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Mother-Child Relationships Are Complicated. Ask Jeb Bush.

Remember when your mother told you not to do something and you did it anyway?

“Don’t put your hand on that stove?”


You learned the lesson after much trial and error – your trials and your sometimes painful errors. Which brings me to Barbara Bush, former first lady, mother to one president and another who wants to be. 

In 2013, she offered her own opinion on a prospective 2016 presidential run by son Jeb, the former governor of Florida. 

“He’s the most qualified but I don’t think he’ll run,” she said. “I think it’s a great country. There are a lot of great families, and it’s not just four families or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified and we’ve had enough Bushes,” she said. 

But did Jeb listen?

He formally entered the presidential race last June. 

“It’s nobody’s turn. It’s everybody’s test,” he insisted, knowing that he would have to distinguish himself in a crowded field. “America deserves better,” he said, to emphasize his resolve and his motivation to doubtful voters, even fans of the Bush family, who may have agreed with his mother’s sentiments. And if the at-the-time presumed Democratic nominee would be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, herself a former first lady, then a Bush at the top of the ticket would shut down any attacks against dynasty.

Of course, once he announced his intentions, Barbara Bush supported her son. No surprises there.

Despite the long stretch since his last time in elective office, he left the governor’s office in 2007, Bush entered the race as the presumed front-runner, and accumulated an impressive war chest. The Right to Rise Super PAC supporting him raised $103 million in 2015 and has spent more than half of it. 

Starting at the top, Jeb Bush had nowhere to go but down. This is the year of the outsider, not a candidate with a legacy embedded in his very name — despite that Bush name being replaced by his first name and an exclamation point in posters and campaign announcements. That punctuation and so much else about the campaign became the subject of wisecracks. And Bush — not the candidate quick with quips and comebacks — didn’t seem happy about it.

His heart didn’t seem into the combativeness of debates, where interrupting and comebacks win applause and headlines, even if they make little sense in the light of day.

So now, Barbara Bush has resurfaced, taking up the fight for her son Jeb and appearing in a video ad and writing a letter with a message to voters in early caucus and primary states. 

“When push comes to shove, people are going to realize Jeb has real solutions. Rather than talking about how popular they are, how great they are, he’s doing it because he sees a huge need and it’s not being filled by anybody,” she says in her video message.

If that was a swat at Donald Trump, it only launched another in a series of attacks from the front-runner, who accused Bush of needing help from his “mommy.” 

So now, we’re in full playground mode, which, again, is not surprising. It suits the tenor of a year when being a member of an American political family is the last credential Republican base voters are looking for.

Barbara Bush warned him, sure. But now, as usual, she is in Jeb’s corner. And isn’t that what mothers do?

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