Monday, February 22, 2016


Sorry, but no:

I refuse to feel bad about Jeb Bush's demise. Seth Stevenson's Slate cover story is nicely written and Stevenson is well-meaning, but I don't care. I don't care about the fact that a rally Stevenson attended
sure felt like a last stand. Not just for Jeb Bush’s campaign, but maybe for Jeb Bush’s basic dignity as a human being. For the tattered legacy of the Bush family. For the remnants of an embattled GOP faction. Even, one might argue, for the quaint notion of civility in public life.
I don't want to hear this because few families have done more to destroy "the quaint notion of civility in public life" than the Bushes. In 1988, George H.W. Bush's campaign took on a moderately liberal technocrat named Michael Dukakis and turned him into an American pariah, someone who'd allow scary dark-skinned career criminals like Willie Horton to rape and kill at will. (The Bush team blamed then-Governor Dukakis for a Massachusetts furlough program that was started by a Republican predecessor and was similar to programs in a majority of American states.) The campaign circulated a completely unfounded rumor that Dukakis's wife had once burned an American flag, while the candidate piously toured flag factories. And on and on.

George W. Bush's people conducted a whispering campaign during the 2000 South Carolina primaries suggesting that John McCain's adopted Bangladeshi child was a secret black love child. Four years later, Bush allies spread the lie that John Kerry faked the Vietnam War heroism that won him three Purple Hearts. (Jeb, in 2005, wrote a letter praising the work of the liars who helped bring down Kerry's campaign.)

It doesn't upset me that Jeb was brought down by the viciousness of modern Republican campaigning because his family helped invent vicious modern campaigning. Jeb wouldn't even have been in a position to run for president if it hadn't been for his family's tactics. Stevenson quotes a South Carolina voter who speaks to Jeb after a campaign gathering:
“I loved your brother. Can you be in that category?” inquired an older man, rather doubtfully. “Can you be a sumbitch?”
Who created that thirst for blood? It was the Bushes. It was George the son and, as Stevenson notes, George the father:
... Jeb has never shown Poppy’s killer instinct. Former Slate editor Michael Kinsley once termed G.H.W. a “grandee with a switchblade.” You don’t get the sense Jeb is keen to shiv anyone.
Jeb wanted brownie points for not being his father or his brother. Stevenson sees a fellow nerd and feels a pang of empathy:
Watching Jeb on the debate stage, I could feel the prickly heat bloom across his nape whenever Trump attacked. Jeb would rock back and forth, his shoulders bobbing, an awkward rictus grin spreading across his face. I’m quite familiar with these involuntary responses. I, too, am a man deeply averse to conflict.

I spotted Jeb as a fellow introvert right from the start. Shy recognize shy. It must have been a singular torture to campaign for president with this personality suite. Jeb can’t saber-rattle like his brother. He can’t cornpone like Lindsey Graham. His battle with Trump was a classic clash of phlegmatic versus choleric -- never a winning matchup for the quiet guy.
Two points need to be made here.

First of all, it's not true that the enraged always defeat the even-tempered. Remember this?

If you're dealing with angry people and your inclination is to keep your temper under control, you have to radiate a quiet strength. You have to be like Barack Obama. He did it in response to John McCain. He did it in response to Mitt Romney -- and while Romney isn't a wild-tempered man, he's always seething with a rage that's just under the surface. Jeb could never manage to convey quiet strength. Even lightweights like Ben Carson and Marco Rubio seem to have greater reserves of inner dignity than Jeb.

But here's the thing: If you can't be a brawler and you can't summon a sense of quiet dignity, what you need to do is have the self-respect to leave an arena that demands shows of strength and find an area where you feel capable and confident and at ease with yourself. That's hard for some introverts -- but Jeb is a Bush, for crissake, so he ought to be able to spend his life doing only what he's best suited for.

Running for president in the post-Willie Horton, post-Swift Boat era is something Jeb wasn't suited for, and he never had the self-respect to walk away. It was impossible to avoid the sense that this man, in his sixties, still felt he had to take on this task in order to please his parents. He could have avoided the race altogether -- Mitt Romney was willing to be the gray eminence in the race. He could have dropped out early, like Scott Walker or Rick Perry -- there were already plenty of candidates in the race, several of them representing his own positions on the issues.

Jeb volunteered for this. He wasn't filling a need that would have been otherwise unmet. So his fall leaves me dry-eyed. If he couldn't (or wouldn't) learn to be a back alley fighter like his father and brother, and he wasn't strong enough to face down a thug like Trump, he needed to just go away.


aimai said...

Christ the soft bigotry of low expectations rears its head again. Jeb is a terrible person. The fact that he looks like a soft, milquetoast, nineteen fifties "daddy" doesn't mean he's not an evil person. He is evil. He laid waste to Florida, to the lives of poor people, to Michael Schiavo's life, without a second thought. He was in the coup against Gore up to his clean little paws. And he has never, once, done anything for any person (voter or citizen or simply resident) of this country that he didn't have to do for show, because he wanted to get something out of it. The idea that he gets any praise at all for not being a gibbering train wreck of a reality star boggles my mind. He's a shitty person all on his ownself. And he has absolutely no excuse for it. He's not Maine's lepage, who comes from an abusive background. He is just a selfish, morally lazy, egotist who thought he was entitled to inherit the family business.

Victor said...

Thus ends another episode, of "What Aimai Said!"

Jeb can now go back or retire to his life of inherited comfort and ease.

Most of us don't have that option.

Generations of Bush's got into politics because it was their family business. There was no other reason for them to get involved. They really had nothing to offer. Politics was a means to keeping and expanding what they had.

The Kennedy's - for all their many, many faults -made politics their family business, because they had some things to say about how to make America and our society better.

I'll take Ted Kennedy, the youngest son - warts and all - over Jeb Bush.
Jeb's family could afford to hide his warts.

labradog said...

Jeb! WAS a joke, a filthy, unfunny joke. This is evidenced by his defense of his father and brother, two of the worst. 41 was a CIA loyalist and worked for international criminal and religious charlatan, Sun Myung Moon. 43 is tragically ignorant and his negligence gave us Pesident Cheney.
The whole family, starting with Nazi symp Prescott, should have monogrammed spits in Hell.

Feud Turgidson said...

Republicans always claim THE most reliable prediction for how one will act as president is how he <-- acted as a state governor.

That test suggests a President Jeb Bush would be horrible.

Republicans always went after the Kennedys for pursuing some sort of family entitlement to the White House. Now they go now after the Clintons for the same thing. Yet we've had two Bush presidents over 3 terms, the second being the worst administration since Andrew Johnson at least, and the first and third rivaling each other as the most forgettable since Harding.

WTF got into Seth Stevenson, anyway?

Ten Bears said...

A mia culpa (with a caveat): it would appear I was wrong about Jeb... v Jeb... in a Dress! (the caveat being the however remote potential of a brokered convention). Hence, I could be wrong about Clinton.

But I doubt it.

Rand Careaga said...

"He was in the coup against Gore up to his clean little paws."

I'd always assumed that the campaign slogan "Jeb can fix it!" was an allusion to his yeoman work in Florida back in 2000.

Unknown said...

He would deserve our eternal contempt just for the hell he inflicted on Terry Schiavo's family.

Gerald Parks said...

NO tears for THAT burning bush fact ...most folks wouldn't piss on it ...and it IS on fire!

Burn bush ..burn up and go away like a tumble weed ...blowin' in the wind.

petrilli said...

No small irony that JEB had to pull the plug in a campaign on life support.

Unknown said...

The only good thing I can say about Jeb is that his policies are no worse than the rest of the Klown Kar. In other words, terrible.