Jeb Keeps It All in the Family

By Roger Simon

May 13, 2015 5 min read

Would you let Donald Trump tell you where to get a haircut? Would you take driving tips from Lindsay Lohan? Or ask Sarah Palin's advice about ... anything?

Whom we seek advice from reveals a lot about ourselves, our judgment, our common sense.

So it was a shock when presidential candidate in training Jeb Bush divulged that his closest adviser on Middle Eastern affairs, including in Israel, is George W. Bush.

I actually blinked when I read that. George W. used to make jokes about his own intelligence — or lack thereof. This was one of his favorite anecdotes:

"Don't try to be charming, witty or intelligent," Laura Bush told her husband as he began his campaign for president. "Just be yourself."

As the years went by, that got less and less funny. And today many look at George W. Bush and see the man who launched a disastrous war in Iraq that killed thousands and squandered trillions.

But not his brother Jeb. "If you want to know who I listen to for advice, it's him," Jeb said of George W. on May 5 at a secret meeting for fat-cat investors in New York.

Which leads me to wonder just how many times Jeb was dropped on his head as a child.

History will record that George W. Bush's most significant contribution to world history was invading Iraq under the totally false notion that Iraq had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraq War, which lasted from 2003 until 2011, resulted in 4,488 Americans dead and 32,222 Americans wounded and cost more than $2 trillion.

According to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, the war also "killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number."

Well, stuff happens. You want an omelet, you've got to break some eggs. And at least we got something out of the war, right?

Well, not so much.

A summary of the Brown report said: "The United States gained little from the war while Iraq was traumatized by it. The war reinvigorated radical Islamist militants in the region, set back women's rights, and weakened an already precarious healthcare system.

"Meanwhile, the $212 billion reconstruction effort was largely a failure with most of that money spent on security or lost to waste and fraud."

According to Robert Costa and Matea Gold of The Washington Post, one attendee of the fat-cat meeting "was 'stunned' to hear Jeb Bush specifically mention George W. Bush as his go-to adviser." The attendee said: "I started looking around and wondering if people were recording it. It was jarring. If video of it got out, it'd be devastating."

Maybe. Maybe not. A few days after the New York gathering, Jeb Bush told Fox News' Megyn Kelly, "I would have (authorized the invasion of Iraq), and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody."

And "just for the news flash to the world, if they're trying to find places where there's big space between me and my brother, this might not be one of those," Jeb said.

Yeah, what the heck. It was just a war. And some really, really smart people were all for it — such people as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

When you're president, you pick the people you want around you, and then you listen to them.

Today some 71 percent of Americans believe the Iraq War "wasn't worth it," according to a June 2014 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. But it's easy to criticize after the fact.

Back before the war started, it was the men and women gathered in the Situation Room and the Oval Office who advised the president on the war or peace, life-or-death decisions.

And choosing those people is one of the most important things a president does.

So to fully appreciate the importance of Jeb's revelation that George W. will be his chief adviser when it comes to the Mideast, you've got to keep in mind that Jeb's entire campaign will be built around one selling point:

Jeb is the smart one in the family.

Roger Simon is Politico's chief political columnist. His new e-book, "Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America," can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

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