If you are a presidential aspirant and you have to tell people that you are a person of integrity — there's a very good chance that you are not.
And those odds at least quadruple if you have to hire a talking head to attest to your honor; how intriguing, then, that a spokeswoman for the Bush campaign was recently trotted out to tell us that, "Jeb's record, both in office as Florida's governor and in the private sector as a successful businessman, is one of integrity." The testimonial from his paid mouthpiece was necessitated by the still-evolving news story that, after leaving the Florida governorship in 2007, he immediately cashed in on his name, state government knowledge, and contacts. Bush became a richly-paid legislative consultant and board member to major corporations that had received lucrative benefits from Florida's government while he was at the helm of it.
With cynical chutzpah, Jeb, the presidential wannabe, now campaigns as an ethics reformer, piously preaching against the corrupt coziness between money interests and government officials. But in the last eight years, Preacher Bush has pocketed at least $18 million in personal payment from his own quiet spins through the revolving door of government-corporate corruption. For example, Jeb was only out of government office for four months when he got a nice sinecure as a board member of the insurance giant, Tenet Healthcare (which just happened to run several of Florida's private hospitals under Florida's Medicare program). In 2006, Tenet was found to have cheated patients and taxpayers with more than a billion dollars in overcharges. To settle this malfeasance, the corporation paid only $7 million.
Meanwhile, Tenet has gushed in recent financial reports that it has "benefited greatly from Mr. Bush's extensive background in government service, his perspectives on public policy and social issues." In heartfelt gratitude, during the past eight years, this one corporation alone has put more than $2 million in Bush's pocket.
The Tenet case clearly shows that Bush suffers from a total lack of integrity, but poor 'ol Jeb seems to also have a terminal case of "Mitt Romney disease" — he just keeps blurting out asinine comments that reveal the fact that, in heart, soul, and political mindset, he is yet another "son of a Bush."
His inner-bigotry against the poor, coupled with his cartoonish concept of the black community's political motivation, was outed recently when he was asked how he planned to win the votes of African-Americans. "Our message is one of hope and aspiration," he responded. Okay, Jeb, go positive, so far so good! But then the deep prejudice derived from his narrow upbringing as a child of privilege surfaced. His campaign message "isn't one of division and get in line and we'll take care of you with free stuff," he asserted with a sneer. Then, to punctuate his little lecture on how to appeal to low-income black families, the multimillionaire heir to the Bush fortune said he would tell them: "You can achieve earned success."
Yes, Jeb — instead of hard-hit people lining up to get what you call "free stuff" (like unemployment compensation and health care), thinks it better to challenge them to "earn" success. Tell them to have the same gumption you did — to be born to rich parents, to be welcomed as "legacy" applicants into the most prestigious schools, and to have their fathers open the doors for them to "achieve" financial and political success.
Yet the former "shoo-in" for the GOP presidential nomination can't figure out why he's running fifth in New Hampshire and fifth in Iowa, even after pouring millions into a month-long blitz of TV ads to goose up his appeal. Such shallowness, callousness, and condescension expose an ingrained contempt for all who don't live in Bush's elite zip code. No one but his fellow "one-percenters" wants someone like that in the White House.
(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)
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