January 18, 2015


The Bushes, as Distinct and Alike as Brothers Can Be (PETER BAKER, JAN. 17, 2015, NY Times)

The oldest two sons of George Bush, the 41st president, George W. and Jeb share many traits. Both are deeply religious, schooled in politics, enamored of sports. They are punctual and impatient, rushing through activities, like golf, where others prefer to linger. Both worship their father. Both are conservative on issues like abortion and gun rights while pushing their party away from orthodoxy in areas like education and immigration.

Yet watching them together might confuse the uninitiated. George, 68, likes to work a room. He teases and needles aides, lawmakers or reporters until he gets a rise. He talks about issues in broad strokes, believes in delegating and sometimes mangles his English.

Several inches taller, Jeb, 61, reads footnotes, emails frenetically and talks in full, wonky paragraphs. But in political settings, he sometimes seems to eye the exit, calculating how to get from here to there with the least fuss. "Former President Bush is much more instantly gregarious, a bigger personality," said Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush's first White House press secretary. "When he walks into a room, he just takes it over, by style and by charm. Jeb is more intellectual, more pensive and more articulate."

Jeb Bush has a quick wit, Mr. Fleischer added, but it is softer than his brother's.

"Jeb is very much a policy wonk and comes across that way," he said. "Former President Bush was much more big picture, strong leader, defined things in immediately clear moral terms."

They come at politics from different angles. "Public service seems to be a calling for George Senior and George Junior, whereas for Jeb it is about a mission," said Clint Bolick, who wrote a book on immigration with Jeb Bush. "It's about policy and ideas. I never really got the impression that either his dad or his brother were really motivated by ideas and policies. For Jeb, politics is a means to an end rather than an end in itself."

As it happens, some said, that empirical approach may not inspire as much passion, positive or negative. "George W. Bush stirs these feelings up, love and hate, more than Jeb Bush does," said one Republican close to both, who, like many interviewed, did not want to be identified discussing them personally.

Jeb grew up faster, marrying young and becoming a father at age 23. He was the one the family expected to follow in the family business by running for office. George was not a father until 35, after years of enjoying what he called the four B's -- beer, bourbon and B & B liqueur.

"He was more of a late bloomer; I think his period of 'youthful indiscretions' lasted longer than Jeb's," said Ana Navarro, a former aide to Jeb Bush. "Jeb has a more serious demeanor. He's not the type of guy that reaches out to shoot the breeze or just check in. When he contacts you, it's with a purpose."

Describing himself in a 1988 interview, Jeb Bush said, "I am kind of antisocial," attributing that to his mother, who "dislikes phony formalities." That same year, Marvin Bush, the youngest brother, said: "Jeb is the serious one. We have always thought that he would have a public career." And the oldest brother? "George? George is the family clown." [...]

Recent speeches and interviews have given few indications that Jeb Bush will vary drastically from his brother's record or second-guess decisions like the Iraq invasion. James K. Glassman, founding director of the George W. Bush Presidential Institute, said that for all their personal distinctions, the brothers were in sync on issues. "I never ran into any examples of where they have a difference in policy," he said.

At times, Jeb Bush's message even echoes his brother's from 2000. In a recent speech, he called for "humility" in international affairs, echoing George W. Bush's campaign call for a "humble" foreign policy (an approach he arguably discarded after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001).

Karen Hughes, a longtime adviser to George W. Bush, said Jeb's domestic ideas sounded like her former boss's compassionate conservative theme. "I love his 'right to rise' message, which I believe is similar to Gov. George W. Bush's emphasis on reading as the new 'civil right' and view that government should be limited but also promote opportunity," she said.

Posted by at January 18, 2015 10:08 AM

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