Nothing in his political career so became Jeb Bush as much as his eloquent and moving withdrawal from the 2016 presidential race. By making his announcement on Saturday night, he deftly stole the limelight from that shameless camera hog, Trump.
Jeb’s ending of his campaign opens up a new role for him: He can be the John Quincy Adams of our time. Adams was crushed in the presidential election of 1828. He had spent his entire four-year term waiting for the inevitable Jackson bandwagon to roll over him.
But once his presidential aspirations were dashed, Adams came into his own. He re-entered politics by serving as a simple Congressman from Massachusetts. No longer did he have to worry about his ambitions. He threw himself into the cause of Liberty.
Slaveholders in Congress had refused even to allow petitions for ending slavery to be considered in the people’s House. They imposed a “Gag Rule” and killed every motion to take up those abolition petitions. Adams saw this as a gross violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of the people’s right to “petition for the redress of grievances.”
Adams could be seen, year after year, battling for Liberty and the Bill of Rights in the well of the House of Representatives. Elderly and ailing, he nonetheless roared against the injustice of denying the right of petition.
“Old Man Eloquent” they called him. On reaching eighty, he was asked if he would retire. “The world will retire from me before I retire from the world,” Adams replied.
Here is the role for Jeb. He can take to the hustings and warn Americans against that Trump. The Founders of this Great Republic were deeply worried about the demagogue, the would-be tyrant who would whip up popular sentiment and use wealth and chicanery to grasp for unrestrained power. Young Abraham Lincoln, too, warned against such a dangerous figure in American politics.
Jeb Bush is now free. He can warn Americans against a man who seeks the approval of the murderer in the Kremlin. No candidate for president—of either party—has ever before boasted that the Kremlin dictator admires him. No candidate for our highest office has ever spoken of Russia and the United States as morally equivalent. Similarly, no candidate in our history has ever advocated killing innocent family members of our enemies. He pledged to “take out their families.” That’s a war crime. And we hanged men at Nuremberg for killing family hostages.
Jeb can defend his brother’s legacy against the gross and irresponsible charges leveled by that Trump. Yes, it is true we did not find Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. President George W. Bush, however, did not lie us into that war.
Now, Jeb can put the contrary case before Americans. What if our CIA, the British, French, Israeli, and German intelligence services had all agreed that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and President George Bush had failed to act? What if Saddam had then hit Tel Aviv or New York, for example, with a dirty nuclear weapon, killing hundreds of thousands?
In that case, Republicans as well as Democrats would have demanded President Bush be impeached. It is far from improbable that Saddam Hussein used the year-long run-up to the U.S.-British invasion to send his WMDs to his Baathist cohort, Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The poison gas Assad has used on his own people might have come originally from Baghdad.
Jeb can stump the country to rebut the Truther and Birther nonsense being spewed by that toxic volcano, Trump.
Prior to this year, it would be fair to say the worst man ever to run for president was that New York dealmaker, Aaron Burr. Burr had winked and hinted in 1801 that he wouldn’t mind slipping into the White House in front of his running mate, Thomas Jefferson.
Burr was foiled by the passionate cries of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton told the lame-duck Federalists in the House of Representatives that Burr “will laugh up his sleeve at any deal he makes with you, once he has the power.”
Americans in 1801 had just seen how Napoleon in France had suspended that country’s constitution. They were wise to resist Burr’s machinations. Alexander Hamilton would pay with his life for his unyielding opposition to the wily, scheming Burr.
Today’s charlatan Trump is worse than Burr. At least Aaron Burr had an honorable war record in the Revolution. Today, Trump tells us he can be anything he wants. He isn’t even bothering to laugh up his sleeve at the deals he would make: he’s laughing in our faces.
Jeb Bush can yet be the man who awakens this country to this grave danger. Such a campaign will bring Jeb honor and the gratitude of every true patriot.