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Friday, October 21, 2016

With a lush spring came cruel days. The Philadelphia train wreck happened only a hundred miles up the tracks from the Baltimore riots. Is the wind of history, the zeitgeist, on the job as we face the 2016 presidential race?

If so, it’s worth noting that Jeb Bush, the Republican frontrunner, spent days defending older brother George W. Bush, the former president, and the long war he started in Iraq. The younger brother was a one-man off-key Greek chorus.

In defending the decision to go to war based on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction — a claim proved false — the former Florida governor kept saying, “my brother.” Like we the folks are all in with the Bush family? It’s not as if we enjoy fond memories of a presidency defined by 9/11.

To return to the Baltimore and Philadelphia scenes, equidistant from the Mason-Dixon line. Those shocking sights, from April to May, told us that business as usual is taking a tragic toll. The Northeast infrastructure is old, getting older. So are Baltimore’s sad-sack slums, visible from a moving Amtrak window as a train zips up to New York. Lives are on the line. Stressed rails reach a breaking point. And if we let things languish in policing and income inequality, heat will rise on the streets. Plain as that.

But Jeb Bush, the leading Republican candidate (all but declared) had nothing nice to say, no sympathy note to send from his alternate universe. He astonished even friendly media at Fox News and conservative pundits by a doomed defense of “my brother” and his administration’s aggression in starting the Iraq War — still playing out. But as we know from previous Bush family dramas, loyalty to the tribe comes first. Nearly all Jeb Bush’s foreign policy advisors were on his brother’s A list, too.

After several stumbles on whether he would have invaded Iraq as president in 2003, Jeb Bush finally conceded that would be a bad idea. Yet he’s echoed his brother’s bluster and blunder by speaking to the issue with the veneer of a sneer. Why “re-litigate” the past? Many were puzzled at how little thought Jeb Bush gave to the biggest question facing his quest — and bedeviling his brother’s legacy. (If his brother started it, hey, how bad could it be?)

By nature, the busy Bushes don’t spend a lot of time lost in thought or looking back: “No regrets” could be the family coat of arms. Now we know Jeb Bush is no exception. Contrary to claims he’s his own man, he often invokes his last name, stating his brother is his “closest advisor.” Oh brother.

When war goes wrong, it’s in the distance. Here at home, something strange went awry seven miles north of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. A Northeast Regional train came around a bend, speeding at over 100 mph. The derailment devastated and bewildered swaths of the East Coast and beyond. Philly is a handsome city — with the Victorian zoo, the river boathouses, the Museum of Art. The city responded with great compassion and care to the injured and the dead that night. Brotherly love.

Eight beating hearts on that train were gone in a split second, torn from their plans, dreams, loved ones. All eight bodies were found in the wreckage. One victim, Rachel Jacobs, and I are alumnae of Swarthmore College in Philadelphia. She was 39. Somehow she seemed a long-lost friend.

Everyone knows safety improvements and infrastructure investment are overdue (except Congress.) Those old railway bridges over the bountiful, wide Susquehanna River? Sure, it’s easy on the eyes, crossing over the river. The most peaceful way to travel is now freighted with anxiety.

Here’s the thing this spring asks, starkly. Did our country get derailed at a reckless speed? Was Iraq akin to the curve in North Philadelphia?

The next president should address buttressing transportation, income inequality and beleaguered cities with fresh imagination and ideas. Whether a President Jeb Bush could do all that and regain our moral stature in the world community is a bridge too far. He’s failed the test of character.

The younger Bush is not the one to lead us out of our predicament, safe toward home.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit 

File photo: Former Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Feb. 27, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland. Conservative activists attended the annual political conference to discuss their agenda. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

  • FT66

    To me it looks like the whole GOP field of contenders didn’t prepare themselves to jump into 2016 battle. Did GOP contenders prepare themselves, especially Jeb? It looks like no one had any discussion with anyone before they showed up to be contenders. Jeb, coming with the narrative: “I am a man of my own”, then if you are, why not put the brotherhood aside and fight for your own survival? Back to other contenders, where is the message you want to deliver to people? How did you prepare yourself to come to people and tell them what you intend to do to them? All in all, I reckon each and everything about 2016 is in a real shumble especially on GOP side.

    • Dominick Vila

      Somebody should start a petition demanding that Jeb release all the e-mails he sent/received when his was Governor of Florida during the hanging chad episode.

      • mike

        How about you explaining this.
        Yesterday National Memo had an article from Ramesh Ponnuru on “16 questions Hillary Clinton should answer” but now the article is gone from the site. Why?? Did the Clinton Bully machine demand National Memo to remove it??

    • plc97477

      I think their message will be “We are not black” Carson will have trouble with that one but he will have trouble in the gotp anyway.

  • Dominick Vila

    Instead of asking Jeb questions about whether or not what his older brother did was right or wrong, the media should do its job and ask him questions about his association with the Cuban Mafia before he became Governor, about his involvement in the Terri Schiavo case, and about his involvement in the embarrassing pregnant chad scandal that resulted in his brother being selected President.

    • mike

      What happened to the Ramesh Ponnuru article

      Yesterday National Memo had an article from Ramesh Ponnuru on “16 questions Hillary Clinton should answer” but now the article is gone from the site. Why?? Did the Clinton Bully machine demand National Memo to remove it??

      • dpaano

        lt’s still there that I can see….

        • mike

          If you were not such a dim-witted progressive you would have seen my post, fourth post down, starting with “Correction”.
          Not surprised by your post.You always have been “a day late and a dollar short”, in this case 2 months late.
          By the way, now how many of those 16 questions has she answered?? Even her attempt to answer questions this week on CNN she continued to lie. She is untrustworthy and dishonest. But you love her because she is a women running for president, a very poor reason to vote for her.

          • dpaano

            And, since you don’t really know me, you wouldn’t understand that I’m not that shallow!! I don’t vote for someone just because they are a woman, and I’ve voted Republican before. I tend to vote for the person that I think would do the best job. Unfortunately, none of the GOP clown candidates make that cut. In the meantime, however, I have no idea WHO I’m going to vote for in the next election, so don’t assume that it will be Hillary!
            As for being a month or so behind, why is that away so important to you? I work for a living, and oftimes I don’t get to check these sites on a daily basis (like you seem to). .

          • mike

            You probably are a nice person, but for you to be on this site regurgitating the progressive talking points shows me what little depth you have.
            You can say what you want but we know you are for Hillary and will vote for her only because she is a women, just like Eleanore.
            I noticed you totally ignored my directing you to my Correction.
            As to “two month” time frame, it’s old news. What I am getting a kick out is the quick response on my post this morning. So much for that working for a living crap you claim.

          • dpaano

            First of all, apparently it’s okay for you to spew out your right wing BS, but no one can dare to voice their own opinions…correct? Secondly, despite your comment, I have NO idea who I’m voting for in the next election be it Hillary or Bernie or whomever. I will make that choice as the election gets closer. I do NOT vote for someone because of their sex, which has NOTHING to do with the job they are going to do. As for your comment that “we” know who you’re voting for….that’s pretty interesting….maybe you can tell me who “we” might be. No matter who “we” is….they have NO knowledge of who I’ll vote for this early in the game….so please let “we” know, okay?
            Lastly, the only reason I’m responding so quickly to your post is because it “pops” up on my e-mail that you’ve replied to my comment, and since I’m not overly busy right now, I am responding.
            As for your “correction,” yes, I did see it but I didn’t feel the need to respond. And, I do work for a living…..full-time….and have been at this particular job for over 9 years. I work for the Vice President of a very large medical device manufacturer, and I’m generally very busy. But, I do get to take a break once in a while.

          • mike

            More silliness from you!!! You progressives have only one candidate, so save me your stupid comment, “I don’t know who I will vote for.” All you have is a worn out old lady with bad ideas from the Obama himself. You really believe Obama would have been reelected 2012 if ACA had come out before the election. He is a failure from domestic policies to foreign affairs. The economy is barely alive because of his anti-business policies.
            If you had seen my correction you would have had the common sense, I hope, not to make such an inane comment you made, but no you wanted to act like you really knew what you were talking about.
            As to my comments, they are made to make sure you progressives know you can’t get away with inaccurate or half truths, which by the way are many.