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“Extremism And Corruption In The Sunshine State”: What Americans Don’t Know (Yet) About Jeb Bush

Whenever the deep thinkers of the Republican establishment glance at their bulging clown car of presidential hopefuls – with wacky Dr. Ben Carson, exorcist Bobby Jindal, loudmouth Chris Christie, and bankruptcy expert Donald Trump jammed in against Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, to name a few – they inevitably start chattering about Jeb Bush.

Never mind that his father was a one-term wonder of no great distinction, or that his brother is already a serious contender, in the eyes of historians, for worst president of the past hundred years. And never mind that on the issues most controversial among party activists — immigration and Common Core educational standards — he is an accursed “moderate.”

Lacking any especially attractive alternative, powerful Republicans are pushing Jeb Bush to run in 2016. And he seems to be on the cusp of a decision. Besides, more than a few Democrats agree that Bush, however damaged his family brand, would be the most formidable candidate available to the GOP. They too whisper about him as “the only one who could beat Hillary.”

Perhaps he could, although nearly all the polling data so far suggests Clinton would trounce Bush. But it is far too early to tell – in part because Jeb Bush, a politician who has been around for more than 20 years, is so little known to the American public. Most voters are ignorant about Bush’s record in Florida, where he was an exceptionally right-wing governor. They either don’t know or don’t remember, for example, how he signed a statute enabling him to intervene in the case of Terry Schiavo, a woman in a persistent vegetative state, despite her husband’s wishes. Florida’s highest court later voided that law as unconstitutional – and the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court likewise rejected an appeal.

Extremism and corruption in the Sunshine State during Bush’s tenure will provide ample fodder for investigative reporters and primary opponents, as will many episodes in his long business career.

Five months after he left the governor’s mansion in 2007, he joined Lehman Brothers as a “consultant.” No doubt he was well compensated, as reporters may learn if and when he releases his tax returns someday. The following year, Lehman infamously went bust – and left the state of Florida holding around a billion dollars worth of bad mortgage investments. (A Bush spokesperson said “his role as a consultant to Lehman Brothers was in no way related to Florida investments.”)

There are many equally fascinating chapters in the Jeb dossier, rooted in his declaration three decades ago that he intended to become “very wealthy” as a developer and yes, “consultant.” His partners back then included a certain Miguel Recarey, whose International Medical Centers allegedly perpetrated one of history’s biggest Medicare frauds. (Connection to Medicare fraud seems to be a prerequisite to becoming governor of Florida, at least among Republicans; see Rick Scott and the Columbia/HCA scam.)

Indicted by the feds, the mobbed-up Recarey fled the country – but not before Jeb had placed a call on his behalf to his presidential dad’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Margaret Heckler. For serving as a crook’s flunky, Recarey awarded Bush a generous tip of $75,000.

He performed a similar service, with more success, on behalf of the Cuban political gangster Orlando Bosch, for whom he sought a presidential pardon from his father. The boastful murderer of dozens of innocent people – and a prosecution target of the U.S. Justice Department — Bosch deserved a pardon about as much as the worst jihadi in Gitmo. But his sponsors were the same Cuban-Americans in Miami who had fostered Jeb’s real estate business there, so he ignored the Republican attorney general’s denunciation of Bosch as an “unreformed terrorist.”

It will be fascinating to see whether the mainstream press, which vetted his brother George W. so inadequately during the 2000 presidential race, will perform any better this time. But one way or another, American voters are going to learn much more about frontrunner Jeb than they know – or remember – today.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, December 4, 2014

December 6, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pity The Poor Immigrant”: How Jeb Bush Prevented Deportation Of An Illegal Alien And Terrorist

Between today and the first Republican primary of 2016, Jeb Bush surely will tell America exactly how government should cope with undocumented workers and their families. The former Florida governor, whose wife was born in Mexico, prompted headlines this week when his new book, Immigration Wars, seemed to abandon his earlier support for a “path to citizenship” in immigration reform and to adopt a much harder line — which he promptly dropped as well.

Unsurprisingly, Bush’s opinions on immigration are confused and confusing, not to mention ill-informed, which probably makes him a perfect leader for his party. He favored a path to citizenship for the undocumented when most Republicans opposed it; then his book warned that such a provision would encourage a renewed wave of illegal immigration; and now, as Republicans complain that he is out of step with their effort to court Latino voters, he is squirming away from his own book’s argument.

But no matter which direction Bush ultimately takes in the immigration debate, he can cite at least one Latino immigrant whose deportation he strived successfully to prevent, almost a quarter-century ago, when his father was president. The only drawback to this heartwarming humanitarian story is that the man whose cause Bush advocated was a bloodthirsty terrorist who was almost certainly responsible for the brutal murder of scores of innocent victims

In 1989, the Justice Department was seeking to deport one Orlando Bosch, a Cuban exile and anti-Castro militant who was then imprisoned for entering the United States illegally. Leaders of the Cuban-American community were agitating for Bosch’s release, although US law enforcement and intelligence authorities held Bosch culpable in many acts of brazen terror. Along with his suspected (and sometimes confessed) responsibility for various bombings and attacks on civilian and diplomatic targets, Bosch was believed to have overseen the sabotage of a Cuban airliner. The resulting explosion killed all 76 civilians aboard, including all the young members of Cuba’s Olympic fencing team, several passengers from other countries, and a pregnant mother. Corrupt Venezuelan prosecutors had failed to convict Bosch of this crime, but he publicly sought to justify the airliner bombing, almost to boast of it, when he wasn’t proffering unpersuasive denials. (He was also strongly suspected of running the conspiracy that blew up a car in Washington, D.C. in 1976 — an incident that killed Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his assistant, American citizen Ronni Moffitt, in perhaps the most infamous assassination carried out by foreigners on American soil.)

Miami’s Cuban leaders considered Bosch their greatest hero and turned to Jeb Bush, then a budding businessman seeking real estate deals in South Florida, to prevent his deportation.

The Bush Justice Department wanted to deport Bosch because, according to the FBI, he had “repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death.” Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, a Bush appointee, denounced Bosch as “an unrepentant terrorist.” None of this deterred Jeb Bush from lobbying against Bosch’s deportation – and in the end, from persuading his father to pardon Bosch, which meant he could live freely and comfortably in Miami until his death in 2011 at the age of 85.

Eight years later, with the help of the same wealthy Cuban-Americans who had implored him to help Bosch, Jeb Bush had become a wealthy man and newly elected governor of Florida.

Now Bush has adopted a hard line against those who have disobeyed America’s immigration statutes. But his outrage over the flouting of those laws seems extremely selective: For the ordinary worker with impoverished family, no mercy; for the demented terrorist with powerful friends, no effort spared.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, March 7, 2013

March 8, 2013 Posted by | Immigration Reform | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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