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Jeb Bush and his big brother problem



Does Jeb Bush like being compared to his brother, former President George W. Bush? That is the central question in an interesting piece written by Politico Florida reporter Marc  Caputo.

For much of his political career, Jeb Bush has performed a delicate balancing act when it came to his family. The Bush name effectively made him, opening doors in politics and business and producing in him a fierce family loyalty. At the same time, with two Bush presidencies and a life of patrician privilege to live down, Jeb has felt obligated to insist to the world, “I am my own man.”

This week, Bush took a serious tumble from that high wire, botching a simple question about the Iraq War that his brother George W. Bush launched and which most surveys now show a majority of Americans believe was a disastrous mistake. “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?” Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asked him. “I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody,” Bush confidently replied. “And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

But Jeb wasn’t finished with his show of family loyalty, the polls be damned. “Just for the 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,” he declared, just as defiantly. Bush also surprised some donors at a recent closed-door meeting by saying that his brother, whom many Americans believe mishandled the post-9/11 challenge in Iraq, was his top foreign policy adviser on the Mideast, according to the Washington Post.

All in all, it was a disastrous couple of days for the Bush campaign.

Now this analysis by Caputo is just the kind of thing that irritates the hell out of the Bush world.

As Caputo aptly points out, Bush may not like it but he's stuck with comparison's to his brother. And those comparison are not going to stop anytime soon.

Caputo, a former colleague, also interviewed Crowley Political Report for the story. Here's what we had to say:

For some of those who have covered Jeb Bush and worked for him, the incident exposes his testy media management style, one in which he grows especially defensive about his older brother, who unexpectedly got his shot at the White House before he did.

So Bush—his guard up and his talking points at the ready (Hillary voted for the Iraq War)—answered the question he wanted, not the question asked. And his response persuaded almost no one.

 “That was the kind of ‘I’m going to dismiss the reporter, I’m going to dismiss the question’ response but it’s also a sign of a testiness that can cause him some trouble,” said Brian Crowley, the former political editor of the Palm Beach Post who covered Bush’s unsuccessful race for governor in 1994 and his subsequent blowout wins in 1998 and 2002.

Even before Bush’s first run for office, Crowley said, he pushed back against the notion that his family ties gave him special privileges. Still, after his father won the vice presidency, Bush was a “regular correspondent” with the White House and used his connection to advocate for everything from airport issues to Motorola to a businesswoman seeking federal help to increase the sales of rabbit meat, according to a recent New York Times report. In Miami, Bush became a rich man after his partnership with real-estate developer Armando Codina. “Jeb didn’t get that job with Codina because he was John Ellis. He got it because he’s John Ellis Bush,” Crowley said, referring to the initials that have become Jeb’s de facto first name.

Bush’s 1994 run for governor was another sign of the benefits of the Bush name. Though he never ran for statewide elected office before, Bush had a big enough name to enable him to almost beat an incumbent governor who was an iconic Florida figure, “Walkin’” Lawton Chiles. At the same time, the once-unserious George W. Bush won his race for Texas governor— essentially giving him first dibs at a White House bid in 2000 while Jeb Bush, two years before, had to content himself with the Florida governorship.

“When Jeb was governor, he didn’t like being compared to his brother,” Crowley said, “I don’t want to get too much in the psychobabble of those two [a phrase Jeb has used to dismiss questions about his family dynamics], but I think Jeb absolutely loathes being compared to his brother. I don’t really think he likes being compared to anybody with the last name Bush.”

But here’s the problem, Crowley said: “He’s trapped.”

Crowley’s observations are widely shared by both critics and supporters of Bush, none of whom want to speak critically on the record about Bush’s Iraq War flub or what many see as a brotherly rivalry. That’s because in Bush world, loyalty is paramount. Indeed, Bush as governor once recommended people read Elbert Hubbard, known for saying “an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/05/jeb-embraces-george-w-bush-legacy-117903.html#ixzz3a4HRueO6


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