There’s a fascinating profile in this week’s Time magazine (by Alex Altman and Zeke J. Miller) of John Ellis (Jeb) Bush who is steamrollering through fundraisers, raking in even more cash than Obama last time around, and likely to declare officially sometime soon that he is seeking the Republican nomination for President of the United States.
You need to be a subscriber or buy a hard copy if you want to read the (long) Time article. Stay on this page if you prefer to read my paraphrasing and plagiarising of it. I know what I’d do.
Jeb hits the campaign trail with the benefit and burden of being the son and brother of former Presidents. He’s the son of George Herbert Bush and was expected to be the family’s next-in-line but in 1994 he narrowly failed to become Governor of Florida while his big brother George Walker Bush won unexpectedly in Texas and usurped him.
What do you know about Jeb? Other than that? If that? The man who would be, could be, the next leader of the – supposedly – free world.
He’s a conservative but he’s not as conservative as he used to be – he learnt from defeat in ’94 that empathy is a vote-winner. Back then he thought the existing Governor had not signed enough death warrants and when asked what he would do for black people in Florida his answer included, “probably nothing”.
Since then he has become godfather to a black child he met on one of many school visits. He remains vehemently pro-life (he’s a Catholic convert) and yet also thinks people should respect gay couples who marry. He’s in favour of school choice but also believes in common core education standards. He’s an ardent union buster and privatiser of public services. Like his Dad he likes to play golf.
Unlike his brother he has a reputation for attention to detail, for being more about substance than style, for reading reports, for engaging personally with the public he serves and seeks to serve and for having the humility the day after he lost in ’94 to get up early to stand by a highway intersection to thank those who had voted for him. He’s a wonk, not a natural orator, who has worked hard on how he comes across in public. He speaks Spanish (his wife is Mexican).
He was too young to have needed to avoid the Vietnam draft. While his brother was doing just that in the Texas National Guard he was at boarding school getting lousy grades and smoking pot.
But there are plenty of people who do not think another Bush in the White House is a good idea. Jeb refers willingly to his father’s time as President (he calls him ‘the greatest man alive’) but he’s slower to reference his brother’s period in office. In 2013 even his Mum said, “We’ve had too many Bushes”, but two years later she, like many in the GOP, has changed her mind.
Raising massive amounts of campaign cash gives Jeb an advantage over other wannabe nominees. A number have already fallen in his wake. Stronger candidates, able to raise the funds to compete with him and without the dynastic name-baggage, may emerge but they are nowhere to be seen as yet.
For now the only significant opponent standing between Jeb and the Oval Office is Hilary Clinton who already looks like toast to me.
If he does end up running against Hilary being a Bush is less of a handicap. George W made the point well enough when he asked, “What’s the difference if it’s Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Clinton .. or .. Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Bush?”
In the end America votes – pretty undemocratically given the set-up of the electoral college – for one of the two candidates put up by the only two political parties that count. More often than not the one who spends the most money.
John Ellis Bush often raises $1 million in a day.
On one day in February 2015 he raised $4.2 million.
He’s not even declared yet.
My money’s on Jeb.
You can contact Jeb Bush at email@example.com