Why is Jeb Bush giving Hillary Clinton an award?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a possible GOP 2016 White House contender, has agreed to honor Hillary Clinton with an award from the National Constitution Center, for which Mr. Bush is chairman of the board of trustees.

Matt Rourke/AP/File
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks in Bryn Mawr, Pa., July 9, 2013. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a possible GOP 2016 White House contender, has agreed to honor Hillary Clinton, another possible 2016 contender, with an award from the National Constitution Center.

This fracas might fall into the category of “no good deed goes unpunished.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a possible GOP 2016 White House contender, has agreed to honor Hillary Rodham Clinton, a leading Democratic presidential hopeful, with an award from the National Constitution Center, for which Mr. Bush is chairman of the board of trustees.

“Former Secretary Clinton has dedicated her life to serving and engaging people across the world in democracy,” Bush said in a statement. “These efforts as a citizen, an activist, and a leader have earned Secretary Clinton this year’s Liberty Medal.”

Cue the outrage!

The Independence Hall Tea Party Association, a group local to the Philadelphia area, where the National Constitution Center is also based, is none too pleased with Bush’s decision. Girding itself for next week’s ceremony, the organization released a statement Monday calling the episode “extremely distressing.” The event, it also noted, will fall almost a year after the attack at the US mission in Benghazi, Libya.

It was on Clinton’s watch as secretary of State that the attack occurred, killing the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Some, conservatives in particular, still question her role in the tragedy and whether she and others in the administration could have done more to prevent it. They also allege a coverup.

The organization faults Bush, meanwhile, for lavishing “glowing praise” on Clinton.

The right-wing media seem to be piling on. Some are suggesting Bush can’t be that interested in the White House if he’s willing to toast a strong potential candidate on the Democratic side.

“If Jeb Bush didn’t want to run for the Republican nomination, he could have just said so,” writes Jim Geraghty for National Review.

Under the headline “Good grief,” and with a likely nod to President George W. Bush, the Gateway Pundit asks: “Really Jeb, no one else came to mind?”

Rush Limbaugh expressed his exasperation and disbelief, and he suggested Bush might have erroneously surmised such a move would woo women and some Democrats to the GOP’s cause.

“Now, you see a story like this and you say, ‘What in the name of Sam Hill?’ ” Mr. Limbaugh said on his show. “It's bad enough the woman is getting this award. The Liberty Medal? She's getting this award because she's a good liberal, and then to find out that someone who is touted as a Republican presidential candidate is going to be presenting it to her because he runs this organization?”

The transcript of Limbaugh’s remarks indicates that he punctuated his comments with an audible sigh.

The National Constitution Center “seeks to illuminate constitutional ideals and inspire active citizenship,” according to its website, and it is the only nonprofit that exists to honor the US Constitution. In 1988, President Reagan signed the Constitution Heritage Act, which established the center.

It’s worth noting that former Presidents Clinton and George H.W. Bush serve as “chair emeriti” and that the group’s board is composed of individuals representing a range of political perspectives and backgrounds. They include former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, attorney David Boies, and Dikembe Mutombo, the retired NBA player.

It would appear that this is a down-the-middle venture with a goal that all Americans could embrace. Should Bush really be pilloried for furthering the bipartisan spirit of the center?

Despite the backlash in the blogosphere, perhaps Bush ends up looking like a rational actor with ideals and interests that rise above petty politics. We’ll have to wait a couple of years to see if this award ceremony comes back to bite him with mentions in television ads airing in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Coinciding with the Sept. 10 event for Clinton, meanwhile, the Independence Hall Foundation – an affiliate of the Independence Hall Tea Party Association – will promote its alternative choice for the Liberty Medal and host a prayer vigil for those lost in Benghazi.

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