Not so fast, Jeb! GOP dream candidate has a Mitt Romney problem and a Lehman Brothers problem

Jeb Bush says he's moving towards a 2016 run. His supporters know about his many, many terrible problems -- right?

Published December 16, 2014 3:25PM (EST)

Jeb Bush                                  (Reuters/David Manning)
Jeb Bush (Reuters/David Manning)

Jeb Bush is makin' the moves. He's releasing 250,000 emails from his time as Florida's governor, which is nice of him, as well as some e-book, and today he said he's "actively" exploring the race . Look at NBC News' Chuck Todd getting all excited about it: "Folks, this isn't someone simply dipping his toes into the presidential waters; it's someone who's bouncing up and down on the diving board." Aces, Chuck. I mean, who isn't excited about this?

Most people are not excited about this, is the thing. Most people don't have an opinion about it, really, because who even is Jeb Bush?? He was governor of a state in the 1990s and 2000s, like a bunch of other politicians that no one presently cares about. His brother was a famous warlord idiot, everyone knows that. He is beloved by elite Wall Street Republicans because he would never, ever pander (lol) to the despised Republican "base." Early presidential surveys show him at or near the top -- which, in a crowded field, means that he has the support of about 10-15% of Republicans, a few percentage points more than Dr. Ben Carson, a clown person, earns.

That's all okay, it's early. People will get the skinny on Jeb Bush soon after (if) he makes this thing formal. And that's great news for Jeb Bush's opponents, because there's a lot of crap in Jeb Bush's record -- the sort of stuff that makes you wonder why anyone's taking this character from the Backstreet Boys era seriously.

The things most well-known to give Jeb Bush political problems going forward are his support for comprehensive immigration reform and Common Core, two of the policies that the Republican base ("voters") hate the most. That hatred isn't going anywhere and it remains potentially fatal, primary-wise.

But then there are Bush's business dealings. Hoo boy. Joe Conason lists a lot of the problems, as does Joshua Green. These are things that Bush's primary opponents will be willing to use -- even though they are proud defenders of business and capitalism and money, of course -- lending them validation in the general election, where they will serve as an even bigger problem.

Just to list a couple of items that stand out, leaving out various episodes of corruption from his time as Florida governor.

• Bush left the Florida governor's office at the beginning of 2007 and became an adviser to the Lehman Brothers investment bank. Lehman is famous for collapsing overnight and nearly sparking the end of global civilization. Jeb was basically kept around to use his family connections when the thing fell apart, and he apparently couldn't even do that well. Jeb Bush worked for Lehman Brothers, the company that nearly destroyed the world. This is an awful thing on the resume of a person who wants to run for president, senator, county clerk, really any political office, ever.

• "Documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Nov. 27 list Bush as chairman and manager of a new offshore private equity fund, BH Global Aviation, which raised $61 million in September, largely from foreign ­investors. In November the fund ­incorporated in the United Kingdom and Wales­—a ­structure, several independent finance lawyers say, that operates like a tax haven by allowing overseas investors to avoid U.S. taxes and regulations... He’s also chairman of a $26 million fund, BH Logistics, established in April with backing from a Chinese conglomerate..." Some words that stand out here, re: Jeb's current jobs: "offshore" "private equity" "tax haven" "avoid U.S. taxes and regulations" "backing from a Chinese conglomerate."

The whole part about offshore private equity funds may ring a bell re: recent political happenings. That's what Mitt Romney got slammed over in 2012, when he burned a whole bunch of cash to barely edge out Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum in the primary and then lost the general election by many electoral votes. Jeb Bush has more than a Mitt Romney problem -- he has a Mitt Romney problem with a Lehman Brothers problem on top. He's not as awkward as Mitt Romney, though, so there's that.

You can tell that Jeb Bush has a Mitt Romney problem because of the way Jeb Bush denies that he has a Mitt Romney problem: by using the same ineffective lines that Mitt Romney himself used to deny that he had a Mitt Romney problem.

“I’m not ashamed,” he told Local 10 in an interview on Sunday. “I think taking risks and creating jobs is what we ought to have more of.” [...]

“I think that practical experience is something that might be useful in Washington, D.C., to be honest with you,” Bush said. “They’re all in this bubble, and they have no concept of what impact the massive amount of rules and taxes and regulations the complexity that Washington, D.C., has on the entrepreneurial spirit.”

“We’re creating jobs; we’re expanding business. I’m not ashamed of that all,” he said.

Why he's proud of his business record. He's created jobs, lots of jobs. What Washington needs is a job-creator with vast business experience to come to Washington and shake things up. This is all the same stuff that Mitt Romney said when he was creating the Mitt Romney problem. It rallies the ranks of the private equity professionals community... but not many other people.

Don't get us wrong. Jeb Bush could muscle his way through to the nomination thanks to a large war chest and a too-large field that divvies up the conservative vote too thinly. Then he could go toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton, a nexus of questionable corporate dealings herself, and they could duke it out in the general election contest that America deserves. (Just a hypothetical: can you imagine Jeb Bush of Lehman Brothers going against Elizabeth Warren? Against all odds, we'd have on our hands a 2016 presidential contest worth getting excited about.)

You just have to wonder why. Why do the elite Republicans seem so intent to get this fellow, who has all sorts of glaring problems, in the running?

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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