Jeb Bush Says His Top Middle East Adviser Is George W. Bush
Jeb Bush told a group of supporters that his brother is his top Middle East policy adviser. This strikes me as being a bad idea.
Jeb Bush told a group of potential supporters that he considers his brother George to be his top adviser on Middle East policy:
After spending months distancing himself from his family’s political legacy, Jeb Bush surprised a group of Manhattan financiers this week by naming his brother, former president George W. Bush, as his most influential counselor on U.S.-Israel policy.
“If you want to know who I listen to for advice, it’s him,” Bush said Tuesday, speaking to a crowd of high-powered investors at the Metropolitan Club, according to four people present. The Republicans in the room spoke on the condition of anonymity to divulge information about the private meeting.
The remark came as part of an answer to a question about Bush’s political aides and their policy views, and whether he relies on the guidance of former secretary of state James Baker, guests said. Baker’s role in Bush’s orbit has been the source of consternation for some major GOP donors, who were upset that the 85-year-old ex-diplomat spoke to a left-leaning Israeli advocacy group in March.
Jeb Bush said that Baker is not one of his close advisers and that he leans on his brother for insights when it comes to Israel.
Embracing George W. Bush as a foreign-policy confidant is a risky and unexpected move for the former Florida governor as he readies for a likely presidential bid. While the former president’s approval ratings have improved since he left office in 2009, his foreign-policy legacy — particularly the long war in Iraq — remains deeply unpopular. He has also become anathema to some conservative activists for presiding over an increase in the federal debt, among other policies.
Jeb Bush has surrounded himself with many of his brother’s advisers and has endorsed many foreign-policy positions that mirror those of the former president. At the same time, Bush has repeatedly stressed that he has his own worldview.
“I love my brother, I love my dad,” he told an audience in Chicago in February. “I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions that they had to make. But I am my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.”
It is unrealistic, of course, to expect Jeb Bush to disown his brother, or his father, or to completely distance himself from their legacies. They are family, after all, and many of the same people that backed the two Presidents Bush are also backing Jeb in his bid to become the first President to succeed both his brother and his father in office. At the same time, though, there is no small degree of risk for Governor Bush in closely associating himself with either of them, and most especially with George W. Bush when it comes to the issue of American policy in the Middle East. Even inside the Republican Party, Bush’s legacy in that particular area of the world is not viewed with the greatest of fondness, and when you factor in independent voters the risk for the former Florida Governor seems even worse. As a general rule, former President Bush remains widely unpopoular with the American public, and polling has shown both continued long-standing opposition to his signature foreign policy legacy, the war in Iraq, and his war policy in general, Even without comments like this, Jeb Bush is going to have to deal with the whole “family legacy” issue and the fact that voters don’t necessarily seem too thrilled about replaying the Bush-Clinton fight of 1992 in the 2016 General Election. Closely associating himself with his brother like this, and on such a controversial part of his legacy, doesn’t really seem very advisable.
Of course, as Daniel Larison notes, Jeb’s comments are not really very surprising:
Based on everything Jeb Bush has said about the U.S.-Israel relationship and policies related to it, he agrees with his brother on these issues and has agreed with him for a long time. Like his brother, Bush thinks that there should be no “light” between the U.S. and Israel. He has made it fairly plain that he reflexively supports Israeli actions and policies. As far as I know, he has never criticized or opposed any. He endorses the hard-line “zero enrichment” demand that Iran hawks have wanted as part of the negotiations. It’s possible that Bush is mentioning his brother as an adviser in order to dispel any lingering impression that his association with James Baker matters. If so, it’s also a confirmation that Baker’s inclusion as one of Bush’s foreign policy advisers never meant anything, but then that should have been obvious.
What Larison says about Bush is, of course, largely true of the rest of the Republican field. With the exception of Rand Paul, all of the Republicans who either have announced their candidacy or are likely to do so in the coming months generally hold the same views regarding Israel, U.S. policy toward Iran, the War On Terror, and other foreign policy issues that Jeb Bush does. Most of them will be unlikely to fully embrace the Bush legacy the way he seems to have done here, though. Because, well, they don’t have the family connection he does so they don’t really need to, and because there is, as I said, at least some segment of the GOP base that seems to have soured on the Bush legacy, although one assumes that many of those people are more inclined to support Rand Paul’s views on foreign policy than, say, Ted Cruz’s. That, in some sense, is the problem that all of these Republican candidates have going forward. They are all still tied, in one way or another, to the legacy of George W. Bush much like Democrats were long tied to the legacy of Jimmy Carter and George McGovern. As long as that’s the case, they are going to have problems in national elections regardless of what the last name of the candidate might be.
Maybe Jeb’s plan is to listen to his brother’s advice, and then do the opposite? That would actually be helpful.
So when we occupy Yemen or Syria or Iraq again, Jeb will put Cato Institute interns in charge instead of Heritage Foundation interns?
Also, if you believe for a second that Rand will meaningfully deviate from the Republican platform on Israel or Iran…
One day, Jeb Bush woke up and decided that he, after all, didn’t want to become President.
So, by far, his greatest weakness is being stuck with the baggage supplied by his brother’s two terms, and yet he responds by directing that that baggage be loaded onto the bus.
I used to think he was a smart man who was getting political advice from fools. Now, I’m not so sure …
Bush 43’s problem was less philosophy than competence. He chose people like Rusmfeld and Bremer, who totally bungled the Iraq War in every way imaginable, making a bad decision into a debacle. He chose people like Addington and Yoo and Cheney, who put together the torture program. And he stuck by them no matter how incompetent they were.
If Jeb draw his people from the same neocon well, we’ll know he hasn’t learned a damn thing from his brother’s mistakes.
Let’s look on the bright side. He didn’t say Cheney.
Jeb knows he’s running against Hillary, so he figures George W. Bush is canceled out by Bill Clinton. He should have checked their respective “positive” numbers first. W is not Bill.
Halliburton probably still owes W. enough donations for services rendered that Jeb didn’t want to give up that lucrative income.
@michael reynolds: W. Bush’s approve/disapprove is up to 53/44 (Gallup, June 2014). Don’t forget that the electorate are a box of rocks with only dim memories beyond six months.
As I’ve said before, the slogans write themselves: There Are Entire Middle Eastern Countries Our Family Has Never Invaded!
Doug, worst picture of Jeb I’ve ever seen. Kudos.
I love my little sister to death, but she is as dumb as a box of rocks. I would never take advice from a box of rocks and I suggest JEB do the same with that sack of hammers he calls a brother.
This might be the single most annoying thing about 2016 election coverage: media people prattling on “Clinton Fatigue.” In the meanwhile, Bill is the most popular person in the country, and arguably was behind the single best day of the Obama campaign- his convention speech.
@gVOR08: That poll was a serious outlier:
Most recent polls:
Fav. Not Fav.
30 46 (CBS)
46 46 Bloomberg
46 51 CNN
49 47 Fox
For a person who is not active in politics, those are beyond catastrophic favorables.
I dunno, if W, drawing on his experience, tells Jeb to stay the hell out that shithole, that would be good advice, no?
For his National Security Advisor, will it be Edward Snowden? That would be about on a par…
I have a recurring fantasy that the press actually asks Jeb what he thinks a war with Iran would entail.
How much does he think it would cost? A couple billion or a couple trillion?
How long does he think it would last? A couple weeks or a couple decades?
This would require our press to have the balls to ask real questions so I’ll have to continue to think of this as a fantasy.
The electorate absolutely are a box of rocks, but the only reason Mr. Bush’s numbers have leveled off is because people picture him painting cats and presumably clearing that pesky brush out on his Potemkin ranch. People figure he’s gone and we don’t like to think ill of the dead.
Orange and purple light danced across the sky, as the sun slowly set over the Texan landscape. An old man, alone on his porch, pulled his blanket closer for warmth. He took a moment to savor the colorful tapestry above him; today’s, like yesterday’s could have been, might be his last. He’d lived over 90 years. There couldn’t be many of these sunsets left.
He looked down again at the newspaper in his lap. And he scowled once more at the headline. Bush mired in Iowa polls; falls to seventh place. The old man stared off into the distance. Angry.
George Herbert Walker, first of his name, former President of the Americans, was the current patriarch of House Bush. A powerful house, with family members across all manner of important positions in government and industry. Oil and gas. Foriegn conglomerates. Presidencies. The Bushes had been titans. Respected. Feared. This man had helped built it. He had led the free world. And now…. and now…
“Bush’s last name remains a liability,” declared the article’s subtitle. A liability. Jesus Christ. This country… and this party. The Republican Party especially, owed everything to this family. The old man shook his head in his disgust. He then coughed, involuntarily. He pulled the blanket tighter.
He leaned back in the chair, and took a sip from his glass of ginger beer. His son, John Ellis, also known as Jeb, was in contention for the Republican primary. He was not yet declared, but all knew he was running. And they should have been grateful. The republican party had not won the White House without a Bush name on the ticket in 40 years. They should be flocking to Jeb. Instead, he was in third. Behind Scott Walker, an empty suit, and Marco Rubio, and upstart child. Ben Carson, who’s not even a politician. Bush was only edging out the clowns like Santorum and the broad from HP. It was beyond the pale. Bush coughed again.
How in the hell had this happened?
There was his own one term presidency. A bit of a black mark on the legacy’s timeline. He’d lost his reelection effort to that philanderer. There was shame in that. But only because his party hadn’t stood strong behind him after he’d raised taxes. After he had done what needed to be done. Americans were nothing if not ungrateful. His time in the White House though… there was nothing shameful about that. He’d toppled Saddam!
And yet, the Bush surname was supposedly an electoral millstone. Why?
“Oh hey, pop!” George W bounded out to the porch. “I made you a present!”
George the Elder turned and regarded his simple son. George W had also been president. Also led the free world. It wasn’t unexecpted… of course the first born, eldest son, would come to ascend to the highest seat of power, as was his birthright. The father was proud of his son, as fathers are obligated to be, but George W’s tenure had…. left some opportunities on the table. By the end, the man was despised by all parties. His name was but a ghost in the last campaign. Nobody ever said “I’d like to rule as George Bush did” – either of them. Everyone always talked of Reagan. Reagan Reagan Reagan. Bush Senior rolled his eyes.
“Check it out!” W triumphantly held up his artwork. “Happy father’s day!”
“It’s… it’s wonderful son,” Bush Senior said, quietly. It wasn’t honorable to lie to your children, but… George had always been a special boy. Father’s day wasn’t for months.
“Do you think it looks like you?” W was holding the painting proudly up in front of his father, but also directly in front of his face. He had to peek over the top to see his father’s reaction. He stood on his tiptoes to get a better view, because he lacked the mental capacity to consider just lowering the frame.
“It’s supposed to be me?” Bush the Elder strained himself to really attempt to discern the colored figure upon the canvas. He hadn’t been able to tell it depicted a human being, let alone himself.
“Yup. I thought you could use a replacement for that big portrait of grandpappy hanging above the fire.”
“Why… why are ‘my’ hands blurry?”
“Oh well, fingers are tricky. So I just sort made a fleshy smear. You can’t really tell they aren’t fingers. That’s a painter’s trick,” W said proudly. He had fingerprints of colored paint all over his face.
“It’s wonderful son. Thank you,” HW sighed, defeated. W deposited the hideous painting in the old man’s lap, and then bounded away, after a butterfly. Bush senior turned back towards the house. He knew he could never take down the portrait of his father and replace it with this artistic abortion. He would feel the angry eyes of Prescott Bush, accusing…. disappointed. The Bush House legacy. In tatters. I left this all to you, George Hebert Walker. This mess is in your hands. Fix it.
His phone beeped with a text message. From Jeb.
“Hey dad… did I win yet? Am I the president?” Jeb… Jeb had acquired a reputation as ‘the smarter one.’ It’s relative qualifier was only moderately inspiring.
HW frowned. He sat back in his chair, and he sipped his ginger beer. He considered the advantages to his approaching death. Nostalgia for a fallen president might provide a bump to Jeb’s poll numbers.
And if it didn’t, at least he wouldn’t have to face the shame of another electoral defeat.
The Bush Compound
He threw that piece of staged drama out the window pretty quickly back in 2008. The “ranch” (such as it ever was one …) was effectively abandoned, and he & the missus hightailed it for a pricey neighborhood in Dallas as fast as their caravan of Escalades could get them there.
@HarvardLaw92: Laura couldn’t get off the ranch fast enough. I think George received an ultimatum.
@Cd6: Geez, each one is more beautiful than the last. I can’t believe you deposit these gems in the comment section of a small-time political blog.
Could be, true. My gut tells me it was always more performance than reality though.
I can only assume that Mr. Bush got that last bit of brush taken care of. And then his life lost all meaning.
The practice is called ‘Dubya Down’ in blackjack.
Brilliant, just brilliant. This is a great line
@michael reynolds: Does he still have the ex chicken farm in Crawford? I thought he’d get rid of it as soon as he left office. It never seemed to be more than a photo backdrop. Is there still a reward for anyone who can find a picture of W, as an adult, on a horse?
Oops, see Harvard Law beat me.
@sam: Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Are you going to keep it around so you know the time?
When W. was running in 1999, he actually went to great lengths to distance himself from his dad’s legacy on taxes.
@OzarkHillbilly: I need to add that being right twice in one day would be a real winning streak for W. Mark it on the calenders.
Jeb was always marketed as the “smart one.” I admit that’s a pretty low bar but I still don’t see it.
@Ron Beasley: I know. But we may not be being entirely fair. We tend to look at policy, and I admit neither of them seems terribly bright about policy. But they’ve both been successful politicians. They do seem reasonably bright about that. I doubt either of them ever thought much about policy. They’ve had lobbyists to tell them what their policy is.
George W Bush, top middle east advisor?
Let’s see: The (completely unnecessary and optional) 2003 War in Iraq was the biggest foreign policy mistake since 1964 – when LBJ used congressional approval of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, to widen the War in Vietnam, send over 400,000 troops there, where over 50,000 American soldiers died. Also, Bush, like LBJ, shaded the truth in order to go to war.
(1) Jeb is showing that he’s loyal to his brother, and probably trying to rehabilitate his brothers image.
(2) Jeb = Ground Hog Day
If you haven’t clicked on his name, do so and it will go to his blog where he writes many more of these.. He’s doing something great there.
(my apologies if you knew this and were just playing coy.)
I had a business friend who told me that George W. Bush was the stupidest idiot he had ever met in all his years of business.
There’s a reason why we end up with the clown car in politics. If they’re good at anything, they don’t end up in politics. It’s the catch-all, somewhat like the basket at the end of the drain.
Yeah,I like the dude.
@Neil Hudelson: I prefer free range comments
The Bush strategy in the Middle East was to reward friends and oppose enemies. I never really thought of it as a strategy as much as, you know, what you did. Our current president has had success in the Middle East to the extent that he’s followed it, and made mistakes to the extent that he hasn’t. Supporting the bad guys in Egypt didn’t pay off. Supporting the bad guys in Iran during the 2009 protests doesn’t appear to be paying off either, but I hold out hope that that government will fall quicker than we can hold it up. Turkey scares the snot out of me, and Yemen and Syria are dying. Iraq is worse than it was before we started pulling out troops.
I believe every single thing you said there is false.
Which “friends” would those be? Is Saudi Arabia a friend – the country that gave us Al Qaeda? Is Israel a friend – the country that obliges us to feed them cash and cover their asses in the UN while lying to us? Is Iran an enemy? If so, explain why. Explain what Iran has done to hurt us that begins to balance out our imposition of the Shah, or our assistance to Saddam as he slaughtered Iranians.
The one notable mistake was Libya, and that came from harming a foe – Gaddafi of the downed airliner – while helping friends, in this case France and the UK. Most of the rest of Mr. Obama’s work in the ME has been cleaning up the aftermath of the sh!tsorm unleashed by the ignoramus you voted for.
What on earth are you on about? We propped Mubarak up forever, then he lost control of his country . The reason no one was left but the Muslim Brotherhood is in large part because Mubarak made a civil society impossible through repression and massive corruption.
Oh? Show me how we supported the Iranian regime. Spoiler alert: you can’t, because it didn’t happen. Not even a little.
And what part of that is our fault? What do you propose, exactly?
The Bush-installed government of Al-Maliki made a hash of things – after Mr. Bush had of course made a massive mess. The current government is a marginal improvement. The Iraqi army which collapsed is now back up and fighting with some degree of effectiveness.
So, as usual, Pinky, you didn’t do your homework. You half-assed it by regurgitating whatever horse sh!t you heard on Fox News.
Go sit at the children’s table until you’re prepared to put a bit more intellectual effort into understanding things.
@michael reynolds: To be fair to Pinky, I think he meant the Saudis were friends of the Bushes, not of the United States. While you are correct that they have not been friends of the U. S., they have been great friends of the Bush Crime Family. See, for instance, Bandar Bush.
@Hal_10000: “Bush 43’s problem was less philosophy than competence. He chose people like Rusmfeld and Bremer, who totally bungled the Iraq War in every way imaginable, making a bad decision into a debacle. He chose people like Addington and Yoo and Cheney, who put together the torture program. And he stuck by them no matter how incompetent they were.”
No, that was philosophy. His incompetent followers were chosen from on end of the political spectrum.
@HarvardLaw92: “Could be, true. My gut tells me it was always more performance than reality though. ”
IIRC, he bought it when running for governor. And the minute that he no longer had political use for it, he abandoned it.
@grumpy realist: “There’s a reason why we end up with the clown car in politics. If they’re good at anything, they don’t end up in politics. It’s the catch-all, somewhat like the basket at the end of the drain. ”
For the GOP, yes. For the Democratic Party, not so much.
@Pinky: “The Bush strategy in the Middle East was to reward friends and oppose enemies. I never really thought of it as a strategy as much as, you know, what you did. Our current president has had success in the Middle East to the extent that he’s followed it, and made mistakes to the extent that he hasn’t. Supporting the bad guys in Egypt didn’t pay off. Supporting the bad guys in Iran during the 2009 protests doesn’t appear to be paying off either, but I hold out hope that that government will fall quicker than we can hold it up. Turkey scares the snot out of me, and Yemen and Syria are dying. Iraq is worse than it was before we started pulling out troops. ”
Like to play it again, with some truth?
Michael, I don’t know how to say this without it sounding obnoxious, so I apologize in advance. I think you’re generally well-read about the Middle East, and that’s a good thing. But I’ve been in more than one conversation with you about foreign affairs where you quickly changed the topic from the discussion at hand to a stump speech about how President Obama was doing a wonderful job in that part of the world. In fact, it seems to be the only point you try to make on foreign policy. It makes me wonder if you’re getting the most well-rounded sources of information.
@michael reynolds: You’re just being mean to Pinky because you spend all your free time wishing more cops would be murdered.
@Pinky: Shorter Pinky: “I’m so lost I can’t even pretend to make a point, so I’ll accuse others of being as ignorant as me.”
What you perceive as me pimping Mr. Obama is me reciting events and actions and consequences. You could always challenge my facts or my interpretations. I’m sorry if reality doesn’t agree with your frankly ignorant presuppositions.
And here again, you could come back and argue with the points I made above, but rather than do that — which would require effort and run the risk of you recognizing you’re wrong — you content yourself with dismissing me as an Obama supporter. You don’t argue facts, you assume I’m wrong because I think Obama’s mostly right.
Ever notice how little I get involved in discussions of economics? I’ll make some speculative, tangential remark, or point out the obvious nonsense, but I tend to shy away because 1) Economics bores me and 2) As a result I don’t study it.
Foreign policy bores most Americans and obviously you as well. It doesn’t bore me, I pay attention to it. Put it this way: I’m like a guy who read all the Game of Thrones books and watched all the shows and showed up at all the cons to absorb pearls of wisdom from George RR himself. Now, that doesn’t make me George, or Dan Weiss (the showrunner) but it makes me a well-informed member of the general public. You are the guy who heard a recap of last week’s show from some guy in the lunch room and now you think you’re an expert.
All you know is what the echo chamber feeds you. And they’re feeding you b.s. You lack the interest to get beyond “Obama bad.”
@michael reynolds: OK, for example: over on the Texas terrorist attack thread, you took it in the direction of “Obama is winning and ISIS is losing”. I didn’t dispute that, but I pointed out where you were mistaken about the terrorists’ frame of mind. You replied by going back to your story line. It was as if you didn’t even think about it, just replied off of your script. My comment wasn’t “Obama bad”, but you replied with “Obama good”. Your reply didn’t lack volume, just content. It just seems narrow. There are arguments that I don’t address – hey, we’ve all got lives to live beyond the comments threads – but I’ll at least hear them. You don’t seem to.
By the way, what really kind of appalls me about people like you, Pinky, is that you never re-examine your assumptions or your sources. Personally, I think if my views were regularly being eviscerated, I’d go back and wonder why. I would look for the flaw. I would look for the poisoned source. If you don’t do that you’re unteachable, and if you’re unteachable you’re not fully human. We are meant to adapt and to learn, not to keep doing the same dumb thing over and over again.
Do you read FP or the Economist or any of the foreign policy blogs or foreign newspapers or news sites? Fox News is a machine for spreading fear and disinformation. Garbage in, garbage out. You’re bright enough, you’re just consuming garbage.
I’m going to follow my own advice and consider that and guard against it in the future.