How far off the deep end has the Republican Party gone with their hand-wringing about Planned Parenthood, the organization widely-admired by much of the rest of the country for what many women say is their one lifeline to medical care?
Well, just consider what Jeb Bush said on July 21 speaking at the Carolina Pregnancy Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The subject came up because Planned Parenthood at the time was embroiled in yet another attack from the far right about supposedly selling body parts, a charge the organization denies.
But whether the charges are indeed false or not, Mr. Bush's comments went far beyond dealing with that specific story and dealt instead with Planned Parenthood in general.
"I think it's time for us to re-evaluate all these programs," he said in his comments about Planned Parenthood. "Government spends way too much to start with. There should be a thorough review of spending in Washington, D.C., particularly organizations that have a very deep political agenda. And that would be part of my mission as president, as well"
So, why does this show how far off the deep end the GOP has gone towards Planned Parenthood?
Well...just ask Jeb's dad, the former president. Or ask Jeb (sorry, that should be "Jeb!") why his grandfather, former U.S. Senator Prescott Bush, is spinning in his grave. Of course, it's possible that Jeb! doesn't have a clue why. But more likely, he just doesn't care.
In 1970, when President Richard Nixon signed the bill that allowed federal funding for family-planning groups like Planned Parenthood (yes, Republican Nixon is who signed the legislation. But I digress...), Jeb Bush's father, George H.W. Bush -- at the time a Republican congressman from Texas -- was such a vocal spokesman for the bill in House debate that he was given an odd nickname.
“He was so supportive of family planning that people called him ‘Rubbers,’” explained Gloria Feldt, the national president of Planned Parenthood from 1996 to 2005.
Now, mind you, there is a reason that this future Republican President of the United States was such an outspoken supporter of Planned Parenthood. And it's not just because he believed so strongly in the organization. But it was in his genes -- and therefore in Jeb Bush's, too.
You see, George H.W Bush's father, and Jeb Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush was (are you ready?) the treasurer for Planned Parenthood in its very first national fundraising campaign! So, in some ways, it turns out that Prescott Bush was one of Planned Parenthood's founding fathers. And grandfathers...
You have to admit, there's a certain whimsy that this organization which Jeb Bush wants investigated and defunded, and that his father and grandfather helped give life to, actually has the word "Parenthood" in its name.
And the thing is, if Jeb Bush tries to contend that the reason he wants to investigate the organization his grandfather helped found and that his father aggressively helped support is because for some unexplained reason it's changed over the years, the reality is that Planned Parenthood has always been a target of the far right of the GOP. As Roll Call notes, Prescott Bush "lost his first bid for Senate in Connecticut in 1950 after receiving criticism from a syndicated columnist and church officials over his role in supporting Planned Parenthood." (He subsequently was elected to the Senate.)
What's changed is not Planned Parenthood, but the Republican Party whose elected officials now almost exclusively condemn the organization. But once upon a time, not only did Republican Richard Nixon sign the bill to help fund it, and moderate Republicans (who really once existed) support it, but the wife of Mr. Conservative, Barry Goldwater, the 1964 GOP presidential candidate, was a founding member of the Arizona branch of Planned Parenthood.
That's how far right the Republican Party has driven the bus.
And now, there's Jeb! Bush chugging along for the ride, trying to pander to the base and shut down the very organization his father fought vociferously for on the House floor and which his grandfather not only helped found, but was willing to lose his first run for the Senate over.
That's how far off the deep end the Republican Party has gone today over Planned Parenthood. And over so much more. And the thing is, I don't think most of them have a clue. Or care.
And not knowing or caring about history is as big a problem as anything. Because if you don't know or care where you came from, how on earth can you know where you're going...?
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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