President George W. Bush (L) smiles at his brother Florida Governor Jeb Bush before making remarks at an event in Sun City Center, Fla., on March 8, 2006.
Photo by Chris Livingston/EPA

Jeb Bush’s dubious new pitch: ‘I am my own man’

Two weeks ago, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) delivered a big speech on his economic vision, which was pretty underwhelming. Today in Chicago, the likely Republican presidential candidate moves on to Phase II, fleshing out his perspective on foreign policy.
 
Bush’s speech won’t begin for a couple of hours, though advance excerpts suggest we should expect a rather boilerplate set of remarks from the former governor with no background in international affairs. Last week, the Floridian said, “I won’t talk about the past…. If I’m in the process of considering the possibility of running, it’s not about re-litigating anything in the past,” but today he’ll apparently spend a fair amount of time condemning the past six years.
 
But as Kasie Hunt reported, there’s one particular phrase that’s likely to get a lot of attention today.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will declare “I am my own man” during a national security speech in Chicago on Wednesday, his first major address on world affairs as a presidential candidate in waiting – and first serious public grappling with the legacies of the Bush presidents who came before.
 
“My views will often be held up in comparison to theirs – sometimes in contrast to theirs,” Bush will say, according to excerpts released by his Right to Rise PAC. “I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man – and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.”
As a matter of rhetoric, this is arguably predictable. If I were the brother of a failed president, I’d probably be eager to say, “I am my own man” too.
 
The trouble is, the claim doesn’t seem to be true.
 
The New York Times reported over the weekend, for example, that Jeb Bush spent much of his adult life taking advantage of his family connections to advance his interests and ambitions. 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.
 
Meanwhile, Bush is also furiously raising money for his campaign in a “shock-and-awe” launch – remind me, which president is that phrase usually associated with? – exploiting “the wide network of donors who supported his father and brother,”
 
Specifically on the issues of foreign policy and national security, Jeb Bush has assembled a team of advisers to help bring him up to speed. The campaign released a list 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 this week, 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.”
 
Imagine that.
 
In this sense, “I am my own man” isn’t just overly defensive – no one makes a comment like that unless everyone is inclined to believe the opposite – it’s also quite wrong.
 
Everything about Jeb Bush’s national campaign is built on a foundation established by his grandfather, father, and brother – powerful Republicans all. Jeb has spent most of his life exploiting the benefits of his last name to advance his interests, and by appearances, he’s doing it again.
 
Whether or not that’s worthy of criticism is a matter of perspective, but the “I am my own man” pitch only serves as a reminder that Jeb Bush is anything but his own man.
 

George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush's dubious new pitch: 'I am my own man'