Since I had to read some classes about the Korean War in college, I know what a reference to “unleashing Chiang” means. But I would easily forgive a person for not knowing. It’s slightly obscure, and many people don’t know about the early days of the conservative movement in which they were every bit as crazy as they are today, but it wasn’t considered fashionable to pretend they weren’t crazy. But as Brad DeLong argues it takes a special kind of idiot to be going around making references to “unleashing Chiang” while having absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.
And yet here’s Jeb Bush, the less stupid of George H.W. Bush’s sons:
Bush then unsheathed a golden sword and gave it to Rubio as a gift. “I’m going to bestow to you the sword of a great conservative warrior,” he said, as the crowd roared. The crowd, however, could be excused for not understanding Bush’s enigmatic foray into the realm of Eastern mysticism. We’re here to help. In a 1989 Washington Post article on the politics of tennis, former President George Bush was quoted as threatening to “unleash Chang” as a means of intimidating other players. The saying was apparently quite popular with Gov. Bush’s father, and referred to a legendary warrior named Chang who was called upon to settle political disputes in Chinese dynasties of yore. The phrase has evolved, under Gov. Jeb Bush’s use, to mean the need to fix conflicts or disagreements over an issue. Faced with a stalemate, the governor apparently “unleashes Chang” as a rhetorical device, signaling it’s time to stop arguing and start agreeing. No word on if Rubio will unleash Chang, or the sword, as he faces squabbles in the future.
Jeb is badly confused here. His father wasn’t going to “unleash Chang” he was going to “unleash Chiang.” And “Chiang” wasn’t an ancient Chinese warrior, he was a mid-twentieth century would-be dictator of China. Jeb’s dad was making a joke about the wingnuts within his own party, the MacArthur and McCarthy followers who believed that the Truman administration administration was deliberately failing to defeat Chinese Communism by keeping Chiang locked up in Taiwan.
And just remember: Jeb Bush will be President of the United States one day. Most likely in 2016, but possibly in 2012 or 2020 depending on the course of events. The Republicans are bound to win one of these days, and they just can’t quit to Bush family.