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The Jeb Scenario: Can You Say “President Bush” Again?

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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.

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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.