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What Americans Don’t Know (Yet) About Jeb Bush

Editor's Blog Memo Pad Politics

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.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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Joe Conason

A highly experienced journalist, author and editor, Joe Conason is the editor-in-chief of The National Memo, founded in July 2011. He was formerly the executive editor of the New York Observer, where he wrote a popular political column for many years. His columns are distributed by Creators Syndicate and his reporting and writing have appeared in many publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Nation, and Harpers.

Since November 2006, he has served as editor of The Investigative Fund, a nonprofit journalism center, where he has assigned and edited dozens of award-winning articles and broadcasts. He is also the author of two New York Times bestselling books, The Hunting of the President (St. Martins Press, 2000) and Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth (St. Martins Press, 2003).

Currently he is working on a new book about former President Bill Clinton's life and work since leaving the White House in 2001. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, including MSNBC's Morning Joe, and lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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  1. idamag December 4, 2014

    They also don’t remember he had his attorney general interfere in the presidential election by purging 30,000 names who were franchised voters.

  2. FT66 December 4, 2014

    We still remember Jeb that he stole the 2000 election for his brother “W”. We still have all materials. What is needed is just reviving old memories and all Dems will flock and tell him to take a seat and forget occupying the White House.

  3. tranz2deep December 5, 2014

    I know the core rightwing nutjob branch is rather WASP-superiority in terms of mindset, but the “Great White Hope” didn’t even work in boxing.

  4. cosliberal December 5, 2014

    I think there is no doubt that the Beltway press would love to see Jebbie run against Hillary, and I have no doubt that they will not do any investigative reporting into his real record, nor will we see much discussion from them of the unmitigated disaster that was the last Bush presidency. We haven’t seem any investigative reporting of the GOP since the demise of Nixon in 1974, why would the Beltway Boyz start now.

  5. dtgraham December 5, 2014

    There were a lot of really dirty things that Jeb Bush was responsible for in that 2000 Presidential election, some of which have been mentioned by other posters here. Among them, on Jeb Bush’s orders as governor of Florida, state troopers near heavily Democratic polling sites delayed voters for hours while searching their cars. Some of these precincts suddenly required two photo ID’s which many did not have. There were uncounted ballot boxes that went missing or were found in unexplained places or were never collected from certain African-American precincts.

    Recalling all of the things that Jeb Bush did 14 years ago in that election makes you feel like you need a shower.

    1. Theodora30 December 5, 2014

      I agree. There is no reason to think the MSM will not fawn all over Jeb the “moderate”. Chris Matthews and friends are already at it. The media always gives the blue blood Bushes the benefits f the doubt. In fact many of them preferred Bush II over boring ol’ Gore.

      Poppy was up to his eyeballs in Iran Contra then pardoned Cap Weinberger whose trial would have brought the truth to light. Unlike the uproar over Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich – which the Israelis asked for – the media yawned this CYA pardon off. Read Kevin Phillips “American Dynasty” and Lawrence Walsh’s book on Iran Contra. He was the Republican special prosecutor and he was livid over Poppy covering up his guilt.

      I remember reading that Jebby’s voucher program did not even require teachers to have a high school diploma. Jeb may be moderate on immigration but he is far right on economics and foreign policy as his palling around with right wing Cuban terrorists makes clear.

      I am betting most Americans will never hear about all of this. Oh yeah, I forgot to add that Bush gave Saddam the green light to invade Kuwait (Saddam asked us what our position was.) fpFunny how that is never brought up.

      1. Independent1 December 20, 2014

        Sadly, Americans seem to be totally unaware of a lot of dirt surrounding at least 4 of the last 5 GOP presidents: Like had LBJ been able to get himself re-elected, he was planning to bring charges against Nixon for Treason in purposely sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks. And it always amazes me that while falling all over the ridiculously tainted legend of Ronald Reagan – no one ever brings up the fact that the Reagan Administration actually supported Saddam in his use of chemical weapons against the Iranians. It’s no wonder with that kind of an example from Reagan – being willing to support another country’s use of chemical weapons in warfare that Bush and Cheney would think that torturing terrorists was the thing to do.

  6. jointerjohn December 5, 2014

    If the republicans look for a clean nominee they will be in serious trouble. A few years ago that party had a number of “clean”, (although in my book misguided), potential candidates. Their own radical wing beheaded all of those, a perfect example being former Senator Richard Luger of Indiana. Finding a clean republican these days is like searching for a nun in a whorehouse.

  7. Buford2k11 December 5, 2014

    Jeb comes from a family of crooks…why isn’t Neil ever mentioned??

    1. bckrd1 December 5, 2014

      It would hurt his stealing billions from the “education system”. Not good for business.

    2. Jane Snape December 6, 2014

      In the Bush clan, W. was supposed to be the one who became president. Then, in the mid-’80s, when it became obvious that Shrub had the brains of a houseplant, Jeb came to the fore. But then Shrub suddenly became Number One Son again in the mid-’90s. The reason? The talk I’ve heard is that even back then, Jeb and Columba were so stinkingly corrupt that he couldn’t advance past governor of the most corrupt state in the union.

    3. Independent1 December 21, 2014

      This little gem of an article on Neil may answer your question – among ‘other things’ being the director of a Savings & Loan which went belly up and cost the taxpayers a billion dollars wouldn’t help Neil politically:

      See this excerpt from a CNN article back in 2003:

      Bush is the third of five children in the family of former President Bush and wife Barbara.

      He was involved in a business controversy in the late 1980s when he was director of Denver, Colorado-based Silverado Savings & Loan, which collapsed at a cost to taxpayers of $1 billion.

      He denied any wrongdoing, but was sanctioned by the federal government for his part in the failure.

      The Bush divorce, completed in April after 23 years of marriage, was prompted in part by Bush’s relationship with another woman. He admitted in the deposition that he previously had sex with several other women while on trips to Thailand and Hong Kong at least five years ago.

      The women, he said, simply knocked on the door of his hotel room, entered and had sex with him. He said he did not know if they were prostitutes because they never asked for money and he did not pay them.

      If you’re interest in the whole article which is based on a divorce deposition, here’s the link:



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