My Problem With Jeb Bush’s Candidacy

Kevin Williamson at National Review has written a piece about Jeb Bush in which he says Bush “was a good governor of a different era” and is not really an ideas guy. Williamson, like me, does not dislike Jeb Bush, but neither of us support him.

My concern with Governor Bush, which I have told him before personally, is more esoteric. I disagree with Bush on several policy points, though I like him. He is a gentleman, a kind man, and I think people are confusing him being a nice guy for being a weak guy. He is not weak.

My big problem, though, is that we are twenty-three years removed from the last Bush v. Clinton contest. Twenty-three years later we have the sitting Governors of Louisiana, New Jersey, Ohio, and Wisconsin running; the just departed and longest serving Governor of Texas running; the sitting senators of Texas, Kentucky, and Florida running; a brain surgeon running; the former and current CEO’s of two major American corporations running; and several others.

From a philosophical level it seems a pretty damning indictment of our republic that twenty-three years after Bush v. Clinton the republic is not able to raise up any new leaders better than a Bush or a Clinton, including from the intervening other Bush years.

I’m not prepared to conclude that is the case. I’m not prepared to conclude that a Governor who last held office in January of 2007, is, eight years later, the best candidate in a field of nearly two dozen. This is not just a problem for Governor Bush, but for Governors Huckabee, Gilmore, and Pataki and Senator Santorum as well. But with the exception of Governor Huckabee, I’m not sure the others can really be considered top tiered candidates.

This is a unique burden for both men, but between Huckabee and Bush, it is more so a problem for Governor Bush who is, fairly or unfairly, anchored by his last name. Do we, as Americans, really need another Bush v. Clinton race? Further, is the Republican Party incapable of winning without a Bush on the ballot? Not since 1980 have we won without that being the case, but I’m not prepared to say the party of Lincoln is dependent on the Dynasty of Bush.

To be sure, this is rather unfair to a man who wants to be known as Jeb and measured by what he has done, not by what his family has done. He is a great, great guy and a genuinely kind person. But beyond policy disagreements, I really think this must be considered.

If the republic is unable to raise up leaders other than a Bush or a Clinton to lead the country to the future, I think we have fundamental problems. And I think it is a bridge too far to cross to argue that a former Governor not in office for almost a decade, would be a better candidate than any of several sitting Governors and Senators.

I very much like Governor Bush and would be happy to support him as the nominee. But I think we should give others stronger consideration first.