With the presidential prospects of Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) swirling down the drain as Bridgegate unfolds, the Republican establishment has a new business-friendly candidate in mind: Jeb Bush.
That’s the word from Bill Kristol, head cheerleader for the Iraq War and the man who first suggested Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate.
“Having talked to various Republican establishment types — I’m pro-Tea Party — but anyway, the establishment types over the last 24 hours when you ask them about the Christie situation, there’s a two-word answer: Jeb Bush,” he said on ABC’s This Week. “And I’m really struck by how much Christie was kind of the establishment donor-class favorite, I think, for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. They are beginning to, maybe foolishly, they are beginning to write them off.”
As our Joe Conason pointed out the last time the GOP imagined Jeb Bush as its savior, the obstacles the former governor of Florida would face in a presidential run are multitudinous:
Leaving aside the historic burden of his family name, Jeb Bush carries a résumé of dubious episodes that stretch back three decades, to his early days as a Florida real estate developer and consultant, when he told reporters that he intended to become “very wealthy.” Among the partners he encountered in that quest was one Miguel Recarey, whose International Medical Centers was accused of one of the largest Medicare swindles of all time. Before Recarey fled the country ahead of several federal indictments, Jeb had made a call on his behalf to Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler – a cabinet secretary serving at the pleasure of his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, who was then president. Recarey paid him $75,000 for that lobbying errand, which forestalled government action to stop Recarey’s skimming of millions in Medicare dollars. Although Jeb has denied that Recarey — a mob associate — paid him to call Heckler, both the fugitive and the former HHS secretary have since confirmed those circumstances.
Jeb soon did amass a fortune in real estate, mostly with the assistance of the Cuban-American community in South Florida. He returned the favor by seeking a presidential pardon from George H.W. Bush for the late Orlando Bosch, a murderous anti-Castro militant denounced by his father’s own attorney general Richard Thornburgh as “an unreformed terrorist” responsible for killing dozens of innocent people.
Although he never hesitates to denounce government regulation and praise the unfettered free market, Jeb didn’t exactly reject the federal teat when one of his own investments went south during the savings-and-loan crisis. With an infusion of more than $4.5 million from the Treasury, Jeb and his partners managed to hold on to a downtown Miami office building in 1989 that they soon sold for $8.7 million. In other words, Bush benefited from a government “bailout.”