After accidentally announcing his presidential candidacy back in May, Jeb Bush is making his White House bid official today in Miami. He is a favorite of some of the GOP’s billionaire backers, hoping that he is more electable than the fifteen other likely and announced presidential candidates. But while some party brokers may find Bush to be the most electable candidate, he has staked out far-right stances on issues such as women’s rights, while building a suspect record on business, personal privacy and voting rights.
5) Shaming Women, Chipping Away at Rights
Before GOP-controlled legislatures across the country passed a flood of new measures restricting abortion rights following the 2010 wave election, Bush championed anti-choice laws, such as later-term bans and parental notification, while governor of Florida. CNN reports that Bush “vigorously sought restrictions on abortion while governor,” noting that “Bush’s abortion activism shocked some state officials who believed he was reaching beyond the powers of his office.”
In 2003, Bush unsuccessfully tried to get the courts to appoint a guardian for the fetus of a 22-year-old disabled woman with cerebral palsy and autism, who became pregnant after being raped by an operator of a state-supervised group home.
In 2005, he intervened in the case of 13-year-old girl, known as L.G., who was a ward of the state and was 13½ weeks pregnant when she tried to get an abortion. Bush fought hard to prevent the procedure, but was overruled by a judge.
Courts rebuffed Bush’s attempt to give fetuses personhood rights and dropped a legal challenge in the case of a pregnant 13-year-old girl, but it’s no wonder that he has boasted of being “probably the most pro-life governor in modern times.”
Such an approach to women’s rights becomes even less surprising considering Bush’s musings about “the restoration of shame,” where he waxed nostalgic for “shotgun weddings” and times when unmarried pregnant women faced stigmatization and disgrace in their communities.
4) Terri Schiavo Fiasco
In a cynical, political stunt designed to please Religious Right voices within the GOP, Bush attempted to interfere in one family’s legal case regarding end-of-life decisions. The dispute centered around Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who was in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years after experiencing “massive and irreversible brain damage.” Her husband said that she had told him that she would not want to be kept alive in such circumstances, while her parents disputed the findings surrounding her medical condition.
Florida courts sided with her husband, but Bush felt that he knew better, successfully urging the state legislature to pass a law giving “Bush the power to intervene in the case.” The law was struck down by state courts as patently unconstitutional, but helped turn one family’s tragedy into a national controversy and Religious Right crusade, sparking several violent threats against her husband.
When a state law didn’t work, Bush helped convinced a GOP-led Congress and his brother, the president, to pass and sign a law giving Schiavo’s parents the power to appeal in the federal courts, which ultimately decided not to hear their legal challenges.
Nonetheless, Bush still tried to intervene in the case by attempting to bring Schiavo under state custody, another ploy rejected by the courts. The governor had also suggested — falsely — that her husband had been abusive and had him investigated. Bush is now touting his handling of the Schiavo case as proof of his conservative credentials.
3) Business Ventures Gone Bad, Very Bad
Being the son of President George H.W. Bush gave him a leg-up in business ventures, so when Bush traveled to Nigeria on a visit to secure a major deal for an industrial water pumps company called the M.W.I Corporation, he was greeted “as a hero.” The company was eventually “found guilty in a federal civil case of misleading the U.S. government to secure taxpayer-funded loans,” as the group hid tens of millions of dollars it paid to a Nigerian middle-man when it successfully applied for loans from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The middle-man was accused of “using Ex-Im loan money to bribe Nigerian officials … with suitcases full of cash.”
Another company with close Bush ties, the manufacturer InnoVida, had its leaders sent to jail after they were convicted of fraud. The Ideon Group, a credit card company linked with Bush, was run into the ground, and board members, including Bush, had to settle lawsuits over charges of “stock manipulation and weak oversight.” Bush also sat on the board of a Swiss soap maker which made false financial reports, where he was once again sued for “insufficient oversight.”
Bush continued to rise in the business world, despite this record, when he was tapped as a consultant for Lehman Brothers. After hiring Bush, Lehman secured deals with the Florida’s State Board of Administrators, where Bush had served as a trustee while governor, which ended up costing the state over $1 billion in losses. Lehman also dispatched Bush to win the help of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim to stave off the firm’s collapse, a mission nicknamed “Project Verde” which ultimately failed. But Bush landed on his feet, as he then served as an adviser to Barclays, the British bank which took over much of Lehman’s portfolio.
2) Alternating Answers On Iraq
Jeb Bush says his brother, former president George W. Bush, will be his chief adviser on the Middle East, along with Iraq War architect Paul Wolfowitz. Therefore, it was no surprise when Jeb Bush originally said that he would still invade Iraq knowing what we know now that the country did not have weapons of mass destruction, a position shared by his brother.
The criticism of his comments was swift, even from conservative talk show hosts like Laura Ingraham, who said: “You can’t still think that going into Iraq, now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to do.”
Bush tried to do damage control by appearing on Sean Hannity’s radio show, telling the friendly interviewer that he “interpreted the question wrong,” but still wouldn’t reveal his position whether he would still invade Iraq. “I don’t know what that decision would have been, that’s a hypothetical,” he told Hannity. The next day, Bush still refused to say whether he would invade Iraq even though the country didn’t have WMDs, saying such a prospect would be a “disserve” to soldiers.
Eventually, following mounting criticism, Bush said that he “would not have gone into Iraq,” his fourth and possibly final answer on the matter, while adding that he blames the conflict in Iraq on President Obama.
1) 2000 Voting Debacle
Just prior to the 2000 election, Bush oversaw an effort to purge voting lists of convicted felons who are barred from voting. However, the process was “riddled with mistakes” and resulted in around 12,000 wrongly purged voters, disproportionately African Americans. Just prior to the 2000 election, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that “Florida registrants were purged from the rolls if 80 percent of the letters of their last names were the same as those of persons with criminal convictions,” and on top of that, the lists used to find voters to purge from the rolls included many Floridians who were not felons.
The problems affecting minority voters didn’t end there.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights further found that Bush and other statewide officials, in a “gross dereliction” of duty, had “ignored” mounting evidence of election-related problems, noting that “while African Americans comprised about 11% of all voters in Florida in the November 2000 presidential election, African Americans cast about 54% of the ballots that were rejected in the election.” Far from an equal process, the report found that counties with larger Hispanic and black populations “were more likely to use voting systems with higher spoilage rates” than wealthier, predominantly white counties. These spoiled ballots broke heavily for Al Gore, according to a Florida State University analysis.
George W. Bush officially won Florida by a 537 vote margin.