Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Presidential Candidate JEB Threatens to Unleash his Secret Campaign Weapon: Brother George

by Nomad

For some obscure reasons, JEB thinks reminding American voters of brother George is going to give him a decided advantage in the presidential race. 

Sometimes you hear things JEB says, the way the man thinks and you have to wonder how anybody so out of touch with the American people would ever consider running for president.
Although there have been plenty of examples of this, what he said the other day left a lot of people gasping in disbelief. He told MSNBC:
“My brother, if you did the polling and actually looked at it — he’s probably the most popular president amongst Republicans in this country."
After Reagan, who else is there? Nixon? One-term Pappy?

JEB wholeheartedly rejected the idea that his brother might be a Liability to his campaign. He dismissed the very idea that people might react negatively to being reminded of their past voting mistakes. He added:
“I’m honored to be part of that family. All the psychobabble that goes along with it, I’ve gotten over it. You guys can meditate on your navels about that — I’m not.”
He might call it "psychobabble" but clearly the campaign has struggled to overcome the George effect. He claims to have gotten over it but the statement rings off-key.

Indeed, it's hard to square this latest remark with his endless and fruitless attempts to distance himself from his family name by adopting an alias (JEB= John Ellis Bush). Since February of this year, JEB has been insisted that he is his own man and shouldn't be compared to his brother.
Now he is eager to give his brother a wink, a pat on the back and a full military salute.

He might be in denial about this issue, but JEB has spent an inordinate amount of time meditating on his navel about George (to admit kinship or not to admit kinship?).
Even now, he is still unable to fully exorcise the demon. 

Besides that, JEB has yet to prove to the nation why we need another Bush in office. Let's face it, he isn't really truly running on his own record as governor of Florida.

That's a major part of JEB's problem: his own hypocrisy.
He has shown himself to be quite willing to pull every dynastic string that the Bush family has acquired for fifty years while at the same time, attempting to deny all the liabilities the name carries with it. 

The Pleasure of Forgetting George
Surprisingly, there is a tiny bit of truth in his statement about his brother's popularity. Based on polls conducted last June from CNN/ORC and Bloomberg/Des Moines Register,   in Iowa  at least, Republicans largely view George W. Bush as an asset to his brother. 52% of adults had a favorable impression of George W. Bush, 43% unfavorable.

It takes a lot of brainwashing and white washing to improve the historical record of the Bush family. "Read my lips. NO NEW TAXES!" and "Mission Accomplished!" are hard phrases to forget. So, those numbers require a lot of explaining and that's something that JEB apparently doesn't have time for.
(Thankfully, I do.)

First of all, it might be true that George W. Bush is much more popular today than when he left office. That effect is not unusual for any president.
Americans, by and large, tend to forgive their presidents as soon as they walk away from Washington. Nixon was roundly despised and it was only after a few years, the public took a more sympathetic view of the man.
Reagan, too, was not especially popular when he left office- a 53% approval rating for his last year in office. His image really needed a lot of re-painting, extensive body work and polish to grow into the so-called Reagan legacy. (In Carter's case, the extremes are even greater.) 

If familiarity breeds contempt, then that contempt is doubled when it comes to presidents. Give the American public a bit of cooling off time and things become more balanced.
Still, it is astounding. One would think Americans- especially conservatives- would never forgive a president that left the country in the mess that George W. Bush did. Without George, there could have been no Obama.

Bush's popularity is likely based more on their hysterical disgust at Obama and perhaps the unspoken relief that Bush is not in a position to cause any further embarrassment.  

The most important point worth noting is that George's popularity was limited to conservatives. That's JEB!'s verbal fine print.

And another poll from January 2015 revealed that a record number of voters-  an average 43% of Americans- now declare themselves independent. 
A thing JEB didn't mention was that the June poll also found that Bush remained broadly unpopular among groups that made up his main opponents during his time in office: Democrats (70% unfavorable), liberals (68% unfavorable) non-whites (54% unfavorable), and those under age 35 (53% unfavorable).

So it may (or may not) be true that George is loved by conservatives but JEB is delusional if he thinks that he can win the election based on the conservative vote alone. Key demographics needed to win have been ignored in his analysis.

In other words, for every conservative George-lover, there might well be two (or more voters) that can't stand the sight of the man. Many in that group might even consider him to be a war criminal. 

A Brilliant Idea It Ain't
Having spent so long attempting to paint himself as his own man, JEB has in recent days renewed his "brilliant" idea to enlist  his brother more openly on the campaign trail.
Nothing could make Donald Trump happier. It will very likely be the final nail in the already well-nailed  presidential campaign of JEB. 

He has been hinting at this since last October actually so it suggests his advisors have tried to explain why it's really really not a swell idea. If JEB honestly believes that enlisting his brother will improve his standing he is probably in for a rude awakening.   
Mitt Romney, admittedly no great model for political victory, warned JEB that The George Option could be a catastrophic misjudgment. It would, said Romney, be impossible for JEB to separate himself "from the difficulty of the W. years and compare them with the Clinton years.” 
That's assuming JEB somehow actually got the nomination, of course. It would require nothing short of a miracle at this point, like, say, Trump dropping dead in mid-speech and Rubio and Cruz being deported.

Others have repeatedly cautioned JEB against the move for three reasons. It misunderestimated how much buried disgust there actually is for the Bush family and particularly for George. As soon as George smirks and opens his mouth, all those bad memories will come flooding back.

Loose Cannons Destroy Campaign
Secondly, let's not forget that George is George and he loves the media attention. Saying stupid things is one way he gets the attention he needs. For eight years, he refused to listen to anybody so what should he do so now?
Unlike Bill Clinton, George is unlikely to take orders from his whining brother or any of the staff.
We have seen that before too. Many were willing to give VP candidate Sarah Palin the benefit of the doubt for awhile but not so with George. In the intoxication of the applause, Sarah went off-script and it reflected poorly on John McCain. Practically destroyed whatever chance he had actually.
The same will hold true for George and JEB.

This ugly arrogance came out in full bloom in a quote found in Bob Woodward's Bush At War:
"I'm the commander, see. I don't need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."
Every thing George says will be analyzed, argued over, and laughed about. It will be extraordinarily distracting for JEB to have to explain all of the stupid things George is likely to utter in the primary states.

Think of all the gaffes and the offensive things George could say. It would provide Trump with endless material for his campaign/stand up routine. Without any doubt, it could be very entertaining. George will very likely to make Trump look like both a gifted statesman and an awe-inspiring intellect.

JEB can only shrug and smile numbly so much before the blowback begins. The candidate will be reduced to the bumbling straight man, and when you think of it, it's really a role he was born for.

The Fatal Mistake of Short Term Thinking 
Finally, the third reason for not thrusting George in the spotlight. There's something called political strategy.
It is very possible to win in the short term and lose in the long term. Brother George might be a pleasing sight for conservative eyes and that could conceivably (?) win JEB the nomination against Trump or Cruz but the fallout could be lethal to JEB's chances of ever becoming president.

[G]iven the former president’s unpopularity among many in the broader electorate, joint appearances by the brothers could provide irresistible footage for Democratic attacks against Jeb Bush if he wins the Republican nomination. The continued instability in the Middle East, in particular, could remind voters of George Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and make joint images of the Bush brothers potent fodder for the opposition.
Locked in their cycle of hate, conservatives might actually dream of returning to the good old days when the economy was in free fall and America was conducting blank-check wars, both of which were not decisive.
That's not going to be the case with the rest of the country. And every appearance of George on the campaign trail will come back to haunt JEB when he meets Hillary or Bernie.

So why on earth would JEB take such a risk? Trotting out George with all that baggage onto any stage is asking for trouble. Is JEB really so ill-advised? Can he really be so out of touch with the electorate? 
The answer is yes. One source quotes him as saying on morning interview with Fox & Friends:
“It is something to consider because he is very popular. And I also know I need to go earn this. My brother has been a strong supporter and I love him dearly. He’ll continue to play a constructive role.”
Since February of this year, JEB has had to defend his brother's legacy even to the point of making the outrageous and historically nonsensical assertion that, despite 9/11 and the anthrax attacks and a host of other events, President George "kept us safe." (Trump had a field day with that.)

Fraternal and family love is certainly an admirable virtue. It is, however, a personal one and not a political one. Especially when it means denying reality and changing the historical record. 

The End of the Road?
So, this brings us back to the question: then, why?

Husna Haq, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, tries to make sense of JEB!'s rationale.
Bush's campaign has been something of a disaster, anyway, with a series of underwhelming debate performances, sagging poll numbers, and fundraising stumbles that have led to morbid, metaphor-laden murmurings about his campaign being "on a death spiral," "in life support," or worse, "in hospice," where it will undergo "a slow death."
Meaning: what has JEB got to lose now? If millions of SuperPac dollars can't lift his dismal numbers, then what's the harm of bringing George onto the stage? If the lions and tigers and dancing bears fail to please the kids, send in the clowns.

When his campaign hit the reset button back in October, absolutely nothing happened. There's little doubt that bringing George in on the train wreck will add a bit more color to this farce.
In the end, when the JEB's campaign finally bites the dust, he, at least, has a good scapegoat to blame. 

Since the stumbling start of his campaign, JEB has seemed blind about his brother's shortcomings. At one time, he even announced with misplaced pride that his chief advisor on Middle East politics was none other than George. A round of audible gulps followed and yet, through it all,  JEB kept smiling and blinking.    
If there is one thing that will spell the downfall of the Bush dynasty once and for all, it is JEB's decision to bring George out of the shadows.

What all this reveals about JEB is extremely important about his decision-making. He seems incapable of understanding the broader picture, unable to take onboard the sound advice of disinterested outsiders. 
Ultimately, JEB appears incapable of making decisions- even disastrously wrong ones.