For Jeb Bush, Life Defending the Family Name

by
June 24, 2010

By MATT BAI, The New York Times

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — For months now, Jeb Bush has been listening as President Obama blasts his older brother’s administration for the battered economy, budget deficits and even the lax oversight of oil wells.

“It’s kind of like a kid coming to school saying, ‘The dog ate my homework,’ ” Mr. Bush, this state’s former governor, said over lunch last week at the Biltmore Hotel. “It’s childish. This is what children do until they mature. They don’t accept responsibility.”

In fact, instead of constantly bashing the 43rd president, Mr. Bush offered, perhaps Mr. Obama could learn something from him, especially when it comes to ignoring the Washington chatter. “This would break his heart, to get advice that applies some of the lessons of leadership my brother learned, because he apparently likes to act like he’s still campaigning, and he likes to blame George’s administration for everything,” Mr. Bush said, dangling a ketchup-soaked French fry. “But he really seems like he’s getting caught up in what people are writing about him.”

“I mean, good God, man, read a book!” Mr. Bush said with a laugh. “Go watch ESPN!”

At 57, Jeb Bush remains an intriguing figure inside his fractious party. At a moment when Republicans are groping for an agenda beyond opposition, Mr. Bush has long been considered one of the party’s true idea guys, someone a lot of party insiders think could still be a serious presidential contender.

But Mr. Bush, the son and brother of presidents, occupies just as intriguing a place within his own family. American presidents have traditionally felt themselves duty-bound not to criticize their successors (no matter what their successors may say about them), which means that Jeb is the only Bush in public life who can defend the family name.

“George isn’t going to break that,” Mr. Bush said, meaning the ex-presidents’ code, “and if he was asked to serve in some way, he would do it, in spite of all the ‘it’s Bush’s fault.’ That’s just the kind of guy he is.”

To read more, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/23/us/politics/23bai.html

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