Jeb, or “45,” as he is already being called, hasn’t even announced, and we’re already trapped in the byzantine psyche of Bushworld. Middle East policy was one of several ways W. proved he was his “own man” by using his father as a reverse playbook. H.W. and Baker sensibly avoided occupying Iraq and then tried to leverage the gratitude of Arab countries to make a deal at the Madrid peace conference. When Israel rebuffed them, they stood tough on settlements, even though President Bush’s support among American Jews nose-dived.
Because Karl Rove and W. believed that winning a larger share of the Jewish vote would help secure the second term his father had failed to get, and because 43 sympathized with Israel’s vulnerability to terrorism, W. preferred to go easy on Israel.
His Own Man is busy doing country club laps to fill his campaign coffers, getting help from the establishment Republicans who got ambassadorships and other treats from the family for decades. His father and brother headlined Texas fund-raisers last week. And now he’s being yanked in a tug of war between his father’s side, which insists privately that Jeb is a realist who surely must have disapproved of the Iraq invasion, and his brother’s side, which publicly demands that Jeb go full-hawk, becoming the third Bush to use the military in Iraq.