Rob Long – riffing off this piece in the New York Times – wonders why Jeb Bush couldn’t be a viable presidential candidate in 2012:
I know, I know: the usual stuff. But the "usual stuff" is what small-time thinkers (and political pundits) cling to when they feel like they're expected to predict the unpredictable. The great thing about American politics is how unpredictable it is. Whenever I hear people saying "Here's what's gonna happen...." or "There's no way the voters will accept...." I know two things for sure: it's not gonna happen that way, and the voters will get over it.
Tell that to Hillary.
But seriously, I don’t think the name would be a problem either. Four years is actually a very long time in politics, especially when times are anything but good.
Jeb Bush is also strikingly different from his brother in many significant ways – not the least of which is his manner of speaking. While George W. Bush was full of Texas swagger, his younger brother is thoughtful and well spoken. Aside from a shared name and some physical resemblance, the two are hardly recognizable as siblings.
Jeb is his father’s son; George Jr. the black sheep and prodigal son all wrapped up in one.
I wonder who, if any, of George W. Bush’s inner circle would make a comeback if Jeb were to take residence in the White House? I’d bet not that many.
I’ve come to believe it was a sort of accident of history that George became president and Jeb didn’t. At the very least a Jeb Bush presidency would set things straight in that universe. Still – we’re certainly entering serious dynasty politics with a third Bush presidency in as many decades.
I suspect the Republican field in 2012 will be pretty grim. Likely front-runners include the incredibly lackluster empty-suit, Mitt Romney; evangelical Mike Huckabee; the divisive former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin; and Tim Pawlenty, promising to run the most uninspiring candidacy of the lot.
Even former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, is considering a run, and tacking hard to the right in anticipation (regurgitating the phrase “secular socialist machine” every opportunity he gets).
Dark horse candidates include the very competent but not terribly well-known Mitch Daniels, and the libertarian-leaning Gary Johnson.
Daniels is the governor of Indiana, an able and popular right of center moderate who recently called for a ‘truce’ on social issues. Johnson is the former governor of New Mexico and colors his fiscally sound resume with support for marijuana legalization and various other libertarian-friendly policies. Both candidates would likely make excellent presidents, making them, according to the paradox of American politics, even less likely contenders.
With all these characters in the mix, and a still-popular Democratic president in the Oval Office, 2016 might be a more sensible year for Bush to run. It would give that name a little bit more time to soften around the edges. Besides, another familiar name will likely be in the offing in 2016…
I can see the Clinton/Bush debates now.