Jeb trots out usual suspects from another Bush reign

To be seen as his own man, Jeb Bush needs to let go of his big brother’s props

Jeb Bush: the last two presidents in his party were his father and brother, and his brother crashed the family station wagon into the globe. Photograph: Jim Young / Reuters

Jeb Bush: the last two presidents in his party were his father and brother, and his brother crashed the family station wagon into the globe. Photograph: Jim Young / Reuters

 

I had been keeping an open mind on Jeb Bush. I mean, sure, as Florida governor, he helped his brother snatch the 2000 election. And that led to two decade-long botched wars that cost tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.

The nation will be dealing for a long time with struggling veterans and the loss of American prestige. Not to mention that W let Wall Street gamble away the economy, which is only now finally creeping back.

But, all that aside, shouldn’t John Ellis Bush have the right to make the case that he is his own man?

In his foreign policy speech in Chicago, Jeb was dismissive toward those who want to know where he stands in relation to his father and brother. “In fact,” he said, mockingly, “this is a great, fascinating thing in the political world for some reason.”

For some reason?

Like the Clintons, the Bushes drag the country through national traumas that spring from their convoluted family dynamic and then disingenuously wonder why we concern ourselves with their family dynamic.

Without their last names, Hillary and Jeb would not be front-runners, buoyed by networks of donors grateful for appointments or favours bestowed by the family. (When Jeb and W ran gubernatorial races in 1994, they both mined their mother’s Christmas card list for donors.)

Family ties

The last two presidents in his party were his father and brother, and his brother crashed the family station wagon into the globe. Jeb is going to have to address that more thoroughly than saying “there were mistakes made in Iraq for sure”.

He says he doesn’t want to focus on “the past”, and who can blame him? But how can he talk about leading America into the future if he can’t honestly assess the past, or his family’s controversial imprint?

In his speech, he blamed President Barack Obama for the void that hatched Islamic State (IS), which he also noted didn’t exist in 2003 at the dawn of “the liberation of Iraq”. Actually, his brother’s invasion of Iraq is what spawned al-Qaeda in Iraq, which drew from an insurgency of Sunni soldiers angry about being thrown out of work by the amateurish and vainglorious viceroy, Paul Bremer.

Although Jeb likes to act as though his family is irrelevant to his ambitions, Bushworld stalwarts recite the Bush dynasty narrative like a favourite fairy tale:

The wonky Jeb, not the cocky W, was always 41’s hope. HW and Bar never thought W – unprepared, unruly and with a chip on his shoulder – would be president. His parents’ assumption that he was The One got in Jeb’s head and now the 62-year-old feels he needs “to try to correct and make up for some of W’s mistakes”, as one family friend put it.

The older Bush circle seems confident that Jeb sided with his father and Brent Scowcroft on the folly of letting the neocons push America into diverting from Osama to Saddam.

So for Bushworld, Jeb is the redeemer, the one who listens and talks in full sentences that make sense, the one who will restore the lustre of the Bush name. But if you want to be your own person, you have to come up with your own people.

W was a boy king, propped up by regents supplied by his father. Since he knew nothing about foreign affairs, his father surrounded him with his own advisers: Colin Powell, Condi Rice and Dick Cheney, who joined up with his pal Donald Rumsfeld and absconded with W’s presidency.

Jeb, too, wanted to bolster his negligible foreign policy cred, so the day of his speech, his aide released a list of 21 advisers, 19 of whom had worked in the administrations of his father and his brother. The list starts with the estimable James Baker. But then it shockingly veers into warmongers.

Iraq war cheerleader

Paul Wolfowitz

There’s John Hannah, Cheney’s national security adviser (cultivated by the scheming Ahmed Chalabi), who tried to stuff hyped-up junk on Saddam into Powell’s UN speech and who harboured bellicose ambitions about Iran; Stephen Hadley, who let the false 16-word assertion about Saddam trying to buy yellowcake in Niger into W’s 2003 State of the Union; Porter Goss, the former CIA director who defended waterboarding.

There’s Michael Hayden, who publicly misled Congress about warrantless wiretapping and torture, and Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security secretary who fumbled Katrina.

Circling hawks

Henry Kissinger

Why not bring back Scooter Libby?

If he wants to reclaim the Bush honour, Jeb should be holding accountable those who inflicted deep scars on America, not holding court with them.

Where’s the shame?

For some reason, Jeb doesn’t see it.

– (New York Times)

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