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Get Ready for Jeb Bush

Michael Dukakis ran against George H.W. Bush in 1988, making the case that the election should be about competence, not ideology. Dukakis lost. George W. Bush a dozen years later became one of his father’s successors, presiding over an administration known much more for ideology.

Would a more competent proponent of George W. Bush’s agenda have been a better president? Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush may seek to provide an answer to that question. Republican establishment bigwigs are apparently coming around to the idea of a third Bush presidency.

“Concerned that the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal has damaged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s political standing and alarmed by the steady rise of Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.),” the Washington Post reports [1], “prominent donors, conservative leaders and longtime operatives say they consider Bush the GOP’s brightest hope to win back the White House.”

Elephants never forget, the cliché goes, but these Republican pachyderms have very short memories. Our last President Bush left office with a 34 percent approval rating, according to Gallup. [2] On the eve of the 2008 election, in which the Republicans were routed, 70 percent disapproved of Bush’s performance in office while 25 percent approved.


As Dubya cratered, Republicans lost control of both houses of Congress. Democrats nearly won a filibuster-proof Senate majority in 2008—which they ultimately secured with Arlen Specter’s defection—just four years after the GOP took a 55-45 majority.

The senior George Bush didn’t leave his party in much better shape. His share of the popular vote tumbled 16 points from 1988 to 1992, ending up with the worst showing of any Republican nominee since Alf Landon in 1936 and of any incumbent president since William Howard Taft in 1912.

Comes the rejoinder: as bad as things looked for Bush 41 in ’92, Republicans won majorities in both houses of Congress—their first time controlling the House in 40 years—just two years later. By 1999, Republicans were ready to nominate another Bush for president. The polls suggested the country as a whole was ready to elect him.

Notwithstanding how close and contentious the 2000 election results turned out to be, that’s all basically true.

Imagining a Jeb Bush presidency has actually been a political parlor game for quite some time. If Jeb had won his first campaign for governor in 1994, he likely would have been the 2000 Republican presidential nominee. Instead he lost to Lawton Chiles while his brother George beat Anne Richards in Texas.

During the run-up to the 2000 Republican primaries, Jeb—who finally did win the Florida governorship in 1998—hadn’t served long enough to be a credible presidential nominee. His brother was then in his second term as governor of Texas. The rest was history.

Republicans have always had reason to regret this twist of fate. Jeb likely would have won Florida cleanly and convincingly, without the hanging chads or Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision. He might have won the popular vote too.

But Jeb’s reputation as a policy wonk, far more engaged than his brother in the details of governing, has also led many to wonder what might have been. Even the columnist Joseph Sobran, writing late in life when he was far removed from Republican circles, mused [3], “Jeb might have been an intelligent and tolerable president.”

Some even hope Jeb will be more like his father and less like his brother. Bush 41 richly deserved that 1992 primary challenge [4], but he was more prudent on foreign policy than many Republicans who have come after. And Dukakis was ultimately wrong about him: George Bush was competent and, for both good and ill, not terribly ideological.

Alas, Jeb is giving little reason to think a third Bush presidency would mark the reemergence of a Brent Scowcroft-style realism. He has been recycling the usual hawkish lines [5] about President Obama encouraging “American passivity” and Paul promoting “neo-isolationism.”

“He showed a lot of knowledge about foreign policy that he must have been working hard to acquire,” said Ari Fleischer, the former Bush 43 press secretary whose boss’s “knowledge about foreign policy” gave us the Iraq War. The setting was an event hosted by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has suggested dropping an atomic bomb [6] on Iran.

So far there is little serious indication that Jeb Bush is getting ready to run for president, but he doesn’t have to start yet. He could mobilize the fundraising and campaign infrastructure quickly—the Post quotes a Republican bundler as saying “the ‘vast majority’ of Romney’s top 100 donors would back Bush in a competitive nomination fight.”

Competitive it may well be. If—and this is a big if—conservatives don’t hopelessly split their votes between several semi-serious candidates, they may be facing the party establishment on the closest thing to even terms since Reagan. If Bush and Christie both run, it may be the establishment that is split. A Bush candidacy would likely prevent Marco Rubio from running; it would also make things harder for Paul Ryan.

Do the American people even want another Bush vs. Clinton presidential contest, turning the 2016 campaign into the latest front of a tired dynastic war? And this month, George P. Bush—Jeb’s son—won the Republican nomination for Texas land commissioner.

W. James Antle III is editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? [7]

Follow @jimantle [8]

43 Comments (Open | Close)

43 Comments To "Get Ready for Jeb Bush"

#1 Comment By SavetheUSA On March 31, 2014 @ 5:43 am

Is anyone really serious about another Bush? GOPs stayed home because Romney wasn’t conservative enough. And now we’re talking about a Bush? I’m as conservative as they come and consider this potential candidate a supreme win for Rodham-Clinton.

#2 Comment By BenSix On March 31, 2014 @ 5:48 am

To select Jeb Bush would be to dig your own grave, stand in it and then shoot yourself in the foot.

#3 Comment By Borachio On March 31, 2014 @ 8:31 am

America will never be safe as long as the Bush family and its lackeys are involved in our government.

The ancient Romans knew how to deal with their own set of Tarquins; it’s a shame that we don’t. Rwanda or North Korea might be more on the Bushes’ ethical level. If DHS is good for anything (which I doubt), banishment should be within its capabilities.

#4 Comment By Uncle Billy On March 31, 2014 @ 9:09 am

We may not be done with the Bush dynasty. Jeb has his weak points, but at least he is not a religious right kook, like so many of the recent GOP candidates for President. Also, his wife is Mexican and he speaks Spanish, thus may be able to grab some of the growing Hispanic vote.

Jeb could be the GOP nominee in 2016. Stranger things have happened.

#5 Comment By steve in ohio On March 31, 2014 @ 9:31 am

Bush vs. Clinton in 2016. Thanks so much for the depressing thought on a beautiful Monday morning.

#6 Comment By Stephen P On March 31, 2014 @ 10:18 am

Jeb was a solid governor in Florida, but his general political philosophy doesn’t differ from GWB’s in any significant sense. We’d see more “big government conservatism” at home and world-police foreign policy. Republicans have got to try something other than this.

#7 Comment By Aaron Paolozzi On March 31, 2014 @ 10:30 am

Thank you for the last paragraph. As a member of the American public I can say resoundingly no. They are more than welcome to tool around in their own states but I am well and done with the Clintons and Bushs in national office. It really does smack of dynasty, and we really don’t need any of those on the national stage.

#8 Comment By Austin Rebreh On March 31, 2014 @ 10:33 am

I don’t get how a third Bush can even be considered. Bush senior was, at best, a highly mediocre president while Bush II was horrible.

#9 Comment By Mogden On March 31, 2014 @ 11:01 am

Please do not vote for anyone named Bush or Clinton. We do not want royal houses in America.

#10 Comment By T. Sledge On March 31, 2014 @ 11:08 am

George H.W. Bush (veep 1981-1989, potus 1989-1993)

William J. Clinton (potus 1993-2001)

George W. Bush (potus 2001 – 2009)

*BHO (“the interlude” potus 2009 – 2017)

Hillary Rodham Clinton ? Jeb Bush ? (potus 2017 …..)

Oh hell, if our destiny is to be a banana republic, we might as well ACT like a banana republic, and just let two families run the country for the better part of three decades.

#11 Comment By Mark On March 31, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

Another Bush in the HW would be a serious mistake, in my opinion. I don’t understand the thinking of the so called Republican establishment bigwigs.

And so it goes. . .

#12 Comment By spite On March 31, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

“and is either what Americans want?”
And easy question, and the answer is: No !

#13 Comment By Poppy Seed On March 31, 2014 @ 3:07 pm

I liked and respected Jeb’s father, and Jeb may be cut from the same mold, but the nepotistic cycle of Clintons and Bushes hovering around the throne is unhealthy and must end.

We can boast some of the best, most capable people on earth. That more of them don’t go into national politics is disgraceful and depressing.

#14 Comment By JohnG On March 31, 2014 @ 3:15 pm

Haven’t both “royal houses” pursued essentially the same policies, ever increasing socialism at home (remember W’s prescription drug benefits?) and reckless empire abroad? All that culture & values talk being noise that doesn’t really affect anyone or anything, so it’s funny how a choice between two dynasties ends up being no choice at all.

PS Don’t blame me, I am a one-percenter, I voted for Gary Jonson in 2012 🙂

#15 Comment By icarusr On March 31, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

It’s funny how all these self-avowedly anti-government people (Rubio, Ryan, the Bushes) stay on the public dime for so long.

#16 Comment By KHW On March 31, 2014 @ 3:50 pm

I feel like I am taking crazy pills. There are 300+ million people in this country and the only people that are put forward from leadership are from 2 families? No more Bushes. No more Clintons.

Nominating Jeb Bush is a terrible idea for conservatives. He is a classic RINO, big government conservative. Bush will UNITE the democratic party in any election against him. It will potentially unite independents as well who can not stomach a THIRD Bush presidency in this country. It would be a truly sad day if Bush is nominated for the GOP ticket and America is given its 3rd Bush monarch in 25 years.

The only way the Republicans will win in 2016 is if they nominate someone who is a stark difference and who has a clearly different version of what this country should be striving towards. That means a true conservative. No more RINOs. No more “conservatives” who spend and tax basically like liberals, pursue almost liberal notions of a globalist foreign policy, etc.

Jeb is cursed by his last name and its something he and every conservative and republican out there should come to terms with. It’s may be unfair, but that’s too bad.

Stand AGAINST political monarchies

#17 Comment By Majumder On March 31, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

Gov. John Ellis Bush is the quintessential political icon of our time.

He is scion of the Bush family tree that sprouted so many notable statesmen in this nation whom Americans of all walks of life tend to hold at very high esteem!

I am repeatedly reminded by others that John Ellis Bush (aka “JEB”) is very moderate in his ideologies of how to govern a great nation like America.

Many Americans will be proud to associate themselves with JEB’s stands on open border policy, amnesty for all illegal aliens, women’s rights to choose, spending more and more money for social welfare, and increasing American military spending.

#18 Comment By Joseph Dooley On March 31, 2014 @ 5:48 pm

His share of the popular vote tumbled 16 points from 1988 to 1992, ending up with the worst showing of any Republican nominee since Alf Landon in 1936 and of any incumbent president since William Howard Taft in 1912.

Didn’t Teddy run as a third-party candidate then? Foreshadowing of Ross Perot’s shot in the dark at occupying the Oval Office. Where was this context in the article? It would certainly have helped the above quotation jive with the Congress winging to the Republicans.

#19 Comment By channelclemente On March 31, 2014 @ 9:01 pm

Jeb Bush will be a formidable candidate. To deny that can only be an exercise studied ignorance.

#20 Comment By TycheSD On March 31, 2014 @ 10:17 pm

It would be better for the country to have Elizabeth Warren versus Rand Paul. We would be offered a real choice – maybe not so much on foreign policy, but definitely on domestic.

#21 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On March 31, 2014 @ 10:35 pm

I like the idea of a Bush candidacy in so far it would provide an opportunity for an up or down vote on the survival of the GOP. Even the dumbest right of center voter would jump ship rather than sail under yet another Bush. He is pro-immigration, big government, and utterly alien to ordinary Americans. Really, it’s an IQ test in the form of an election.

#22 Comment By Andrew E. On March 31, 2014 @ 10:58 pm

Yes, I know. Jeb’s a RINO, we need a TRUE CONSERVATIVE. But who, who would that person be? I’m open to suggestions from the floor.

#23 Comment By balconesfault On March 31, 2014 @ 11:01 pm

@TycheSD It would be better for the country to have Elizabeth Warren versus Rand Paul.

God no. Not that I’m not a huge Elizabeth Warren fan … everyone who’s not a 1%-er should be, along with those 1%-ers who are concerned about the sustainability of our economy … but because I think it’s time that Congress takes the lead on economic issues, rather than simply reacting to the President (supporting his agenda, or attempting to subvert the economy in order to torpedo his agenda). Warren in the Senate might be the last best hope for some rational economic policy moving forward, particularly if some GOP Senators were more concerned about finding a realistic way to reduce Wall Street’s control over government policies than about posturing for future elections.

#24 Comment By Noah172 On March 31, 2014 @ 11:03 pm

George Bush was competent and, for both good and ill, not terribly ideological

He was on some things:

– Supported and implemented Reagan’s 1986 illegal alien amnesty (after advocating amnesty during his own 1980 presidential campaign)

– Signed the 1990 Immigration Act, which dramatically increased legal immigration and created the Diversity Visa Lottery

– Appointed David Souter to the Supreme Court with the private knowledge that Souter was pro-choice (as Bush was publicly right up until the 1980 Republican convention)

– Claimed that the Congressional vote on authorizing the Persian Gulf War was a mere courtesy, and insisted that he would go ahead and attack even if Congress voted nay (after amassing troops on the Arabian peninsula without Congressional authorization)

– Was a zealot for free trade, negotiated NAFTA

Immigration, abortion, presidential war powers, and free trade: a true believer, that Poppy Bush.

#25 Comment By balconesfault On March 31, 2014 @ 11:17 pm

The problem the GOP has to face here, is that if people were asked “would you like another Bush Presidency” … the answer is a resounding no. It’s gonna take more than 8 years to whitewash the legacy of Jeb’s brother GW. If Jeb really wanted to be President, he should have directed his Florida political machine to step out of the way and allow a fair fight between his brother an Al Gore in 2000 … at the end of 8 years of Gore’s Presidency the country would have been ready for a change of party after 16 years of Democratic rule, no matter how good a job Al did, and Jeb would have been well positioned for the 2008 elections.

Otoh … if you ask people if they’d like to have Bill Clinton as President again … I know the conservatives here aren’t going to like this, but a sizable percentage of Americans are going to say yes.

After the last 13 years, an America where excessive foreign involvement meant 7000 special forces troops in Kosovo … where Clinton was being accused of “wagging the dog” for striking a single chemical plant suspected of manufacturing weapons … and of course, of budgetary surpluses … people are kind of nostalgic for the country that we had in January of 2001.

As for Clinton’s personal dramas? If the last 5+ years have taught us anything, it’s that right wing commentators and new sources are going to bring the drama and attack the family and personal life of ANY Deomcratic President … even one who lives as exemplary a family life as President Obama. So who the hell cares? Last time we had a balanced budget it was under a President Clinton, and I think people would tolerate Hillary hosting lesbian witches covens under the full moon on the White House lawn if they thought she might balance the budget again!

#26 Comment By Merlin On April 1, 2014 @ 8:32 am

Noooooo! Please. Somebody. Anybody…but not Jeb! If you want to see another election like 2012 where millions of conservatives stay home rather than vote for a RINO, go ahead. Foist this big government RINO on us. But the second he gets coronated by the GOP, say hello to President Hillary. I guess that option would be preferable to the donor class than a true conservative, but it’s a pathetic outcome for a country that used to be known as the land of the free, home of the brave. So far there is one possible candidate who I believe would galvanize the party and beat Hillary – Sen. Ted Cruz. Principled. Fire in the belly. Incredibly intelligent. He’s the best bet.

#27 Comment By Puller58 On April 1, 2014 @ 8:50 am

Looking at the recent GOP challengers, (McCain and Romney.) it’s tempting for some to claim that RINOism doesn’t win elections. But Jeb would be picked if only to keep Ted Cruz away from the Oval Office.

#28 Comment By Barry On April 1, 2014 @ 9:56 am

SavetheUSA says:

“Is anyone really serious about another Bush? GOPs stayed home because Romney wasn’t conservative enough. And now we’re talking about a Bush? ”

Incorrect; Romney did better than the GOP candidates for Senate.

#29 Comment By Connor On April 1, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

I’ll be supporting whoever fills the Jon Hunstman spot in the 2016 field (maybe Jon Huntsman himself). John Kasich, Rob Portman, or Brian Sandoval could potentially fill this spot in the GOP field.

#30 Comment By SharGL On April 2, 2014 @ 9:36 am

Jeb Bush is his own man as far as I see and would make a great president. With the liberal press that we have I am sure they would attack him as they do any conservative candidate and more so because his last name is Bush. More the pity that the press is running this country.

While the liberals seem to love Hilary they ignore that she has done very little as Sec. of State and her background is surely not saintly. Not as a first lady and why should it be overlooked what she did on Benghazi.

#31 Comment By Noah172 On April 2, 2014 @ 9:46 am

I’ll be supporting whoever fills the Jon Hunstman spot in the 2016 field

Open borders; free trade; slavish devotion to Israel; reduce tax burden of the wealthy.

Gosh, which potential Republican contender does not fill the Huntsman spot?

Oh, do you mean liberal on “marriage equality”?

Considering how the billionaires who fund the Republican Party lean left on that issue, the party’s candidates will come around to that one evenutally.

#32 Comment By LibertyChick On April 2, 2014 @ 2:27 pm

I hope Rand Paul gets in. I like his dad better, but Rand is very quick, smarter than other contenders mentioned so far on either side, and has an ability to clearly express the issues and hold attention. I don’t think the media will have as easy of a time in blacking him out as they did to his father. The key to turning folks around is to educate them on the issues and the impacts, including what’s being done now that is killing our rights and opportunities in America (Federal Reserve, Agenda 21, Common Core, etc…) Both sides are waking up to the impending collapse of our nation from these socialist initiatives. Each are hitting pocket books. Each threaten freedom and opportunity for all but the very connected. And once we’re under UN rule, they may loose their connections and end up with nothing after creating the same for every American. We need imprisonment for treasonous Americans – including those we’ve elected.

#33 Comment By Robert Bruce On April 2, 2014 @ 8:10 pm

At this point we need to have a half million armed men march on DC and just raze the place. The system is beyond repair and any slob who thinks that voting is going to have this government and nation reverse gears is a moron. It should be evident to everyone at this stage in the game that the system is rigged and any candidate from either party that gets the nomination has been vetted by international finance, and will change nothing!!!!!!!

#34 Comment By Kathy Frazier On April 2, 2014 @ 9:18 pm

Actually, if you do your homework you might find that Jeb is a very different leader than his brother. His record on immigration and education is a plus, and I think he might actually have some qualities needed in the GOP right now. At the moment, I sure don’t see anyone else coming close to him.

#35 Comment By Tom On April 2, 2014 @ 10:33 pm

People, Jeb Bush is not his brother. Sure, his candidacy would require an initial campaign to clear the impression of equivalence among the public, but he would only need to be seen in the national spotlight briefly to display his manifest differences in articulateness and personality. America is perennially open and forgiving in allowing individuals to distinguish themselves from any taint by way of family relations or background. On substance Jeb is clearly not what the libertarian-right want, but he remains a generally attractive candidate for communitarian conservatives. In terms of ‘the art of the possible’ Jeb – or a candidate like him – is the best bet conservatives have for beginning to move the political center of gravity back to a right-of-center sensibility. Although, one could argue that an aging Hillary Clinton would also be more conservative than Obama.

#36 Comment By The Vike On April 3, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

Who else have they got who could win? Christie has turned in the Hindenburg, Rand Paul never makes it past the neocons in primary season, and Ted Cruz is a joke.

#37 Comment By C. L. H. Daniels On April 3, 2014 @ 2:06 pm

But Jeb would be picked if only to keep Ted Cruz away from the Oval Office.

Well yeah, how do you think a bloodless aristocrat like Mitt Romney won the nomination in 2012? It was him, Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich by the time we got to South Carolina. Apparently the Republican primary electorate is not, contrary to Democratic propaganda, completely bonkers.

A similar scene could play out in 2016. It’s not that far fetched. If the primary electorate ends up having to choose between Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Jeb Bush, guess who’s probably going to win? It all depends on whether guys like Chris Christie, Scott Walker and John Kasich can make enough space for themselves to survive Iowa and New Hampshire (unlikely), and on who the right-wing flag bearer ends up being.

#38 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On April 4, 2014 @ 2:50 am

You suckers need to realize that once Sheldon Adelson speaks, your opinions don’t count. Sheldon and his buddies have spoken.

#39 Comment By Lise Mielsen On April 4, 2014 @ 8:02 am

Your quote from Forbes.com re. Obamacare:
“A second of many waves of insurance cancellations is coming, culminating in a final number—93 million, the administration estimated in 2010”

Please be informed that the administration expect changes to 93 mio. insurance policies – NOT 93. mio. cancellations.

#40 Comment By Ed On April 5, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

Bush I was not bad at all on foreign policy. His handling of the wind-up of the Cold War was impressive. His problem was that he was out of touch with people and not all that interested in economics — big problems for a president, but not unexpected for someone who didn’t spend much time in elective office before becoming Vice President.

Unfortunately, Bush II didn’t build on that legacy what squandered what there was of it. Jeb is more impressive than his brother was, but I can’t see the country voting for him — and if the country could, I’m not sure I would join them.

#41 Comment By axbucxdu On April 6, 2014 @ 5:26 pm

After all Antle can be forgiven as he is a refugee from TAS, but the fact that another Bush candidacy can be discussed here in terms that appear to be legitimate and reasoned, only confirm the irrelevancy of the political system. This true at least in terms of it having any helpful influence on our current problems. And I thought hallucinogens like LSD were illegal.

The GOP wants me on the sidelines? Fine. But why?

#42 Comment By Sandra On April 8, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

His own mother doesn’t want him to run. For Pete’s sake, why would the rest of us want him to?

#43 Comment By John On July 17, 2014 @ 10:02 am

As a Brit outsider, 2016 is starkly simple: if the Republicans choose a candidate who is seen (rightly or wrongly) as a RINO, then Hilary Clinton will be your next president. If a dumb Limey like me can see that, why can’t the Rep establishment? Don’t they want to get back the presidency? If you want proof, just look at our David Cameron. Vast swathes of conservatives will never vote for him again whatever he says or does because he introduced homosexual “marriage” and refused a promised vote on EU membership. Please, yanks, don’t go down our path!