It’s interesting to me that, of the top tier of 2016 Republican candidates, the one who seems to be trying to position himself best for the general election is the same one who is saddled with the last name Bush. But right out of the gate, Jeb tried to distance himself from the nasty tone that has become the hallmark of his competitors.
“Two people can disagree and they can disagree vehemently. But if they see in each other an honest broker motivated by good intentions and sincere beliefs, they can find accommodation.”
Accommodation is the opposite of what most Republican candidates are running on these days.
I was reminded of that when, after Jeb Bush called out Donald Trump for criticizing John McCain’s military service, a letter surfaced from January 2005 in which Jeb thanked the Swiftboaters who made it their job do to the very same thing to John Kerry during the 2004 campaign. Here’s the money quote from that letter:
Please let them know that I am personally appreciative of their service to our nation. As someone who truly understands the risk of standing up for something, I simply cannot express in words how much I value their willingness to stand up against John Kerry.
In case you’ve forgotten, the way these Swiftboaters stood up against Kerry was to criticize and lie about his military service in Vietnam. There is practically no daylight between what they said about Kerry and what Trump said about McCain. It was vicious and ugly. And Jeb Bush thanked them for their “service to our nation.”
Michael Schiavo (husband of Terry Schiavo) knows a thing or two about how Jeb Bush can be vicious and ugly. He recently described his experience with the Governor of Florida this way:
Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.
For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.
“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”
Of course, Jeb is the son of the man who didn’t hesitate to use the racist ad about Willie Horton against Michael Dukakis. And he’s the brother of the guy who is credited with fueling racist rumors about John McCain’s adopted daughter in the 2000 South Carolina primary. So assuming your opponent is an “honest broker” is not exactly a family tradition.
Perhaps Jeb Bush has turned over a new leaf in the last 10 years. But you can certainly count me as someone who is skeptical about that. I fully expect that before this primary is over, we’ll see the darker side of him emerge once again.