Feb 29, 2012 by Russ Baker
More and more GOP politicians are realizing their party has a big problem. What once seemed a great idea—a drawn-out Republican Primary slugfest intended to take the limelight from President Obama—may have only served to get their entire field on the wounded list. And what option does that leave?
Well, one solution is to forget about the entire bunch.
Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage, elected in 2010 with heavy Tea Party support, thinks the circular firing squad scenario might open things up for someone else. The Associated Press quoted LePage the other day on this:
“I would love to see a good old-fashioned convention and a dark horse come out and do it in the fall,” LePage said, adding that he didn’t have a particular alternative candidate in mind.
Whoever this is, it doesn’t need to be a “dark horse,” a term signifying a generally unknown prospect who surges to prominence. Instead, as in racing, this competitor out of nowhere could be the progeny of a previous winner. Maybe even a sibling of another.
In other words, he—and it will be a he—could be what Donald Rumsfeld might call a “known unknown”—a major brand name that has not been sullied by the current non-stop mud wrestling. For one has been hanging out at the steps to the arena all this time. His name is Jeb Bush.
Before anyone races to declare that Americans will not stand for another Bush presidential campaign—and certainly not for another Bush presidency—let me just say that they’d be sorely underestimating the Bush family.
The Bushes are nothing if not resilient. George W. Bush, he of so few qualifications but with his own distinctive Bush personality and formidable charisma, came out of the dust of his father’s re-election defeat in 1992, stronger than his father ever was politically. And though W. is now persona non grata to many, his brother would come back as a significantly different brand. He’s widely regarded as more capable, much more focused, much better at delivering points. He’s able to pull off a kind of sober, reasonable persona, more stable than a Santorum or a Gingrich or most of the other contenders. Rich but not entitled. A kind of Romney—without the Romney.
And yet….And yet he is still a Bush. That means a great deal, because, putting aside all the stylistic differences, this is a clan with a mission. It’s a mission they’ll never talk about, beyond vague statements about a sense within the family of Duty to Nation. No, the Bush clan is the ultimate representative of the game plan of the one percent of the one percent. What they stand for in private is much, much more troubling than most Americans know. What I learned in the five years I spent investigating them—as they were going out of power the last time—shook me to my core.
There isn’t space to get into the hundreds of disturbing things about the long-term agenda and covert worldview of this family and their friends, going back not just years but generations. Suffice it to point out a few things that might seem innocuous, but aren’t.
One is the propensity the Bushes have for long-term alliances with those on the other side of the aisle. This is emphatically not about bipartisanship. It is about the same kinds of things that bring Republican and Democratic elites together, that explain the 2004 nominees of both parties being members of the same Yale secret society. It is about why the same people stay on top forever.
The Bush family made friends with Bill Clinton at the very start of his administration—right after he defeated George H.W. Bush—a relationship that is sustained to the present moment. Although a Democrat, Clinton never did take on the big issues that would have upset the people behind the Bush dynamic. Indeed, he deregulated the financial markets and outsourced government, and carried out a foreign policy comfortable to those used to extracting resources from wherever needed, no questions asked; he failed to challenge the national security establishment or generate a post-Soviet-collapse “peace dividend.”
The Bush family has now attempted the same thing with another Democratic “opponent,” Barack Obama. Shortly after Obama took office, George H.W. Bush and Jeb (but not W.) paid the new president a private visit in the White House. That’s not a common thing, but the media essentially ignored it and we never did learn the real nature of that trip, beyond the notion that the Bush family just wanted one more peek at the West Wing.
Recently, Obama got another visit from the duo. Jeb and his father, known familiarly as Poppy, were ostensibly in town to attend the Alfalfa Club’s annual banquet, also attended by Obama—one of those seemingly harmless events where the press is kept out and government officials and rich people frolic and reaffirm each other’s credentials in this country’s elite.
The publications reporting on the Bush White House visit intimated that it seemed a little weird to them, but nobody came right out and said it. To be sure, this is one family with a lot of weird little coincidences, and famous excuses for happening to have to be somewhere. Examples: George H.W. Bush said he couldn’t remember where he was the day JFK was shot, but documents show that he was right there in… Dallas. Working covertly for the CIA. Before publicly not remembering, he went to the trouble of creating a hodgepodge of competing scenarios for where he was—and why.
Another oddity: George H.W. Bush ran against Ronald Reagan in 1980, lost, and, barely suppressing his disgust and disappointment, became Reagan’s veep. Like Lyndon Johnson a decade earlier, he faced an eight-year wait for another chance at the top. Two months after the inauguration, Reagan was shot by John Hinckley—son of a family that had been close with the Bushes for decades. Of course, this was so very bizarre and statistically improbable (and chilling), that virtually no media organization even mentioned the connection. (For more on odd security incidents surrounding the presidency, see this.)
With a third Bush on the horizon, we need to consider the gap between the way the Bush clan is presented in the media and the reality. The media tell us that they are a family like every other family in pursuit of the American dream, perhaps blessed with just a little more drive and luck than most. As if.
In fact, Jeb owes his current political stature to family influence that soared when Poppy headed out from Connecticut along with many other old-money people to get in on the oil boom (with more than a little intelligence work mixed in—much of it involving anti-Castro Cubans.) Then Jeb grew up and moved to Florida, where Poppy’s CIA ties with the anti-Castro Cuban community got the son quickly fixed up, professionally, financially, and, soon enough, politically.
There’s a whole bunch of stuff concerning Jeb that any budding investigative reporter should find good teething material. In 1980, after his father’s election as vice president, Jeb set up the Bush family franchise in the Sunshine State, with its increasing national political importance. He promptly got involved with the wealthy Cuban exile community that had long and deep covert connections to his father, and that wanted continued access for favors. One of those Cubans, Armando Codina, a self-made millionaire, took the veep’s son under his wing, and Jeb was soon on his way to his own fortune in real estate deals that often did not pass the smell test. This was, helpfully, under the shingle of “Bush Realty” in case anyone did not already know his father was in the White House and that Jeb was “open for business.”
These guys don’t “beat around the Bush.” They don’t have to. As Jeb told the Miami News in 1983, “I want to be very wealthy–and I’ll be glad to tell you when I’ve accomplished that goal.”
Jeb waded into Florida politics in 1984 as Dade County GOP Chair. One of Jeb’s closest associates was Camilo Padreda, a former intelligence officer with the Batista dictatorship overthrown by Fidel Castro. Padreda and a friend had previously been indicted for embezzlement, but the charges were dropped, it has been said, after the CIA assured prosecutors that Padreda’s friend had worked for the agency. (At the time, the elder Bush, a former CIA director, was vice president). Padreda later pled guilty to defrauding the Bush administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, though his worst punishment was two months of house arrest. Jeb also was on the payroll of another Cuban businessman, Miguel Recarey, who had been involved with CIA attempts to assassinate Castro. He lobbied his father’s administration on behalf of Recarey. Later on, Recarey was charged in what is believed to be the largest Medicare fraud in history, but managed to flee the country with a handy “expedited” $2.2 million tax refund he received from the IRS that same day.
In 1990, when George H.W. was president, Jeb got him to release the convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch, who had participated in more than 30 terrorist acts (among other things, Bosch was implicated in the bombing of a Cubana plane that resulted in the deaths of 73 civilians). In 1998, with heavy help from the Cuban community, Jeb was elected governor, and thus emerged in a prime position to help his elder brother, George W., prevail in the 2000 Florida election fiasco, and thereby become president. As governor, Jeb nominated Raoul Cantero, the grandson of the Cuban dictator Batista, to the Florida supreme court, though he was lacking in experience—Cantero had been the terrorist Bosch’s spokesman and attorney.
In the aftermath of September 11, while the George W. Bush administration was pushing the colored panic light like crazy, and targeting terrorist suspects of all kinds and levels of probable guilt and innocence, it consented to the release of Cuban exiles convicted of terrorist offenses. Jeb advocated for these releases as well.
Jeb has been carefully laying a scenario in which he could indeed run—and could be very well received. He’s traveled the country extensively as a kind of elder statesman. And recently he criticized the GOP presidential candidates’ behavior:
“I watch these debates and.. it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective and that’s kind of where we are…I think it changes when we get to the general election. I hope.”
In an interview with CBS News after the event, Bush added, “I think it’s important for the candidates to recognize they have to appeal to primary voters, and not turn off independent voters that will be part of a winning coalition.”
This “bring us together” appeal would allow him to jump in, should he be needed, in 2012, and, run or not, win or lose, would position him seriously for 2016.
That we are not already paying enough attention to this prospect is telling about the state of the American media – and electorate—today.
Our lack of collective memory, our failure to examine deeper forces and patterns in this country, our perpetual rush to “move on” and our staunch resistance to possible insights and lessons from the past, will come back to haunt us.
My hunch is that the Bushes and the real establishment (that’s not the Tea Party, not the Santoriacs or the Gingrichites, folks) just love how bad the GOP field is. Obama is almost certain to be reelected. Which is just fine. Like Clinton, he’s played ball on all the big issues that really matter to the One Percent of One Percent—foreign intervention, oil, Wall Street bailouts. They figure he won’t do anything more radical in his second term, while, like another young president (Bill Clinton), looking forward to cashing out to an extremely comfortable life after the White House. And they figure as long as Obama does not make Hillary his veep, that the electorate will tire of the Democrats in 2016 and be ready for….another Bush.
Small wonder these Democratic and Republican administrations are all kissing cousins now. Competitive democracy? Bah—that’s language for columnists. These guys all have it made—and as ever, they’re busy divvying up the pie.