Watch Jeb Bush flipflop.
Washington Post, February 18: “Jeb Bush: ‘I love my father and my brother…but I am my own man’”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is considering a 2016 presidential campaign, is seeking to distinguish his views on foreign policy from those of his father and brother, two former presidents.
CBS, February: “Jeb Bush: ‘I am not my brother'”
But of course 10 weeks is a lifetime in politics, and this is the headline in the Washington Post today: “One of Jeb Bush’s top advisers on Israel: George W. Bush”
After spending months distancing himself from his family’s political legacy, Jeb Bush surprised a group of Manhattan financiers this week by naming his brother, former president George W. Bush, as his most influential counselor on U.S.-Israel policy.
“If you want to know who I listen to for advice, it’s him,” Bush said Tuesday
The company at the luncheon included Paul Singer, the big Republican donor who is pro-Israel.
Why is Jeb flipflopping? Well back in March, his foreign policy adviser James Baker spoke at the liberal Zionist group J Street and was critical of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu for opposing the two-state solution and building settlements.
At that moment, Bush lost the favors of Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire funder of George Bush and in the last presidential cycle, of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney:
Adelson sent word to Bush’s camp in Miami: Bush, he said, should tell Baker to cancel the speech. When Bush refused, a source describes Adelson as “rips***”; another says Adelson sent word that the move cost the Florida governor “a lot of money.”
Meanwhile, FL Sen. Marco Rubio, seen as Bush’s top competition, got the backing of Florida billionaire Norman Braman, an ardent Zionist whom Rubio describes as a father figure and Politico says could be the next Sheldon Adelson.
Jeb Bush’s comments were widely interpreted as an effort to dispel lingering concerns among Israel hawks that Baker’s comments were indicative of Bush’s own views. Singer, a billionaire hedge fund manager, is one of many top GOP money players who fund conservative pro-Israel groups and candidates who favor a hard-line stance against Iran.
A majority of registered voters still have unfavorable views of how George W. Bush handled his job as president, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in March. Nevertheless, there remains deep affection within the GOP for George W. Bush, with 87 percent approving of his presidential tenure.
“For all of the negatives in how George W. Bush is remembered in foreign policy, people who are supportive of Israel remember him as supportive of Israel,” said Danielle Pletka, who studies national security at the American Enterprise Institute. “For Bush, he has to find a way to deflect the festering question of his relationship with James Baker.”
George W. Bush drew enthusiastic reviews for his appearance last month before the Republican Jewish Coalition, where he answered questions about his time in the White House and his post-presidency.
Paul Singer is the Jewish billionaire behind a new Christian Zionist group, and a raft of neocons, including Pletka. Eli Clifton reports:
Singer, a director at the Republican Jewish Coalition, is a huge donor to various groups that promote a hawkish line on Iran policy. Between 2008 and 2011, he contributed $3.6 million to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hard-line neoconservative think tank whose scholars have variously advocated for “crippling sanctions,” “economic warfare,” and bombing Iran. The hedge fund mogul has also supported the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank whose scholars, including Richard Perle and Danielle Pletka, led the charge into Iraq and have been no less aggressive in regard to Iran. In addition, Singer has supported the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs—he was listed in the group’s “Chairman’s Circle” as recently as 2012.
In this crowd, the Iraq war is a resume builder. Colin Powell said that the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs got us into the Iraq war; the “JINSA crowd” influenced former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Some crowd, huh? And they don’t get flushed from the system because they have so much money behind them.
So all these Republican candidates are staking rightwing positions on foreign policy in order to get the locomotive they need to drive the campaign; but none of these givers cares about immigration or abortion, issues of concern to the rightwing Republican base. And how popular is the Iraq war among American voters, or even Republican ones?
P.S. Digby’s on to this at Salon. “Jeb Bush’s terrifying W. strategy: How he’s sucking up to extremist billionaires—with the help of the worst president ever… it’s about winning the donor primary.” I don’t think Chris Matthews will be able to avoid this one. And the split in the lobby just grows wider, driven by party politics: between the neocon Iran hawks and the J Street anti-settlement folks.
Thanks to Adam Horowitz.