Jeb Bush: Your NRA Statesman of the Year, 2003

I’ve been over Jeb Bush’s resume a number of times these past couple of years but I somehow missed his being honored as the 2003 National Rifle Association’s Statesman of the Year. Presented by Charlton Heston, the prestigious award comes with the group’s iconic flintlock rifle and is a coveted feather in the cap of conservative leaders eager to strut their Second Amendment stuff. As a member of the group myself and regular recipient of their informational materials I was somewhat shocked that I hadn’t heard of that one until Andrew Kaczynski pointed out one uncomfortable fact. The NRA’s Statesman of the Year award does not, in fact, exist. (Buzzfeed)

The former Florida governor has told the story on several occasions, saying he received a rifle from then-NRA president Charlton Heston and was the recipient of the group’s “statesman of the year” honor in 2003.

While the NRA rates the records of politicians on gun issues, the group does not hand out a statesman of the year award. In 2003, the NRA held its annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, with Bush as the keynote speaker. The NRA’s meeting page from that year makes no mention of Bush receiving any award.

A BuzzFeed News search of various archive search engines like Lexis Nexis for the “statesman of the year” award and Jeb Bush only turned up comments this year made by Bush.

The first question that came to mind for me is whether or not the award was presented by Steve Harvey.

This obviously isn’t a deal breaker sort of story and the Bush campaign has apologized for the error and said they would remove references to the award from their social media accounts. The explanation, which I definitely have some sympathy for, was that, “Jeb was mistaken and conflated multiple events unintentionally.” As I’ll get to in a moment, that’s at least somewhat understandable. Jeb was the keynote speaker at the group’s convention that year in Orlando, Florida and was scheduled to be presented with the flintlock rifle by Heston in honor of his keynote speaker status. (Heston was not feeling well and left early, so the rifle was presented by Kayne Robinson instead.)

As I said above, I’m in more of a position these days to have a bit of sympathy for Bush on things like this. We recently returned from handling a family funeral and there’s been a lot of discussion about memory in my house. My mother suffered from advanced dementia in her late 80s and it’s a very disturbing thing to witness to say the least. During the meetings where we set up the funeral arrangements I had a bothersome moment myself when a relative was chatting with me about my father’s funeral back in the 80s. A question had come up about the pallbearers for my mom and I mentioned the arrangements we’d had for dad. I received a strange look and a short while later was reminded in private that I had some of the key details wrong. In fact, one person I remembered being a pallbearer had actually died before my father did. I’ll confess that I was shocked. I honestly believed that the details I recalled were correct, but photos and other evidence proved me wrong.

Time grinds on and as we acquire more silver hair (or lose it entirely in some cases) some of our mental records begin to slip away. The years distort our memories – at least for some of us – and details begin to blend together. With all that in mind I can’t come down too hard on Jeb over this “award” from more than a decade ago. I’m probably starting to make similar mistakes myself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I forgot to take my Geritol this morning.