One of the central challenges of Jeb Bush's presidential campaign is finding ways to show that he's his own man without harshly repudiating his brother, President George W. Bush. That's been evident in his struggle to answer questions about whether his brother handled the Iraq War the right way and on other matters.
But Saturday's 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a disaster in which George W. Bush's careless response became a metaphor for the weaknesses of his presidency, has provided Jeb Bush with a powerful opportunity to portray himself as a more competent and more compassionate manager than his brother.
That's because, as the Miami Herald recounts, Jeb Bush took command of Florida's response to a series of major hurricanes during his tenure as governor:
Bush’s ability to take charge in an emergency remains undisputed even among his critics, who note he left the Governor’s Mansion 15 months after the last storm with a high, 64-percent approval rating.
"His popularity with Floridians is probably tethered to those moments probably more than any policy," said Democrat Dan Gelber, a former Miami Beach state senator.
Bush plans to highlight his hurricane-response record Wednesday at a town hall meeting in Pensacola, Florida, just before three presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton — visit New Orleans for separate Katrina anniversary events on successive days from Thursday through Saturday. But it won't be a one-week topic for Jeb Bush. His campaign sent a hurricane-focused chapter of his forthcoming e-book on his email as governor to some news outlets Tuesday:
Barbara Czipri wrote him in late Sept. 2004 and said: "I have to be perfectly honest and tell you upfront that I have never been a great fan of yours, but your leadership during this hurricane season has been EXACTLY what Floridians need."
Noting that Bush gave regular televised news conferences during major hurricanes, she added: "Every day when I see you at the 9 a.m. conference on TV, I wish that I could reach through the screen to give you a BIG hug. I’m sure you could use a lot of them about now."
"Thank you so much for your kind words," Bush replied. "I really, really appreciate the sentiments expressed. This has been an emotional time for all of us. I have been truly inspired by people’s patience, courage and resolve and I have been so saddened by the suffering of so many."
The disaster-response narrative points to at least three themes that recommend Jeb Bush to voters: He's tough and smart in a crisis, he cares about human suffering, and he's not his brother. After weeks of struggling to compete with Donald Trump, Bush has a golden chance to define himself as a confident and compassionate leader over the next few days. It could be a big moment for his candidacy.
Here are 9 more things to know to start the day.
1) An inauspicious beginning
Yes, that's then-FEMA chief Michael Brown standing next to Bush in the video the campaign posted to its YouTube page. He's the guy George W. Bush praised for doing a "heckuva job" in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. Brown, who wasn't an emergency management expert, ended up shouldering much of the blame for George W. Bush's inept response to Katrina. It wasn't long before Brown was removed from his role as coordinator of the federal response in New Orleans, and he ultimately resigned from the administration on September 12, 2005.
If Jeb Bush needs to distance himself from his brother, posting a video with Brown probably isn't the best way to do that. Hat tip to CNN's Tal Kopan, who flagged the video Tuesday night.
2) Bill Clinton is getting ticked at Joe Biden
That's the gold coin sewn into Glenn Thrush's Politico story about Vice President Joe Biden's thinking on whether to run for president:
To the annoyance of the Clinton campaign, Biden’s allies have strategically leaked his modest, noncommittal doings to the media, which have given otherwise ho-hum confabs with Elizabeth Warren and President Obama’s former counsel Bob Bauer bombshell treatment ...
Clinton’s camp, hands full with the email controversy and a surprisingly stout challenge from independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, isn’t in a patient mood. Bill Clinton, according to a person who has spoken with the former president in the last couple of weeks, is "very agitated" by the possibility of a Biden candidacy and incensed at the press hype around a possible bid.
Hillary Clinton, Democrats in her orbit tell POLITICO, is less concerned — and several top Clinton campaign officials have told associates they think a Biden bid would energize what has been a fairly lackluster performance by the candidate this far.
3) Trump feud with Univision extends into press conference
During an Iowa press conference Tuesday, Univision host Jorge Ramos, who hasn't been able to get an interview with Donald Trump, shouted for the Republican presidential frontrunner's attention. Trump was trying to recognize another reporter and told Ramos, among other things, to "go back to Univision" and to "sit down." Ramos kept asking, and a Trump security guard eventually escorted him from the room. Trump, who noted that he is suing Univision for $500 million, invited Ramos back in and answered his questions. The story exploded Tuesday night on Twitter and on television talk shows. Here, again, was Trump mistreating a member of the Latino community, a group with which he registers a 14 percent favorable rating.
But Ramos, who, in a moment of honesty about his own bias, later told CNN that "this is personal," broke the basic rules of a formal press conference. Reporters have different types of interaction with public officials and candidates, from casual conversations to jockey-for-position "gaggles" to candidate-behind-a-podium, reporters-in-chairs formal press conferences. This was a lot more like the latter. What would the reaction on the left be if a reporter from a conservative outlet started shouting questions at President Obama at a White House press conference because he hadn't been called on? Thanks to Neil Munro, then of the Daily Caller, we actually know the answer to that.
It wasn't just the left that jumped on him. Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace called Munro's interruption of Obama "outrageous."
4) In brazen play for Florida votes, Trump calls John Kerry a "schmuck"
In other Trump news from Iowa, The Donald called Secretary of State John Kerry a "schmuck." Given the hard-line pro-Israel lean of many Jewish voters in Florida, Trump's use of a Yiddish term to demean the face of the Iran nuclear deal seems like a pretty clever pander. Earlier this month, a Quinnipiac Poll found Trump leading former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush 21 percent to 17 percent in the Sunshine State. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was at 11 percent.
5) Iran deal becomes major force in congressional elections
Politico's Burgess Everett reports on a new twist in the Iran nuclear deal debate: It's a campaign trail issue for Senate and House hopefuls.
It’s a rare instance of foreign policy driving the debate in congressional races — in an off year, no less — and a potential preview of things to come if the Iran pact continues to generate heat into next year. Republicans are trying to portray Democrats backing the deal as weak on Israel and national defense. And some Democratic hopefuls are going after opponents for not taking a stand.
Nowhere has the issue been more prominent than in Pennsylvania, where GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is one of the most ardent critics of the agreement and former Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak, who served in the Navy for three decades, became a surprising early supporter for the deal. Meanwhile, Sestak’s primary opponent, Katie McGinty, a former chief of staff to the Pennsylvania governor who is a formidable contender for the Democratic nomination, hasn’t taken a position.
6) Governors running for president turn to contractors for cash
This is an awesome story because it shines a light on a new form of political back-scratching that hasn't really been contemplated. The Wall Street Journal's Heather Haddon and Rebecca Ballhaus report that contractors in the home states of governors who are running for president are ponying up money for the federal campaigns. Is it a please? A thank you? Who knows? But it is a welcome infusion of cash for a set of candidates who need it:
There aren’t federal or state laws banning state contractors or recipients of business subsidies from donating to independent groups or campaigns backing presidential candidates. The super political-action committees can accept unlimited funds; campaigns are barred from coordinating with their affiliated super PACs.
"Companies that are government contractors have First Amendment rights," said Craig Engle, a partner at Arent Fox LLP in Washington, D.C., and former counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Still, the giving may provide fodder for rivals. An intern working for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign last week filed a public-records request in Ohio seeking a list of companies given business incentives during Mr. Kasich’s tenure. A spokesman for the Bush campaign said interns are collecting information on every candidate’s record.
7) On the other end of the spectrum, money to #Bern
The limit on Bernie Sanders's coordination with a potential Super PAC was to "kill it," according to Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times, who raises the question of whether Sanders can compete with small donations in an era of free-flowing soft money. Sanders's $15 million hard-money haul in the second quarter turned a lot of heads, including mine:
Mr. Sanders’s fund-raising strategy will test the prevailing notion in Washington that no candidate can successfully compete on the national stage without tapping into the many millions of dollars that have poured into super PACs since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010.
Super PACs supporting Mrs. Clinton have already raised more than $20 million, records show; on the Republican side, two super PACs backing Jeb Bush raised about $108.5 million. Yet when a Vermont legislator, Chris Pearson, offered to set up a super PAC to support the Sanders campaign, Mr. Sanders told him to "kill it," Mr. Sanders said, because did not want to be beholden to "the millionaires and billionaires."
8) Caroline Kennedy's email problem
Hillary Clinton's not the only State Department official who conducted some government business on personal email. A 64-page inspector general's report on the US embassy in Tokyo found that Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and the staff under her in Japan sometimes used personal email when they should have been using their federal state.gov accounts. The difference, of course, is that Clinton didn't use a government email account at all. Kennedy was also criticized for failing to clearly define the role and authority of her chief of staff. You can read the report here.
9) The great fall of China
The Chinese stock market is down 43 percent since June, Vox's Timothy B. Lee (@binarybits on Twitter), reports this morning. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell for the fifth consecutive day, dropping 1.2 percent Wednesday.
The broader Chinese economy isn't doing very well either. Official figures show the Chinese economy growing at a 7 percent rate in the second quarter. That's slow by Chinese standards, and many Western economists suggest that the official figures overstate China's growth.