Beating the Bushes for 2016
Hillary Clinton cowered at the podium recently when a shoe sailed by her. She thought it was a bat. Not a baseball bat, presumably, but a little bug-eyed cave creature said to have an affinity for human hair. Mrs. Clinton's blonde "do" remained intact, but the episode was reminiscent of the time when two shoes were hurled in succession at then-President George W. Bush. In that show of disrespect, the thrower had better aim, and the speaker had better reflexes.
Still, there are more important things going on these days with the Bush bunch than schmoozing over shoes.Jeb Bush has, for the first time since his big brother's presidency, come forward as a potential Republican candidate. His announcement was not wholly unexpected, though he's been out of elective public office since 2007. In some circles, his possible reentrance among the crowded field of wannabes is not wholly welcome. These do not include those Democrats who would well be overjoyed to resurrect in campaign mode a much-maligned family name, and revitalize the Bush blame game to mitigate the shortcomings of the current administration..
Jeb has been to the Bush family what young Joe was to the Kennedys. Both were considered, early on, the most likely next-generation political stars in well-known familial firmaments But Joe, of course, was killed during World War II, and at his father's insistence, a hesitant JFK -- more playboy than politician -- took tentatively to the hustings, eventually becoming one of America's youngest and most glamorous leaders.
By contrast, Jeb, the second son of George H.W. Bush, was always considered his family's best bet to succeed in the political arena. If he's not exactly charismatic, he's at least smart and personable. He has a Hispanic wife. He did well as governor of Florida. But he is a Bush, and one whom many Republicans now regard as a RINO. (There seem to be no DINOs among Democrats, no matter how far left or far out the candidate. )
As impressive as his credentials may be, Jeb is already feeling the brunt of disaffection from the right wing of his own party and the lefties of the opposition. He defends his compassionate immigration stance as one he's held for a long time, as if to say it should come as no surprise to anyone, hence hardly deserving of criticism. But the difference is that Jeb is now in the running as the Republican standard bearer and his views on this and other issues will be under the microscope, if not the gun.
Time will tell if Jeb Bush resonates with Republicans in the presidential primaries. He comes across as a nice, competent, straight-talking guy -- but there is a lot at stake in the 2016 election. Primarily, there is an urgent need for the GOP to mount an aggressive, forward-looking, energetic and youth-appealing campaign, especially since the Democrat nominee will likely be Hillary Clinton. The well-worn Bush baggage, however light it may seem next to that of the former First Lady, is not something Republicans need to drag through months of public debate. Nor do we need an election that pits one dynasty against another in a country that is frankly fed up with cronyism and political privilege.
The possibility of a Kennedy ascension to the presidency ended with Chappaquidick, and maybe again with John-John's tragic seaward spiral off the New England coast. Hillary, pushing age 70, is still trying to move back into the White House. But the conventions and contentions of name recognition are wearing thin with the American public. Nobody is burning for a Bush. A candidate by any other name would smell as sweet. And maybe sweeter.