Politics & Policy

Jeb Is Doomed by the Baggage of Previous Bushes

This week offered Republicans a grim preview of fall 2016, if Jeb Bush is their nominee. The former Florida governor twisted himself into knots explaining whether he would have invaded Iraq, as his brother did, “knowing what we know now,” as Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly asked.

“I would have,” Jeb replied, “and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody.”

Former Jeb aide Ana Navarro told CNN, “I’m a little confused by this answer.” She said she asked Jeb if he misheard the question.

“I interpreted the question wrong, I guess,” Jeb conceded to radio host Sean Hannity, as the firestorm crackled. “I was talking about, ‘Given what people knew then,’ would you have done it,” Jeb continued. But when Hannity wondered if, in fact, Jeb would have entered Iraq, he wobbled again: “I don’t know what that decision would have been. That’s a hypothetical. But the simple fact is that mistakes were made.”

Amplifying Wednesday’s furor, a student in Reno confronted Jeb and said: “Your brother created ISIS.”

What a fiasco!

If Republicans nominate Jeb, they better brace for more days like these. Interviewers, political activists, and regular citizens repeatedly will ask Jeb if he would repeat George W.’s and George H. W.’s errors. Jeb then will contort himself as he alternately embraces or runs from his brother’s and father’s failed policies while simultaneously trying not to violate his family’s paramount value: blind loyalty. The result will be an uninspiring reminder that Jeb is just the latest installment in the Republican version of the Kennedy family.

Jeb’s comments on Iraq this week will haunt him. They will enrage every liberal and Democrat who hates the Iraq War. If Jeb tops the GOP ticket, the Left will guarantee that Americans spend fall 2016 re-debating the invasion of Iraq by the man it considers Satan — George W.

Among Republican-leaning general-election voters, Jeb will trigger irritating memories of the big-spending days of George W.’s Medicare Drug Plan, rising deficits, pork-choked highway bills, earmarks galore, and Sarbanes-Oxley and other strangulation devices.

Journalists will force Jeb to confront W.’s greatest hits:

‐“Are you proud of your brother’s waterboarding of terror suspects?”

‐“Would you have released Guantanamo detainees, who returned to jihad, as your brother did?”

‐“Do you share your brother’s view that FEMA chief Michael ‘Brownie’ Brown did ‘a heck of a job’ during Hurricane Katrina?”

‐“Did your brother have his head screwed in properly when he banned Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb?”

‐“Did you cheer or hiss when your brother nationalized American corporations and bailed out billion-dollar banks in late 2008?”

These questions will cue videotape from the liberal media’s vast vaults. All of this will restore to living color now-dim memories of W. and his innumerable shortcomings and snafus.

And then will come the questions about George H. W. Bush:

‐“Would you also have broken your father’s ‘Read my lips, no new taxes’ promise to the American people?”

‐“Does your refusal to sign Americans for Tax Reform’s no-new-taxes pledge signal that you are ready to raise taxes, as your father did?”

‐“Was your father right or wrong to sign the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which turbocharged government regulation of so-called global warming?”

Jeb will have to balance what he thinks, what the GOP base dislikes about his brother and father, and how the Left will react.

 ‐“Are you grateful that your father signed the Civil Rights Act amendments of 1990, which unleashed the bean-counting, disparate-impact approach to anti-discrimination jurisprudence?”

 ‐“Your father hiked the budget of the Small Business Administration by 900 percent. Was that prudent?”

Jeb will have to balance what he thinks, what the GOP base dislikes about his brother and father, and how the Left will react. Surviving such a high-wire act will be tough enough. Add to that trying to articulate and promote a vision for America’s future, while hammering the Democrat’s standard-bearer, and this sounds like a formula for a nasty tumble.

Jeb’s mere presence will reactivate the Left’s Bush Derangement Syndrome, which will pump them up, like rocket fuel in a fighter jet. On the right, these constant, unwelcome echoes of the crashingly disappointing Poppa Bush and Baby Bush administrations will enervate conservatives, as if via Sominex-filled oatmeal. As for centrists, why stay awake through any of this?

The good news is that Republicans have many more and far better options. They instead should nominate someone with a sparkling record of conservative gubernatorial accomplishment and without a cargo hold full of policy- and family-related baggage. Scott Walker — Wisconsin’s courageous, limited-government reformer — immediately springs to mind.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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