By Stephen Goldstein
It’s 2016. Even before all of the just-cast votes have been officially tallied, pundits are predicting who will run for president — among them, Jeb Bush, of course.
But, since Americans have the historical perspective of fruit flies, it’s time to take a walk down memory lane and remind ourselves that where there’s a Bush, there’s a debacle — too often with Florida at the center of it and the rest of the nation wondering what’s wrong with us.
I wish the nightmares could be wiped away with the shake of an Etch A Sketch. But unfortunately life doesn’t follow art. Instead, the Bush Dynasty continues relentlessly to pursue its agenda of imposing its self-righteous will on the rest of a nation. And what’s wrong with “us” is that too many of us are slow to connect the dots.
Past Bush Debacle One: In 2000, the eyes of the world were on Florida during the torturous recount of presidential votes. That bruising fiasco featured George W. Bush in the foreground and Jeb Bush in the background, pulling the strings of then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris.
Who can forget her rush to take center stage to “certify” the results of the Florida vote — or the consequences of that suspect election? The lack of integrity of the voting process in this country was exposed, to our collective shock. Even the most cynical among us never imagined the degree to which ballots were routinely tossed.
In its politically tainted decisions in Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court lost all credibility, from which it has never recovered. And the course of history was changed for the worse. George W. entangled us in a war in Iraq and put John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court, setting in motion some of the worst decisions it has ever made. Al Gore wouldn’t have done any of that.
Past Bush Debacle Two: From 2003 to 2005, the brothers Bush muscled the power of the state into a devastating family matter. The heart-wrenching case of the brain-dead Terri Schiavo kept alive on a feeding tube was turned into political theater and posturing. An aide’s legal memo written to then-Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez even suggested that the case would resonate with the GOP’s political base.
Who can forget the legal appeals and stays, press conferences and pronouncements, an extraordinary weekend session of Congress, George W.’s interrupting his vacation to return to Washington to sign a misguided bill at 1 a.m. transferring jurisdiction of the Schiavo case to federal courts? Jeb Bush orchestrated the torturous affair. Ultimately, it rightly backfired on him, but it divided the country and destroyed a family in the process.
Past Bush Debacle Three: During a 2005 photo-op with a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association by his side, the then-governor signed (what is commonly referred to as) the “Stand Your Ground” law. It gives Floridians who feel threatened the right to shoot to kill anyone anywhere — and ask questions later.
Critics predicted that it would lead to disastrous consequences. Former Miami Police Chief John Timoney has said, “Whether it’s trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn’t want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house[,] you’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.”
If only Jeb had listened to the warnings and had stood up to the NRA, any number of abuses of the law, not to mention deaths, could have been avoided.
Future Bush Debacles: What disasters could loom from the policies of The House of Bush if Jeb were to become president? Lives destroyed because of ill-advised Medicaid reforms? A building collapsed because a charter school conglomerate built a facility on the cheap? Floridians devastated by a hurricane because budget cuts have dismantled emergency services? A U.S Supreme Court packed with radical, right-wing extremists?
I don’t have a crystal ball to predict what all of the next debacles might be — or an Etch A Sketch to make them go away.
I just hope against hope that they never happen, and fear that they might, for, if you’re a Bush, you count on people forgetting, with good reason.
Stephen L. Goldstein is the author of “The Dictionary of American Political Bullshit” and “Atlas Drugged: Ayn Rand Be Damned.” He lives in Fort Lauderdale.