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Can Jeb Bush make W’s record off-limits?

Jeb Bush is proposing a new standard for presidential campaigns: The past is off-limits.

The likely Republican presidential candidate said Friday that he “won't talk about” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan initiated by his brother, President George W. Bush. Presidential campaigns should be about the future and not “relitigating” the past, he said.

If this stance were adopted by other candidates that would mean:

▪  Republicans would abandon efforts to blame former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. Several Republican presidential hopefuls are raising the Sept. 11, 2012 strikes, and after scores of hearings and reports a House Republican select committee still is investigating the administration's response.

▪ The tax cuts enacted by President Ronald Reagan would be off-limits. Indeed, the Reagan record – the holy grail for most Republican candidates these days – would be prologue.

▪ Senator Rand Paul and other Republicans couldn't resurrect the sex scandal involving Bill Clinton and a White House intern to use against Hillary Clinton if she runs. That occurred almost two decades ago.

It's not clear from Bush's assertions last week whether a candidate's own past record would be open for discussion or debate. He plans to give a major speech in Chicago tomorrow on foreign policy – presumably sans the Iraq and Afghanistan wars – and he might clear up that question.

Contact Albert Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net.

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