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“It’s Looking Like Mother Knew Best”: The Reason Jeb Looks So Miserable

Here’s a thought experiment for you. Imagine you could find a person who didn’t know 1) who Jeb Bush was or 2) what pursuit he was involved in. You showed the person a video clip of a Bush press conference or speech, but with the sound turned down, and you asked the person, just based on the expression on Bush’s face and the hang of his shoulders and whatnot, where is this man, and what is he doing?

I think your person would say something like: “Well…he looks like he’s at a funeral. Attending the funeral of a friend’s mother. Or maybe not even a friend. Maybe a co-worker, or employee. He didn’t know the woman. But he’s there, because he needs to be, and he’s paying his respects. ‘I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m sure she was a wonderful woman.’ He’s doing his duty, but he also looks like he’d really rather be somewhere else.”

Bush has a lot of problems, which have become excruciatingly evident this week as he’s managed to offend Latinos and Asians and women (again) while still making no apparent headway with the kinds of people you’re supposed to make headway with by offending the aforementioned. But when you get right down to it, this is his problem. The Donald pegged him. He is a “low-energy person.” He looks like he has only the barest minimum interest in doing this.

On some level, politics is all about the gene. John Ellis doesn’t have it. No zest. No happy warrior thing going on at all. Say what you will about Dubya, and trust me, I said most of it at one time or another. But he had the gene. He liked politics. He enjoyed campaigning. He pinned his shoulders back up on stage, stood erect, gazed upon the crowd with something you might call command. Remember that smirk? Oh God how liberals hated that smirk! I remember how people on my side used to carry on about it, how it betrayed exactly the kind of shoot-first cowboy braggadocio that liberals find repulsive—and indeed, that ended up fucking up a big part of the world to this day. So we were right about that smirk. But at least he was smiling. At least he was up there having fun.

But Jeb. Yeesh. What’s he doing out there? It’s just duty. And not family duty either. Remember, his mom said he shouldn’t do it. His wife seems cool on it. At best. So it’s not family. It’s mostly party duty. Duty to the money people. Class duty.

Watching him I sometimes wonder: How did this guy get to be a governor? One thing I’ve learned in my years of covering politics, one of the more surprising things, I would say, is just how many utter mediocrities become governors. This is understandable in a lot of those puny states out there where the competition ain’t so great. And where either one party or the other is clearly dominant. So if you’re a Republican state legislator in Wyoming and you have a little charisma, or a Democratic mayor of Providence who has successfully avoided indictment for eight years, well, you can get to be governor. The road is not laid with many traps.

But Florida’s a big state. Probably a lot of talent there, comparatively speaking. How did Bush do it? Well, he was elected (1998) at a time when his last name was still a plus. And he was a Republican, and Florida elects Republican governors as a rule—I mean crikey, they’ve twice voted in a guy who swindled the federal government on Medicare, which many voters probably saw as a plus. So that’s all it took. He was a Republican, and his name was Bush.

But now that his last name is a liability, even (or especially) among GOP primary voters, he has to go out and get it, and the first step in getting it is wanting it, and he doesn’t seem to want it. In fact it looks like he dreads the thought of becoming president. Or is indifferent to it, which might be worse. Candidates have problems that they can fix. But how do you fix that problem?

So here’s how things seem to be shaping up, maybe. There’s going to be Trump. And then, after the rattle and hum of the first few contests, and the Perrys and Jindals and so forths have gone on their merry ways, there’s going to be one anointed non-Trump, whom the party’s panjandrums decide to get behind collectively in order to stop Trump. And that person is likely to be either Bush or Scott Walker or Marco Rubio or John Kasich. Or maybe someone else. (What’s that I hear you say? Mitt Romney? Not, at this point, an insane idea. Think about it.)

The non-Trump should easily and clearly have been Bush. And it still could be. I notice that still this week, even while Bush is getting slagged by everybody, the political futures market continues to rate him the favorite for the Republican nomination. So the wisdom of the crowd still says Bush, but we sense that it’s said in the same way that people might say “New England” or “Seattle” when asked who’ll win next year’s Super Bowl. The answer doesn’t reflect thought and analysis, just resigned reflex.

So he could still be the nominee, and by definition that means he could still be the next president. But as of now, he looks to have the makings of being one of the biggest flops in the history of presidential politics. A year ago all the experts thought otherwise, and sometimes the experts are right, but in this case, it’s looking like Mother knew best.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, August 28, 2015

August 29, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primaries, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“So Many Overdue Questions”: What Might Be Missing From Bush’s Presidential Library

Like all such monuments that former presidents construct to edify the public, the George W. Bush Presidential Center – opened with great ceremony in Texas yesterday — is mounted from its subject’s point of view.

My own invitation to the festivities must have been lost in the mail, so I have yet to view the super-cool interactive exhibitions that reportedly allow visitors to become “the decider” on Iraq and other debacles. But the point seems to be that the 43rd president came under sustained pressure and, if he screwed up to an unprecedented degree, then he doesn’t think you or I would have done any better.

That pointless comparison would no doubt elicit Bush’s trademark smirk. He is said to feel well-satisifed with himself, no matter what the world thinks.

Still the overall tone of the remarks by President Obama, former President Clinton, and others who attended the library dedication was appropriately generous, as befits such a civic occasion in a democracy – even in honor of a man who ascended to office by trampling democratic values. Obama drew attention to the good works that Bush did to combat HIV/AIDS while in office, perhaps his single most important achievement, as did Clinton, who also generously praised Bush’s fitful effort to reform immigration and his work with Clinton in post-earthquake Haiti.

But does that mean Bush may now take for granted the verdict of historians, many of whom consider him America’s worst president? Not so fast, please: There are a few salient questions that Bush (or at least his library) ought to address before the rehabilitation begins.

Everything changed abruptly after September 11, 2001, as the Bush library depicts so dramatically – but what should have changed in the White House before that horrific day? Why did Bush and Cheney ignore the warnings about al Qaeda delivered by Bill Clinton, Richard Clarke, and other authoritative figures when he took office? What were they trying to conceal when the Bush White House first opposed and then tried to weaken the 9/11 Commission?

Why did he and Dick Cheney (barely mentioned in the Bush library, according to NBC’s David Gregory) permit Osama bin Laden and the Taliban’s Mullah Omar to escape from Tora Bora after allied forces invaded Afghanistan? Was it wise to neglect the Afghan conflict while launching an invasion of Iraq?

The library portrays Bush as a dauntless advocate for “freedom” around the world. But did the invasion and occupation of Iraq establish liberty in that country and if so, for whom? Why is the authoritarian Shiite government in Baghdad now among the closest allies of the theocratic dictatorship in Iran? (And wasn’t that a predictable outcome of Bush’s Iraq policies?)

Finally, do the library’s exhibits or archives mention anywhere the hundreds of thousands of people killed, crippled, wounded, and driven from their homes as a consequence of the Iraq invasion? Is any attention devoted to the total financial cost of the war, last estimated to be approaching three trillion dollars?

Those traumas will always haunt the Bush presidency, no matter how many coats of red-blue-and-whitewash are applied in Dallas during the years ahead. And that is why Barbara Bush, his acerbic mother, sounded so wise when she said of the potential presidential candidacy of his brother Jeb, “we’ve had enough Bushes.”

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, April 26,2013

April 27, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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