Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is having a rough start in his bid for the White House. Trailing in the polls, even in his home state, the GOP presidential candidate and brother of former US President George W Bush has tried to play down his family name.
His campaign signs say “Jeb”, unlike his brother George and father, former US President George H W Bush, who both campaigned as “Bush”. But once in awhile, his last name is unavoidable.
Enter Donald Trump. The GOP presidential frontrunner and former reality TV star has popularised himself by attacking opponents and making comments that some people have deemed insensitive and even racist.
On Friday, Trump went after Jeb’s brother in an interview, implying that the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US were George W Bush’s fault. Those attacks – which brought down the World Trade Center buildings in New York City after two hijacked planes flew into them – left nearly 3,000 people dead.
“Say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his [Bush’s] time,” Trump said. He later said he wasn’t blaming any one person for the attacks but continued to point out Bush was president when they occurred.
Jeb immediately defended his brother’s record. “He united our country, he organised our country and he kept us safe,” Bush said of his brother’s response to 9/11. It’s a theme Bush will undoubtedly be forced to revisit throughout the campaign. But Trump’s comments may actually help Bush, rather than hurt him, according to one analyst.
“They [Bush] and other Republicans have been trying to paint Trump as not very conservative, as almost a shadow Democrat,” said Kyle Kondik, political analyst with the University of Virginia. “Indeed, Trump’s attacks on George W Bush sound very much like something a Democrat would say.”
But one Democratic strategist disagrees. “An awful lot of Republicans have Bush fatigue,” said Jim Manley, former top aide to Senate minority leader Harry Reid. “The idea that he [Jeb] is now fundraising off of the need to defend his brother’s honour is mind-boggling.”