The older I get the more I appreciate the tendency of humans to want to make things more interesting than they really are. This is part of the fundamental appeal of conspiracy theories, for example. Nineteen guys with box cutters are too tame an explanation for an event of the magnitude of 9/11 so we have to spice it up with some stock spy novel machinations. The world is rarely as interesting as it is in our imaginations and we try to close the gap.

For this and other reasons a popular rumor throughout the George W. Bush years was of family drama underlying that man's rise to the presidency. It was believed during the Reagan years that Jeb was the scion of the Bush family and George was little more than an embarrassing afterthought given a job with a baseball team to keep him busy and (hopefully) out of the way. When W sobered up, though, he quickly made his way in Texas politics and from the governor's mansion we know the rest of the story. Whisper campaigns about almost Shakespeareian levels of drama between the brothers intimated that Jeb, as The Serious One, deeply resented being passed over for his Party Boy brother. It's a neat, self-contained narrative and accordingly many people bought it. Hell, I bought it. It made perfect sense and George W's performance left little reason to doubt that his brother would indeed be more capable.

This is all interesting now that Jeb is finally having his big moment on the national stage with no brother or father to upstage him. We get to see him in all his splendor, and he is so terrible we have to remind ourselves repeatedly that, yes, this is it and, no, he's not gonna get any better. A nation and pundit class led to believe that the secret jewel of the Bush dynasty was about to shine are scrambling to concoct excuses for what we are seeing in this election. He's terrible. He's so terrible that he can't handle the intellectual might of Donald Trump. He's more terrible than anyone could have imagined, whisper campaign about his secret greatness or not. He is, dare we even say it, worse than George W.

It's safe to say that very few people saw that coming.

Nothing about him is redeeming. His personality is classic "asshole neighbor / CPA" from Republican Central Casting with none of the fake Folksy Reg'lar Fella crap his brother pulled off. The ideas he puts forth are unimaginative and lightweight even by the standards of this horrendous GOP field. He has zero campaign instincts and he's forever putting his foot in his mouth ("Americans need to work harder" and "Stuff happens" in response to a mass killing, and we're still more than a year out from the election). He's not good on camera, he's not raising money appreciably better than the other candidates, and his debate performances have been embarrassing. I didn't expect him to be great. Nor did I expect him to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever as a candidate. He just seems like a dick. A guy you would go out of your way to avoid having to talk to in a social setting. The guy who only makes VP because his dad owns the company.

If he makes any headway in this race it will be a dark omen for the GOP, as anyone voting for him would be doing so strictly as a default vote of no confidence in the rest of the field. It could happen, but he's been so amazingly bad that he might even lose his grip on that role. I'd love to tell you I saw that coming, but we're in uncharted territory of ineptitude here.

47 thoughts on “PALACE INTRIGUE”

  • Since 2000, I'd heard that the Bush family was like the Corleones, with Dubya as Sonny (the charming, thinks-with-his-gut hothead), Jeb as Michael (smart and calculating and dutiful) and Neil as Fredo (idiot fuckup black-sheep embarassment). Turns out that, like you said, we've been greatly overestimating Jeb all these years.

    For a while I thought Jeb was tanking the race intentionally with his catastrophically bad responses (you forgot "my brother kept us safe" and "black people just want free stuff" among his hit parade), remembering that he never wanted to run in the first place and had to be begged into doing so by the establishment money people (whose first choice for President, Christie, had caught fire and fallen over on the launch pad). But this level of sustained self-humiliation and public incompetence really does expose Jeb as the emptiest of suits. My God, Dubya WAS the smart one all this time.

  • It might just be my regionalism showing its ugly head, but I think part of the reason we thought of Jeb! as the "smart" one is that he doesn't have W.'s (phony as hell) twang. (Asshole, you were born in Connecticut, went to high school in Massachusetts, college at Yale, and post-graduate at Harvard. Stop talking like you know which part of a horse the shoe goes on.)

    That and the fact that Catholicism "reads" as more intellectual than Bush's revivalist bullshit–since neither of them can shut the fuck up about how much they love Jesus, the one who loves Jesus in Latin tends to sound smarter. Plus he'd kinda bilingual, whereas W is still working on his first language.

    But yeah, read the transcripts, of the speeches, of the debates. Read the words without the filter of accent or delivery, and you realize: Wow. It's like staring at the parking lot of the abandoned Applebee's at 3:00 in the morning. That same sickening sense of something being so empty as to evoke mild despair.

    And if there's any doubt that this man is every bit as hollow as his brother, consider that his most successful (with the base) soundbite this far is praise of his brother for "Keeping us safe." Which…that's…that's a half-starved coyote running across that Applebee's parking lot.

  • *He is, dare we even say it, worse than George W.*

    No, sorry, no-one, no-one is worse in any way than George W. Bush, not even his just-as-stupid brother. There are web pages displaying nothing but examples of W's stupidity, arrogance and total lack of self awareness

    Nearly all descriptive negative character traits apply to him

    and he was involved in the conspiracy that resulted in 9/11.

  • The problem is he sucks in all the ways his brother sucked, and after one go-round of that package we're all pretty sensitive to it. If Jeb had come out in 2000 he would have been showered with the same praise that Dubya was.

  • In 2010, UK politics did have a conflict between brothers for one of the top jobs, when brothers Ed and David Miliband ran against each other for leadership of the Labour party. David is older and had much more government experience, but lost the vote for party leader. Ed then led Labour to defeat in the 2015 election, while David stepped down from UK politics and now runs a charity in New York.

    As I've observed, now that Ed has blown his chance, it's not implausible that David could attempt a comeback. (He might not want to though — similarly to Al Gore, David Miliband may be finding life a lot more enjoyable away from frontline politics.)

    @wetcasements: Yeah, I agree Rubio is the most plausible not-Jeb, not-Trump candidate for the party establishment to push forward.

  • Emerson Dameron says:


    Really surprised that hasn't happened already. Rubio is the only one of these people (remaining) I can imagine beating HRC.

    I think Jeb! started behaving like such a petulant asswipe because he thought he was going to be the frontrunner and wasn't prepared to be losing to Trump and Carson. His dad and Hillary became similarly horrible when they found themselves at unexpected disadvantages.

  • Let's not forget the whole Terri Shaivo thing which pretty well established his reputation as an asshole.

    He's at least as mean as his brother, maybe worse.

  • Do not forget that JEB! was behind all that Terry Schiavo travesty. For those who don't remember the story; a woman with an eating disorder collapsed of heart problems (much like Karen Carpenter) on her bathroom floor one night. Her husband heard her fall and called 9-1-1, who was able to keep her body alive, but not her brain. Her husband went to nursing school to learn to care for her, but keeping her body alive was such a 24/7 job that he had to put her in a nursing home. After a decade of absolutely no progress, he in conjunction with her doctors made the decision to stop keeping her mindless body alive. Her parents and brother, who had been living off her corpse for years as speakers on the right-to-lifers circus, got JEB! involved, and he called on his brother up in DC to get Congress together for a special session to create a law specifically for her, to block her husband's rights. It was a media circus. Frist, the cat-vivisectionist, weighed in with his opinion (though he had never seen her in real life).

    After her body had died, an autopsy showed that her brain had liquified in her head years previously, and despite her parents' claim that she was talking, singing, and practically reciting poetry, the fact was that she had, indeed, died on that bathroom floor all those years ago, just as the doctors has said.

  • Dunno, given the insanity levels of the GOP, what could someone say?

    If you start talking like a sane person, the base and the pundits would tear you apart. If you try to speak like you've drunk the kool-aid when you haven't, you're not going to sound right. How do you move the debate in a serious direction, when all the audience wants is for you to eat faeces out of a bowl and vomit it up again. Jeb may be a horrible person, but the GOP is currently a slow moving train wreck. So horrible that it will most likely deliver HRC to the Whitehouse.

  • I've never seen anyone so lost than Jeb when asked to say something. He shakes his head at his own remarks every time he opens mouth.

  • @HoosierPoli:

    If Jeb had come out in 2000 he would have been showered with the same praise that Dubya was.

    I've given that some thought and, while I think it's largely true, I think it's not true enough. The Republican establishment was stronger in 2000, and so would have been better able to block a lot of challenges to Jeb!'s run. But Jeb! is not half the campaigner that his younger brother was – his brother's "aw shucks" demeanor and ability to fake sincerity when talking about religion are the things that put him over the top and Jeb doesn't have it.

    Jeb campaigns like his father did, W campaigned like Reagan. W could fake sincerity on the campaign trail, while everything Jeb does looks phony even to sympathetic Republican audiences. Jeb would have been in a better place in 2000 than now, but I don't think he even would have gotten it into "close enough to steal" territory. Because he just isn't as talented a campaigner as his brother was.

    (I'm also thinking that it's pretty obvious from his tenure as governor of Florida that he's no better an executive than his brother was either. The difference between them is that Jeb might actually care about foreign policy where W didn't except to the extent that he wanted to have a war in Iraq to resolve his Daddy issues. But since Jeb's ideas of good foreign policy seem to match those of Dick Cheney, the difference would be one who was pulling the strings, not really one of difference.)

  • a quick mention that the article does a nice job of describing the underwhelming campaign of jeb, and we all remeber the dumpster fire presidency of W. But just imagine, for a second, what a Neil Bush campaign and presidency would look like. If jeb was the cubic zirconia in the bush family tiara, I literally cannot imagine what Neil bush would do in a debate, or a press conference. Would he actually be more suitable for standing up to trump's dadaist, stream of conscience, tsunami of id? Mebbe. Mebbe not. Fight fire with fire?

  • Mr. Wonderful says:

    You're right: we've been so pre-hypnotized by media indoctrination, that Jeb is the smart one, AND we've been so traumatized by our actual experience of what a nightmare W was, that, as you say, it's taken me an act of will to realize that Jeb is just as bad. Plus he's a worse actor than his brother.

    The "stuff happens" is taken out of context. Fine. The "free stuff" is GOP boilerplate and not any more loathsome than anything any of them say. It's "my brother kept us safe" that lifts me to new heights of incredulity and disbelief. It's literally like saying, "Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?" and *meaning it.*

  • @Sour Kraut; I did not know that. What a petty, vindictive jerk. (I went back and edited the adjectives several times so as not to shock the tender sensibilities of anyone who might be easily offended.) So much for small gov't, eh? A man, along with his doctors, makes a decision for his next-of-kin based on the medical facts, and JEB! goes after him. What chance would any of us have if this man got elected? Since the Republicans made it clear that some lives matter more than others, I'm sure he'd be setting up death panels.

  • Jeb! signed the Statement of Principles for the Project for the New American Century, along with Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and others. W didn't sign, supporting the thought that W is the smart one. Many of the signees, starting with Cheney, were in the W administration so the 'smartest Bush' bar is not high.

    The century will last 100 years. The principles on the website lasted less than ten years. ("Those are my principles, and if you don't like them… well, I have others.")

  • Serious homicidal Republicans need no long apply. Unless one pretends to give a shit about Jesus and deny critical thinking, they are SOL. This is why adults are at 1% in Republican polls.

    The celebration of stupidity goes on.

  • @Mr. Wonderful; the "my brother kept us safe" makes me see red. Three members of my family worked at the WTC. Luckily, none of the three were actually there that day because of varying reasons, but communication was down for literally days and so none of us in the family knew our family members were safe for literally days. As has been discussed countless times in countless places, the Bush cabal was given frequent and loud warnings that an attack was imminent, and they chose not to act on those warnings.

    I also have family in New Orleans, and luckily they had the money and the means to flee the city ahead of Katrina making landfall, but many people (particularly the elderly and/or handicapped) did not have that opportunity. BushCo completely mishandled that whole situation, including ignoring the calls for help that happened before the hurricane hit.

  • "He is, dare we even say it, worse than George W."

    NO NO NO. We daren't say it, because it's not so. Jeb's a worse campaigner than Dubya, certainly, but he wouldn't be a worse president, because nobody could be. Not unless they reinstated slavery, say, or accidentally nuked Cleveland.

    Jeb is just a generic plutocratic Republican. He's Romney Redux. He'd be a callous and indifferent president, like his father, but also unmemorable. Dubya combined aggressive ignorance, spoiled-rich-kid negligence, and messianic certainty into something uniquely destructive. He's the kind of guy who would push the big red button marked 'DO NOT PUSH' just to see what happened.

    "The ideas he puts forth are unimaginative and lightweight even by the standards of this horrendous GOP field."

    Jeb's ideas are unimaginative and lightweight, but who in the field is outclassing him? Rubio? Whose only ideas so far have been 'invade everywhere' and 'drill baby drill'?

    The terribleness of Jeb is an interesting story, but it shouldn't be allowed to overshadow the terribleness of the entire, vast field. The "deep bench" was always a lie, and all these people should be laughingstocks.

  • @cekman: the same people who thought (and still think) that Sarah Fecking Palin is a wise, credible candidate are the ones who see the bench as deep. The same shallow thinkers who believe the hype about St. Ronnie Raygun being the bestest president who ever presidented. The people who see only the most shallow levels of anything, who get their opinions dictated from rightwing media sources and don't bother to think any further.

  • Don't worry, folks, GOP primary voters detest him more than we do.

    @cekman: Don't go around jinxing things that way. As we have seen over the last few years, there really is no bottom to what the modern GOP can muster. "Accidentally" nuking Detroit is not off the table.

  • He was Gov when the Challenger blew up. I was at the memorial at KSC & he showed. I couldn't believe my eyes. Everyone was heart-broken & he was acting like a goofy overgrown frat boy. That & Terry Schiavo sealed it for me.

  • @katydid: And let's not forget that when recently asked about his involvement in Schiavo family matters, Jeb(!) said that he had no regrets and would do it again.

    Yeah, he's a major dick, aligned with the neocons and would be a fecking disaster in the WH. No way he gets closer to the Oval Office than anyone else take the WH tour.

  • @ANorton; is there no end to this guy's indifference? I remember when Challenger blew up; how gut-wrenching it was just as a spectator watching from a thousand miles away.

  • I see the smart money on this site is on Rubio to clinch the nom. So, um, what about Trump — where's he in this scenario? You guys still believe he's gonna implode soon? Wheres the evidence for that — I haven't seen any so far, 'cept for pious expressions of hope for humanity.

  • Mr. Wonderful says:

    @ Desargues–

    Agree. "Trump will implode" has about it the "common sense/savvy" feel that "Trump will be out by August" had. I understand how difficult it is, even at this late date, to believe the GOP will trooly, rilly give him the nom. But it's plausible to me that the Tea Party base now has the memory of having had Romney crammed down their throats, and will resist to the point of anarchy. Trump hasn't even begun to beat up Rubio, by the way.

  • Alan Christensen says:

    ANorton, I think you mean Columbia, but point taken. How the hell did this guy get elected governor twice?

  • I will gladly "Bash A Bush" but for the record, the Challenger Explosion occurred in 1986; Jeb!'s term as guv'ner didn't start until 1999.

  • Alan: We are talking about Florida, after all. The most virulently and proudly anti-intellectual place I have ever lived, and I grew up in Indiana. :(

  • Oh I dunno, Trump as the Republican candidate might scare the shrieking bejeezus outta Democrats to the point that they actually roll out and vote.

  • @Nony

    Jeb is younger, not older. When a son is named after the father, it's usually the first son. Uncommon for a younger sibling to get the father's name. It happens, but it's kind of odd, and confusing.

  • Everyone is forgetting the Karl Rove effect. Rove was the one who picked Dubya, polished the turd, and put his Reality Creation Machine to work. Rove was the one who pushed Dubya to the front of the line, much to the chagrin of the Bush Crime Family capos. That's why they had to put Dick Cheney in charge of the VP search committee, and he ended up deciding that of all the people in the US, he was the only one qualified.

    Rove kept Dubya completely stage managed. There's even some evidence that Bush was wired during the debates and getting lines fed to him from offstage.

    Even so, he was kept on a short leash and was rarely put into a situation where he could make the types of idiotic statements Jeb is making.

    There's no evidence that Jeb has the image-making magic of Rove. Had Dubya been left out to fend for himself like Jeb is doing, he would have self-destructed within weeks. After all, he really wanted to be baseball commissioner. So, we dodged a bullet on that score. Major League Baseball would probably be dead if that had happened.

  • Skipper: I agree; it's a great point. I keep telling that same thing to my wife and friends, who have bought into this Bush the Inevitable thing. It took the combo of Arbusto's folksiness and Mayberry Machiavelli's string-pulling to put Shrub over the line, especially in SC, which decided a lot of other things down the line. Without that I-found-me-some-Jesus shtick, and Rove's machinery behind him, Jebby's just another Romney, with lesser hair and an older OS.

    This race is Hillary's to lose. The real question is not, will she win, but rather: what good will that do to the rest of us?

  • Only because you're calling out "spicy" theories, I have to call out your use of the misleading meme of hijackers armed with box cutters. Yes, one caller mentioned the hijackers carried box cutters, but also mentioned knives, and the other few and sketchy eyewitness reports mentioned knives, chemical spray and a bomb. Beyond that, we don't know. Maybe they had other weapons, maybe not; maybe they used the box cutters, maybe not. But there's no reason to believe that the hijackers were solely or primarily armed with box cutters, even if it makes a better story.

    On Jeb: Right on. And I'm with Skipper that Jeb is W with a Rove-otomy and a less colorful past.

  • Jesus. The new polls are brutal for Jeb. There's a new Monmouth University poll out today that has him down to 5% nationally. Just barely edging out Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee. Only half of what Ted Cruz got. Ted Cruz!

    A new CNN/ORG poll has him at a comparatively robust 8%, tied with Rubio and behind only established frontrunners Trump and Carson. That's what passes for good news for Jeb these days.

    And there was a University of North Florida poll yesterday showing him in fourth place, at 9%, in his home state!

    This can't go on. There are a lot of powerful people, and not just Bushies, who are being humiliated by these numbers. These are people who are not accustomed to being humiliated. But what do they do?

  • "asshole neighbor / CPA"

    I used to be a CPA. And, well, yeah. A lot of them *were* assholes. I wound up prejudiced against my own profession, and eventually quit.

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