I was surprised when I caught Jeb Bush speaking on foreign policy the other day on TV and declaring, “I am my own man.”
It surprised me because he read the speech word for word from the paper it was written on. Nothing stemmed from the heart despite it being his first major foreign policy speech in a dangerous world. It was the opening shot in his prospective campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
In what I saw of the performance, he never looked up, his voice was flat. He might as well have been delivering the local weather report on a sunny, cloudless day. Jeb is going to need plenty of help, starting with elocution and acting lessons.
He may say he’s his own man, but he’s also bringing back a whole crew of losers who advised his brother, including Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects for the invasion of Iraq.
As Maureen Dowd reminded us in The New York Times, Wolfowitz was “the man who assured Congress that Iraqi oil would pay for the country’s reconstruction and it was ridiculous to think we would need as many troops to control as Gen. Eric Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, suggested.”
“I love my father and my brother,” Bush said in Chicago. “I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make.” It was then he declared, “But I am my own man.”
It was an effort by Jeb to step out from the Bush family shadow and keep the foreign wars and economic collapse in the background.
A little context: Bush, who just turned 62, left Texas, where he grew up, and moved to Florida in the early 1980s, working as a real estate developer and broker. He lost his first bid to run for governor in 1994. He won on his second try in 1998.
He was governor in the midst of the 2000 election controversy — the outcome of the presidential election hinged on the Florida results. In the end, the issue was decided by a single vote in the U.S. Supreme Court.
This article originally appeared in the San Leandro Times.