrepute, perhaps never to be heard from again. But now they’re out of the wilderness — and finding homes in the Romney campaign.
By facilitating the reconsideration of the Bush legacy, the Republican nominee may also be inviting some of the feuds that characterized Bush’s foreign policy team. Other Bush alums who are advising or quietly consulting with the campaign could become rivals to the neocons because they offer more moderate or “realist” views. This group, led by Romney’s national security transition leader, Robert Zoellick — who was deputy secretary of stateand later head of the World Bank — includes people such as former CIA director Michael Hayden and Rice, a former protege of Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser to the first President Bush.