Jeb Bush and the great Republican name-calling tradition

Later note: “Jeb Bush Apologizes to France for Workweek Remark in Debate” by Dan Bilefsky, New York Times, 11/4/15. Good, Mr. Bush (not, as far as I know, Mr. Barrar) has listened to the many critics at home and in France who took issue with his uninformed slur against a foreign nation.

Really, it’s annoying. With so many abuses in the world, so many problems, Jeb Bush uses his waning time on the national stage to malign a people who blockaded the English at Yorktown so we could win our independence and who have been our allies ever since.

According to “Bush’s Jab at France Keeps Up a Tradition in G.O.P. Politics” by Dan Bilefsky, New York Times, Bush tried to score some points against Marco Rubio’s spotty Senate attendance record by declaring:

“I mean, literally, the Senate, what is it, like a French workweek? You get like three days where you have to show up?”

I guess he figured he’d win some sympathy by dumping on the French. Not from me!

The article says that in fact, the French average a 38.9-hour work week (which would be three 13-hour days, in case Jeb needs some math help) and that their labor productivity is higher than the European Union average and than our former colonial masters, the United Kingdom.

Gérard Araud, the French ambassador in Washington, tweeted (in English) according to the French newspaper Le Monde: “The French work an average of 39.6 hours a week compared to 39.2 for the Germans” and then added that “A French work week of 3 days? No but a pregnancy paid leave of 16 weeks yes! And proud of it.”

Maybe there’s some good advice there for both Jeb and Marco? And who’s to say Americans wouldn’t be better off working a 39-hour week? We might have more time as a nation for introspection and taking care of our own problems.

800px-FritesImage posted unchanged from Arnaud 25 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Times article mentions the Bush-era (meaning Jeb’s brother) Republican inspiration of renaming “French fries as “freedom fries.” That all goes back to Republican outrage at France’s refusal to join in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Now, lo and behold, even some Republicans think the French were right.

At that time, State Representative Stephen Barrar (R-160, still today representing a chunk of southern Chester County), additionally upset by French disapproval of the death penalty, denounced “France’s disrespect toward American laws and the rights of our citizens” (Daily Local News, 2/15/03). His call to boycott French wines and other products fit into a disturbing political trend of bashing people of other nationalities who dare to be different from us.

The French GDP is the 3rd largest in the European Union (just behind UK), so I guess Mr. Barrar didn’t succeed in putting much of a dent in it.

And what a silly statement: why should the French respect US laws? Why, indeed, should the French crack the work-hour whip as firmly we do on our own workers? Barrar led the “freedom fries” movement in Harrisburg, though it soon fizzled. I hope Jeb’s French-bashing fizzles too. And Jeb himself, for that matter.

Let him and his Republican rivals bash each other, as Mr. Trump has amply shown the way, no problem; but they would be well advised to keep their negative feelings about other countries and cultures under wraps.


About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
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One Response to Jeb Bush and the great Republican name-calling tradition

  1. Pingback: “Trump-l’oeil” and the US political scene | politicswestchesterview

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