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Desperate Fantasy: Can Jeb Bush Save the GOP?

Posted on Feb 23, 2012
DonkeyHotey (CC-BY)

By Joe Conason

Rumors and whispers of a late presidential bid by Jeb Bush are difficult to consider seriously—if only because the deadlines to enter primary contests have past, the necessary money and campaign staff are not in place, and the mechanisms for a “brokered convention” do not exist. And yet some worried Republicans are evidently imagining a rescue by the former Florida governor.

Such fantasies arise from the unappetizing choices that now confront Republican voters. But if Jeb Bush were to enter the field, as he has wisely declined to do so far, the public scrutiny that has damaged the current candidates so badly would turn toward him—and swiftly reveal an enormous deadweight of political baggage. What Florida voters once accepted (or ignored) might well horrify the national electorate today.

The first obstacle that Jeb would have to surmount is that to most Americans outside the Sunshine State, he is known only as the brother of George W. Bush, most recently named one of the two worst presidents in the past half-century by respondents to a Gallup Poll—rated just above the late Richard M. Nixon, in fact. It’s a negative accomplishment that should not be “mis-underestimated,” as the former president himself might say.

Only a professional politician or a right-wing pundit—the sort of deep thinkers mulling a Jeb boomlet—could believe that most Americans would receive the idea of another Bush presidency with any emotion except loathing. Not much would have to be said or done to remind voters of this century’s catastrophic first decade, and why they might not wish to risk putting a third Bush in the Oval Office.

Leaving aside the historic burden of his family name, Jeb Bush carries a resume 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.”


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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 onto a downtown Miami office building in 1989 that they soon sold for $8.7 million. In other words, Bush benefited from a government “bailout.”

There is much more to the Jeb saga, including his vow to sign legislation that would have awarded Florida’s disputed electoral votes to his brother in November 2000 and his ill-advised attempts to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman whose husband and parents sued each other over whether to turn off her respirator and end her life. The public regarded interference in that sad matter by congressional leaders and other right-wing politicians as an opportunistic exploitation of tragedy—and the Schiavo affair became a turning point leading up to the 2006 Republican midterm debacle.

What Newt, Mitt and the rest of the Republican cohort have learned is how unflattering stories that faded years ago become suddenly vivid under the campaign’s glare. Unless he is truly the smarter Bush—and ignores all this presidential daydreaming—the same lesson awaits brother Jeb.

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of

© 2012

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, February 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm Link to this comment

Can J.E. Bush save the G.O.P.?

If this is to be considered a valid question, the valid answer is
provided by the famous journalist at the following link:

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By Kimberly Crail, February 23, 2012 at 10:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Actually, there is no such person as “Jeb Bush”.  JEB are his initials.  John Ellis Bush.

He should have been recalled simply for this!

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Blueokie's avatar

By Blueokie, February 23, 2012 at 7:58 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie - Nice link, thanks

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, February 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment


I rarely see eye-to-eye with conservative republicans.  Although I see no need to advocate mutilations or you, as an individual, deciding who is worthy of their own private property.

You rarely form rational thought as well.

Property gained by illegal means, fraud, insider trading, extortion is all subject to seizure, ask Bernie Madoff.  In a revolution the rich and powerful can lose even more than that like Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette did.

I figured you were married to fellow bookend heterowhatever, he has a picture of Cheney on his wall, next to your picture of Bush no doubt.

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oddsox's avatar

By oddsox, February 23, 2012 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment

Conason’s ahead of the curve with his pre-emptive hit piece.

First in a series, featuring all possible Hail Mary, nott-Romney, Republican candidates for 2012.

Next week: Robert McDowell.
Followed by Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Mario Rubio.

These columns will serve double-duty come 2016.
Watch for the reruns.

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James M. Martin's avatar

By James M. Martin, February 23, 2012 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

So, another pol with baggage.  The Republicans have no one to run.  Period.  4MY.

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By John G, February 23, 2012 at 10:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

They’re not worried about public perception of W—they have Diebold to rig the outcome (again) or else the Supremes if it comes down to that. Elections are a sham.

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Magginkat's avatar

By Magginkat, February 23, 2012 at 10:39 am Link to this comment

ROTFLMAO at the picture of Jeb above by DonkeyHotey!!  Love the pic and the name of the artist!

Oh yes the scandals would probably out number those belong to Newt!  Jeb, jr in mall parking lot having sex with underage teen.  The daughter with yrs worth of drug scandals.  The wife who, among other things, tried to sneak overseas purchases past customs to avoid taxes.  AND Jeb’s desperate search for a bed that had to be identical to the one in the gov’s mansion.  Seems that it got broken while the wife was out of town!  There are many more…....oh what fun if he was already running!!!

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By balkas, February 23, 2012 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

in the end, 97% + of all ballots cast in next presidential election would
go to the ONE PERCENT’S agents. with obama getting 52% of votes and ?
if Ows would run own candidate for presidency, perhaps ONE PERCENT
might get less than 97-98% of ballots cast.

as for ron paul, he, if get’s elected, must swear allegiance to the
ONEPERCENT’S interest solely; never to its subclasses or subethnoses.

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, February 23, 2012 at 9:27 am Link to this comment

We are living in a cartoon, and a hellish one at that. So low has our culture sunk, that
somerimes it seems as if we don’t have far to the bottom.

Not so…...

There are bottoms as yet inconseivable approaching on the horizon, looming as it were,
via drug induced hallucinations, but yet to be hatched into the world, once the poltical
minds bhind them ripen and fullly crack…

Consider this article a warning…

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DonSchneider's avatar

By DonSchneider, February 23, 2012 at 9:23 am Link to this comment

Ah yes, the anar-sissy doth speak. The rest of us were totally unaware of the dead
armadillo in the middle of the road ! It is so generous for the enlightened to speak
up so for the rest of us rabble…. Now we will be enlightened about the ‘waistrel’ in
the wings who shall now swoop from the racist perch on high to show the way” 
How so very mediocre and predictable !

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, February 23, 2012 at 9:03 am Link to this comment

Joe Conason: ‘Rumors and whispers of a late presidential bid by Jeb Bush are difficult to consider seriously…’

Then don’t.

We already have a Republican president.

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DonSchneider's avatar

By DonSchneider, February 23, 2012 at 7:04 am Link to this comment

Only a non-floridian could be enamored of the prospect of “the pillsbury dough
boy” stepping into a brokered convention to “salvage” the republican juggernaut of
greed ! We floridians that suffered through his constant onslaught of
“Privatization” that enriched so many of his south florida cuban mafioso cronies
won’t keep silent ! That bit of whitewash and “sheep’s clothing” of “right wing
necessity”, cannot camouflage his history of criminal activity !  Bring him on ! We
Floridians will see him pillared in front of the rest of the fundamentalist
demagogues for all to see.  You will then see Mr. Pudge for the snake he is and the
rest of America will join Floridians in turning their backs on this petty thief in his
‘self agrandizing’  garb.

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By jj, February 23, 2012 at 6:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jeb can’t take refusal and rejection;therefore, he will not run. Besides do we want another Bush in power? HELL NO!!

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, February 23, 2012 at 6:28 am Link to this comment

More hate, PHimmler?

I rarely see eye-to-eye with conservative republicans.  Although I see no need to advocate mutilations or you, as an individual, deciding who is worthy of their own private property.

I suppose it would be poetic justice if Jeb Bush were to become president and he used the office to seize the assets of OWS.

You see how spreading hatred is not the way, Heinrich?

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By Tom Degan, February 23, 2012 at 6:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Here me out. If the American people are ever again stupid enough to send another member of that family to the White House, they’ll deserve EVERYTHING that happens to them. We’ll also be the laughingstock of the planet earth.


Don’t go there. I’m just sayin’.

Tom Degan

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, February 23, 2012 at 4:16 am Link to this comment

This dynasty needs to be ended and the remaining Bushes neutered.

Asset seizure would be nice and very much justified.

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