When a candidate launches a presidential campaign, it's the beginning of a long, difficult process. But what's often easy to overlook is the fact that these announcements are also the end of a different kind of process -- candidates in both parties routinely spend months, if not years, laying the groundwork for a national race.
And a key element of this pre-campaign phase involves spending time with -- and ideally, impressing -- party leaders and insiders who will help shape broader perceptions about the candidates' credibility. Philip Rucker and Robert Costa referred to this as the "credentials caucus
," as Republican presidential aspirants "quietly study up on issues and cultivate ties to pundits and luminaries from previous administrations."
The jockeying and relationship-building is well underway. Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, and others have been cultivating ties with a parade of scholars, pundits, and veterans from the Bush/Cheney era.
But perhaps no tidbit stood out more than this one.
Former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, known for his controversial decisions during the Iraq war, has been courted by several potential candidates and plans to meet with Cruz. Cruz has hired former Rumsfeld aide Victoria Coates as his national security adviser.
If this seems unsettling, there's a perfectly good reason for that.
Rachel's recent interview
with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" keeps coming to mind.
STEWART: It's incredible ... how quickly they jump, and we listen to all of these individuals who were so wrong, led us so awry on the Iraq war, and they're immediately on television with great confidence.... The hubris has been incredible. MADDOW: And that's because there hasn't been accountability for the people who were wrong the first time.
And if there had been accountability, this wouldn't be so painful to watch unfold in real time. House Republicans sought out
Dick Cheney for guidance on foreign policy, as if he has some credibility on the issue. Condoleezza Rice is lecturing Americans on why she wants us to get over our war "weariness
." And 2016 candidates are making a concerted effort to "court" Donald Rumsfeld, as if associating with him will bolster their national aspirations.
Perhaps now would be a good time to point out some inconvenient details: these folks were wrong about everything. Their decisions brought deadly, catastrophic consequences. To pretend that these people have something worthwhile to offer in the areas of foreign policy and/or global leadership is to pretend reality simply has no meaning.
Put it this way: in 1940, were Republican presidential hopefuls courting Hoover's economic team? I rather doubt it. So why is Rumsfeld in demand now?