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“Your Family Has Delighted Us Long Enough”: Bush League; Jeb Has Become A 2016 Nonentity, For Good Reason

It’s universally acknowledged that Jeb Bush has fallen the furthest and fastest of any Republican in the primary race for president. It’s sad the former frontrunner has come to this: calling frontrunner Donald Trump “a jerk.”

How pedestrian.

Then again, the Bush men – Jeb, his brother George W. and their father George H.W. – can be famously inept with words. That is not the least of their sins and one reason Jeb is a room-emptier of a candidate. (He says he will “campaign my heart out.”) He has not made news in a good way – I mean, with something original, witty, smart or sparkling. Not one laugh has crossed state lines. Perhaps his best riposte came in the last debate, stating Trump can’t “insult his way to the presidency.” We’ll see.

The petulant preppie’s charm deficit has thrust his harsh substance into sharper relief for critics like me. As we know by now, Jeb Bush strongly opposes women’s reproductive rights; that as governor of Florida he dismissed large swathes of state employees; and that he has almost the same list of foreign policy “experts” as his brother, President George W. Bush. He rashly declared early on, “My brother kept us safe,” which gave Trump his first stinging salvo.

The fact is, 9/11 happened on his brother’s watch and defined his stay in the White House as a “war president.” America is still trying to awaken from the nightmare of Bush’s misbegotten wars, especially the Iraq invasion which took a serpentine trail to the birth of the Islamic State group. But Bushes are loyal team players and Jeb would never undermine George’s judgment. That cuts to the core of the Bushes: Winning is in the end about them, not us. It’s like a giant game of horseshoes in Kennebunkport, Maine, site of the waterfront family compound.

Jeb did one surprising thing, though. He made me freshly appreciate his brother George’s political talent, a long time coming. Suddenly, I saw the twinkle in his eye, his carriage, his presence, his range of expression. He is much more compelling as a leader than his brother, never mind (for a moment) his ruinous war record abroad. and on the Katrina front at home.

Ironically, the younger George’s time in office did much the same. I appreciated his father “Poppy’s” presidency so much more than I ever did during the son’s presidency. The elder George, who I thought of as a tonedeaf elitist with a mean streak, suddenly appeared as a wise statesman with the so-called “vision thing.” He had the vision not to start a “kill Saddam in Iraq” campaign after winning the war in Kuwait with a truly multinational coalition. How great was that? He did not cross that line in the sand.

The older Bush also handled German reunification and the end of the Cold War like an old foreign policy hand, which he actually was. Not a shot was fired in anger. The recession happening at home was his undoing in running for re-election in 1992, as he sensed it would be. The governor of Arkansas with the golden tongue, young enough to be his son, proved the man of the people.

But two Bush presidents are plenty, thanks, Jeb. As Jane Austen would say, your family has delighted us long enough.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, December 21, 2015

December 22, 2015 Posted by | George H. W. Bush, George W Bush, GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Poppy Speaks Out At Last — Too Little, Too Late”: The American People Are Still Paying The Price

If only “Poppy” had quit in 1992, after one White House term, then the 41st president’s fruit would not be so bitter. George Herbert Walker Bush would have dined out on German reunification and the multinational coalition in the first Gulf War — a desert cakewalk. Through no fault of his own, the Soviet Union and the Cold War ended on his watch, and that should be enough for any man pushing 70.

“I didn’t finish the job,” Bush I said. He’s now 91.

Out on the stump, the monumentally ambitious president found he could not connect to the American people. A jolly good fellow who wrote a ton of thank-you notes, he went as far as China and Langley for the blue-chip resume, always a team player who never had “the vision thing.”

Earlier, in 1988, he won as Ronald Reagan’s chosen understudy. But like many men of his Ivy League WASP war hero mold, he could not speak straight to the heart of people at home. Not to save his political life. His speech often sounded strangled.

A new biography, an elegant volume composed by author and presidential historian Jon Meacham, is titled Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. It’s based on the former president’s diaries and revealing chats, often at the family compound on the Maine coast.

The result of that sharing is the most generous portrait that the former president, nicknamed “Poppy” since prep school, could hope for. Meacham’s work is written in a gentlemanly spirit, just as his American Lion book on the gruff general and president, Andrew Jackson, glowed. For that he won the Pulitzer Prize. (Meacham once deftly edited a magazine piece of mine.) Meacham excuses Bush’s mean moments in political combat as untrue to his code. (The 1988 campaign was not pretty.) Nor does he pass judgment on Bush’s loyal service to President Richard M. Nixon.

Bush realized late there was no way to win against the young Bill Clinton, who could coax the stars out of the sky. The generational contrast was stark. We learn that Bush confided to his diary that he felt the war-high in his approval rating was thin ice. The future won; the past lost. Bush had been schooled and worked in exclusively male institutions; Clinton was educated in co-ed settings and married another Yale Law School graduate. (Barbara Pierce Bush dropped out of Smith College to marry Poppy.)

Now it turns out, tragically, Poppy’s speech troubles extended to his own firstborn son George W. Bush as wily Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney — who pushed the nation down the path of war in Iraq. More than most, the Bushes have played their family dramas out in public, at our expense. The American people are still paying the bill — and so are Iraq, Syria and other countries bathed in blood. The show was not even fun to watch.

The Bushes are not just genteel from a long New England line. Their manners mask a cutthroat bunch — jocks who don’t crack books much — when they aren’t writing adoring notes to fellow Bushes. Winning and loyalty are cherished, whether it’s horseshoes or the Florida presidential contest in 2000. They have their men, like lifelong friend James Baker, always there to help in a pinch. In Florida, with brother Jeb Bush as governor, the cliffhanger was almost a cosmic family thank-you note to opponent Al Gore, Clinton’s vice president — whom Poppy had once referred to as a pair of “bozos.” (Now he and Clinton are tight.)

Cheney’s war-mongering as his son’s vice president offended Poppy; building up his own power base was the last thing he would have done as Reagan’s No. 2. Bush, ever the good team player, found Cheney’s aggression a terrible influence. Yet Poppy had hired Cheney to be his secretary of defense and so — well, it was all in the tribe. As a seasoned foreign policy hand, Poppy knew the “axis of evil” language used by his son was trouble. But he never spoke “mano a mano” to his son, as columnist Maureen Dowd noted.

So why not say something at the time to us, the American people? It’s clear: We’re not their kind, dear.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, Featured Post, The National Memo, November 13, 2015

November 13, 2015 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, George H. W. Bush, Iraq War | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Hoodwinked”: Rumsfeld, Cheney, And A Bush-Family Drama

There’s something oddly Shakespearean about all of this.

Former President George H. W. Bush has ignited Republican infighting by alleging in an upcoming biography that former Vice President Dick Cheney formed his “own empire” within the White House and evolved into an “iron-ass” on foreign policy while serving in George W. Bush’s administration.

According to The New York Times, the 41st president is highly critical of Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the book, with the elder Bush slamming both men for having ”served the president badly.”

Cheney, you’ll recall, was the defense secretary for George H.W. Bush before he became George W. Bush’s vice president. But Bush pere has come to believe this latest version of Cheney is “very different” from the one “he knew and worked with.”

The elder Bush was even less kind towards Rumsfeld, whom the former president sees as “arrogant” and lacking in “humility.”

In response, Rumsfeld today responded, “Bush 41 is getting up in years and misjudges Bush 43, who I found made his own decisions.”

For the record, Rumsfeld is an 83-year-old man. Not to put too fine a point on this, but hearing an 83-year-old flippantly dismiss the concerns of a 91-year-old because the latter is “getting up in years” seems a little ridiculous.

Making this a little stranger still, H.W. Bush suggested he wasn’t altogether pleased with some of his son’s phrases, most notably “axis of evil,” during his presidency. “I do worry about some of the rhetoric that was out there – some of it his, maybe, and some of it the people around him,” he said of W. Bush.

This led Jeb Bush to defend his brother against his father’s mild rebuke. The former governor told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt, “My brother’s a big boy. His administration was shaped by his thinking, his reaction to the attack on 9/11. I think my dad, like a lotta people that love George wanna try to create a different narrative perhaps just to – just ‘cause that’s natural to do, right?”

Jeb added, “As it relates to Dick Cheney, he served my brother well as vice president, and he served my dad extraordinarily well as security of defense.”

Update: In H.W. Bush’s book, he also refers to his 1988 rival, former Gov. Michael Dukakis (D), as a “midget nerd.” Some of the instincts that did not serve Bush well during his White House tenure, regrettably, never went away.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 5, 2015

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George H. W. Bush | , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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