Is there a President Jeb Bush in the White House’s future?
Many pundits think he’ll run after 2012, and could have a chance of winning despite having the same last name as you-know-who.
But a lot will depend on the 2012 race’s outcome – whether the Republican Party repudiates the conservatism of his brother, former President George W. Bush, and father, former President George H. W. Bush, espoused.
And make no mistake about it: a GOP victory in 2012 with most of the current crop of candidates would be a virtual repudiation of three generations of the Bush family’s approach to politicking.
If Texas Gov. Rick Perry gets the GOP nomination and wins, look for it to be lights out for three generations of Bushes’ attempts to make the Republican Party’s image more accessible and expand its political tent.
And if Perry loses – particularly if he loses big -- look for Jeb Bush to be at the forefront of those who’ll pick up the pieces.
There are some ideological detours, but the Bush family’s politics has been fairly consistent for decades.
Jeb Bush’s grandfather Prescott Bush’s first run for Senate in Connecticut was partially sunk by GOP opponents attacking him due to his Planned Parenthood ties.
During his 10 years in office he voted to censure Wisconsin Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy and was considered an ideological soul mate (even though he reportedly couldn’t stand him) of New York moderate Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.
Fast forward to Aug. 18, 1988 when his son Vice President George H.W. Bush accepted the Republican presidential nomination, declaring: “Does government have a place? Yes. Government is part of the nation of communities -- not the whole, just a part. And I do not hate government. A government that remembers that the people are its master is a good and needed thing...”
Then his most famous line: “...I want a kinder and gentler nation.”
The first President Bush didn’t pull his punches in his often-brutal Lee Atwater-designed campaign that decimated the hapless Massachusetts Gov. Michael “Snoopy” Dukakis.
But once in office Bush was willing to work with the opposition, break his “no new taxes pledge” – and paid the ultimate political price as conservatives deserted him in droves.
Son George W. Bush was determined not to make his Dad’s same mistakes or be a clone but GWB did advocate “compassionate conservatism” and enraged conservatives by unsuccessfully pushing for comprehensive immigration reform which died in the Senate in 2007.
Reports said Bush was “crestfallen.”
Jeb Bush was a highly popular two-term Florida Governor whose widespread support (Latinos, Jewish voters, women, Haitians, black and white voters, independent voters) typified a model for big tent Republican politics.
This member of a neoconservative think tank recently warned GOPers running for President that if they don’t want to scare off moderate voters they need to do more than say no – and that if need be he’d support increased revenues to boost the economy.
“If you’re a conservative, you have to persuade. You can’t just be against the President,” he said.
Democrats and liberals will concede few good things about the Bushes. But in no way can the Bushes ever be confused with most of the current Republican Presidential wannabes.
The political tragedy of Jeb Bush from the standpoint of voters unhappy with Barack Obama and the Republicans now running for President is now a cliché:
If only Jeb Bush didn’t have that last name.
But the day after Election Day in November 2012, Jeb Bush could have the last laugh.
(Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He can be reached at email@example.com.)