Former First Lady Barbara Bush publicly expressed skepticism last year about yet another member of her immediate family running for president, but she’s since changed her mind. Last week, she threw her name behind a new fundraising campaign for one of her sons, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R), with the launch of the “Run Jeb Run Fund.”
She’s not the only member of the family helping the Florida Republican fill his already overflowing campaign coffers. The Dallas Morning News reported yesterday:
Texas GOP donors have lined up for a Jeb Bush political committee fundraiser in Dallas on Wednesday that will include a rare political appearance by his brother. The invitation asks for donations or for attendees to raise up to $100,000 per couple.The reception on behalf of the Right to Rise Super PAC will be held at the home of bank executive Gerald Ford and his wife Kelli…. Many of those hosting the Texas event have also filled the Rolodex of George W. Bush.
To be sure, events like these don’t come as a surprise. Jeb Bush has focused much of his energies of late on fundraising, and by all appearances, the furious push for cash is going extremely well – there’s little doubt that the former governor will lead the GOP presidential field when it comes to campaign finances.
But let’s not forget that it was just last month when Jeb Bush delivered a big speech in Chicago in which he tried to put some distance between himself and his controversial last name. “I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make,” he said. “But I am my own man – and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.”
Left unsaid: “Now, if you don’t mind, my mom and brother would like you to start contributing to my super PAC.”
As we discussed several weeks ago, Bush is trying to have it both ways. He’s eager to use his name and family to advance his ambitions, even as he encourages voters and the media to overlook the fact that he’s the brother of a president, the son of a president, and grandson of a senator.
It’s a tough pitch, made more difficult by Jeb’s personal history. The New York Times reported last month, for example, that Jeb Bush spent much of his adult life taking advantage of his family connections to advance his interests. In Florida, people went out of their way to get close to Bush in the hopes that he’d relay messages and suggestions to his powerful relatives – which he routinely did.
What’s more, as the Florida Republican moves closer to his campaign kick-off, Jeb Bush has assembled a team of advisers to help bring him up to speed, especially in areas of foreign policy and national security The campaign released a list of advisers that included his father’s Secretary of State (James Baker), his brother’s Deputy Defense Secretary (Paul Wolfowitz), his brother’s National Security Adviser (Stephen Hadley), a variety of members from his brother’s cabinet (Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff). In fact, Philip Bump reported that of the 21 people reportedly advising Jeb Bush, 19 are veterans of the first Bush administration, the second Bush administration, or in a few cases, both.
The Washington Post added that Bush has “also consulted with former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, but his interactions with her are ‘more complicated because if she’s too involved I think there’s a sensitivity that it would be a carbon copy of his brother’s administration,’ the foreign policy expert said.”
If that is a legitimate concern – and it should be given the scope of his brother’s catastrophic failures in office – Jeb’s willingness to exploit family connections for fundraising is a tricky proposition, which his rivals will likely exploit.