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Friday, October 21, 2016

Jeb Bush’s last name comes with advantages that are difficult to overstate. In a presidential race, he gets, among other things, instant name recognition and a built-in fundraising apparatus from his father and brother. Those assets alone explain why a man who hasn’t won an election in more than a decade is nonetheless considered a serious contender for his party’s presidential nomination.

And yet, a few months into the presidential race, Bush has not been able to turn “contender” into “frontrunner,” in part because he cannot seem to escape the legacy of the same last name that provides him so many privileges.

Bush’s struggle with the Bush legacy started in February, when the former Florida governor gave a speech declaring: “I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man.” There was no problem with the rhetoric, except for the fact that it was accompanied by Bush announcing his foreign policy advisors — 19 of 21 of which had formerly worked for his father or brother. A few months later, Jeb Bush said his brother was one of his top advisors on the Middle East.

George W. Bush’s policy in that region soon became a focus of inquiry on the campaign trail. In May, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asked Jeb Bush: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the [Iraq] invasion?”

Bush declared, “I would have” and insisted “so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got” — somehow ignoring 133 House members and 23 senators who saw some of that intelligence and voted against the war. But that wasn’t the only thing Bush said: He went on to proudly assert that when it came to the decision to invade Iraq, “news flash to the world, if they’re trying to find places where there’s big space between me and my brother, this might not be one of those.”

Bush later tried to walk back his comments and distance himself from his brother’s Iraq policy, but the political damage had already been done. As conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham put it: “You can’t think going into Iraq now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to do. That’s like you have no ability to learn from past mistakes at all.”

This past week Bush faced another test of whether he could be “his own man” and honestly assess his brother’s legacy. In an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation, he was asked by host Bob Schieffer to provide his views on the “successes and mistakes” of the George W. Bush administration. Jeb Bush said “the successes clearly are protecting the homeland” and he asserted that his brother “kept us safe.”

Of course, George W. Bush was president on Sept. 11, 2001 — a day that America was not “kept safe.” George W. Bush was also president in the months leading up to that catastrophic attack — the same months in which he was given a memo headlined “Bin Laden Determined to Strike In U.S.” And as MSNBC’s Steve Benen argues, even if you somehow pretend George W. Bush only became president on Sept.12, 2001, the whole “kept us safe” idea is questionable at best.

“Shortly after 9/11, for example, there were deadly anthrax attacks,” Benen wrote this week. “There were scores of terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was an increase in the number of terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic outposts around the world.”

Jeb Bush will no doubt have more opportunities to try to distinguish himself from his family members. If he can’t, though, even the enormous advantages that come with his last name might not be enough to carry him to victory.

David Sirota is a senior writer at the International Business Times and the best-selling author of the books Hostile Takeover, The Uprising, and Back to Our Future. Email him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at Copyright 2015

Photo: Former governor Jeb Bush of Florida speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

  • Dominick Vila

    The biggest challenges for Jeb Bush to overcome are, ironically, name recognition, which is likely to be a negative; his record, including his dealings with the Cuban mafia in Miami before he became Governor, his involvement in the Terri Schiavo case, and his contributions to the hanging chad scheme that resulted in his brother being selected President. As bad as that is, his biggest problem may turn out to be his decision to pander to the far right in a desperate attempt to become the GOP 2016 nominee.
    He is not his own man. He is a member of a family with a horrible political record, a Mexican wife and children that disqualify him in the eyes of Republican white supremacists, and his failure to offer an unambiguous political platform that includes solutions to socio-economic and global challenges, rather than the usual “they bad, me good” mantra.

    • FireBaron

      I dunno, Dominick. He does have his father’s and brother’s permission to say he is his own man. Shouldn’t that be good enough for everyone? Has Richard Morris already started planning his Inaugural events? If so, we can guarantee he will lose, based on Morris’ track record.
      I think what it will come down to is this – Will he be among Rush Limbaugh’s anointed? Or will The Great Bloviator decry him until he is assured of the nomination – after which he will claim Jeb as the salvation of the party and the second coming of Compassionate Conservatives!

      • Dominick Vila

        All kidding aside, I expect Jeb will be the GOP nominee. Not because he deserves it, but because the rest of the GOP candidates are so pathetic that they should not qualify for a job sweeping feces at the local Humane Society. I would not be surprised if some of these guys are actually running for the Nr. 2 spot.

        • Kurt CPI

          Yep, you got that right. Bush is the best they have, and the old guard couldn’t be happier having another Bush in the white house. Of course that same clan thought JFK would carry on the family tradition, but he turned the tables on them. I don’t see Jeb Bush as a rogue looking to undermine the status quo.

    • FT66

      Well stated Dominick and well summarized. I have no more to add about Jeb. You really nailed it and nail has gone through and will stick there, there.

  • jokr8790

    Jeb Bush tries to stress so much how much he’s his “own man” and his last name isn’t a precursor of the past. Nonetheless, he’s hired all his brother’s and father’s former advisors to be his advisors. Clearly, he intends to continue the worst of their policies.

  • dpaano

    I’m currently reading a great book entitled, “American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush,” which was recommended to me by one of NM’s commenters. So far, it’s pretty darn good, and it is very telling! I recommend it to everyone…..maybe Jeb should read it too! Maybe if Jeb keeps Cheney, Rice, Rove, and his brother away from him, he might be “his own man.” Oh, and maybe he should keep his father away too.