The Bushes eat themselves alive: Daddy tosses W. to the wolverines -- but Jeb! cannot be saved

George H.W. Bush tries to paint his eldest son as incompetent rather than evil. That line won't help Jeb!

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published November 6, 2015 10:59AM (EST)

  (Reuters/Jim Young/Rebecca Cook/Photo montage by Salon)
(Reuters/Jim Young/Rebecca Cook/Photo montage by Salon)

The Bush name is the only reason that an uninspiring, petulant figure like Jeb! even has a chance at the presidency, but it's also his greatest obstacle. The country is still smarting from the pointless wars and economic catastrophe that we brought on ourselves the last time we tossed some mediocrity into the White House just because he had that fancy Bush name. That puts Jeb Bush in a no-win situation. Denouncing your brother means turning your back on family. But endorsing W.'s infamously failed presidency isn't a great idea, either.

Now Poppa Bush is going to step in and blame someone, anyone, not named "Bush" for the failures of the Bush presidency. In a handily timed biography of the senior Bush, written by Jon Meacham, George H.W. Bush lays out the case that his son was a hapless pawn of the true villains of his presidency: Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

“I don’t know, he just became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with,” Bush reportedly told Meacham about his son’s vice president. “The reaction [to 9/11], what to do about the Middle East. Just iron-ass. His seeming knuckling under to the real hard-charging guys who want to fight about everything, use force to get our way in the Middle East.”

Bush also told Meacham that he was never a fan of Rumsfeld, who served as his son’s secretary of defense during 9/11. “I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the President.”

“I’ve never been that close to him anyway,” Bush explained. “There’s a lack of humility, a lack of seeing what the other guy thinks. He’s more kick ass and take names, take numbers. I think he paid a price for that. Rumsfeld was an arrogant fellow.”

On one hand, it's fascinating watching the Bushes take a favorite liberal talking point from the Bush era -- that George W. Bush is a half-wit manipulated by evil men -- and try to turn it to an asset.

On the other hand, the implication is that we should just roll the dice again by going with his brother. Is the idea here that evil is genetic but imbecility is not? If so, Jeb! and his team might try to work a little harder on reducing the number of times he's out in public looking stupid.

Being intellectually bested by Marco Rubio isn't really reassuring the public that you're not a nimrod like your brother.

"Jeb can fix it!" isn't winning over anyone who thinks that they'd be up for another Bush in office, so long as he's sporting a couple more IQ points.

Bush likes to brag that he eats nails because it sounds tough, but under the circumstances, he should worry that people will think the poor dear just doesn't know that nails aren't food.

Donald Rumsfeld, for one, is not having it, implying that H.W. is just some old man who doesn't know what he's talking about and saying that W. Bush "made his own decisions".

Jeb Bush himself is trying to distance himself from this narrative, giving all credit to his father and arguing that W. is "a big boy" and that his "administration was shaped by his thinking." It's a smart move, trying to distance himself from his father's narrative---makes it seem like his father's take on it is totally independent, without any input from the campaign.

It may even be true, but either way, that this narrative was going to happen was inevitable. As noted, the brother issue is a sticky situation, and there are few good outs for the campaign. To make it worse, Jeb Bush has very few legitimate resources at his disposal. He's not a gifted politician or a particularly smart man, so his father has to swoop in and rescue him.

Still, the whole gambit should open up a basket of questions. Even if Cheney and Rumsfeld are the true architects of evil here, that doesn't really exonerate W. Bush. It not only calls into question W. Bush's judgment, but that of his whole family. If they knew that W. Bush was so easily controlled by his underlings, why did they not discourage him from running? We all love our family, but letting incompetent family members run the entire country when you know they're not capable of it shows bad judgment all around.

And no one showed worse judgment in all that than Jeb Bush, who was an important part of helping install his brother into office even though Al Gore really should have won the presidency in 2000. The pitch the Bush family is making is that Jeb isn't his brother, because he's the "smart" one. But that means the "smart" Bush busted his ass to make sure we have to deal with President Moron for the next eight years. How smart can you actually be when you wanted someone your father is implying was incompetent to have the White House?

That's the problem with Jeb Bush. He wants the perks of the Bush name, but refuses to take any responsibility to maintain the name's reputation. If the Bush family was worth a damn thing, they would take the failures of the George W. Bush presidency seriously and gracefully retreat from the public eye. After all, everything that happened is their fault, especially if you believe, as these H.W. quotes are clearly meant to make you believe, that they felt he was just a puppet being controlled by Rumsfeld and Cheney. This shows that lack of judgment, if nothing else, is a family trait, and one that should keep Bushes far away from the reins of power.

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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