Jeb Bush is running for president—alreadyby Diane Roberts / March 20, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
John Ellis Bush, better known as Jeb, George W Bush’s cleverer brother, appears to be running for president. I say “appears” because he has not said so in plain English. But he is beginning to grow the unmistakable plumage of a candidate. A book is the traditional non-announcement announcement of White House aspirations and he’s just published Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a politician in possession of a publishing contract wants more than literary glory. Ever since JFK won a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for Profiles in Courage, most candidates have introduced themselves to the nation, or reminded the nation of their existence, via hardback. Even vice-president Joe Biden, Texas governor Rick Perry and pizza mogul Herman Cain have hunkered down with a ghostwriter and produced something with which to score free media attention. Immigration Wars is a substantive and thoughtful look at American immigration. But that doesn’t matter. It allows Jeb Bush to put himself out there, reminding the nation of his existence. He appeared on all five of the major political TV programmes: NBC’s Meet the Press, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox News Sunday, ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, and CBS’s Face the Nation—on the same Sunday. This is known as the “full Ginsburg,” named after Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer William Ginsburg, thought to be the first person to pull off such a media coup. On every show, Bush insisted he was not running for president—sort of. As he said on CNN: “I’ve decided to defer any consideration of it until the proper time to make those kind of considerations, which is out more than a year from now, for sure.” But it’s never too early to deal with his surname problem: “I don’t think there’s any Bush baggage at all,” he told Fox News. “I love my brother, I’m proud of his accomplishments. I love my dad, I’m proud to be a Bush.” Then there’s that other Floridian, the senator who also has an immigration plan and who is spoken of as a potential Republican star in 2016. On NBC, David Gregory asked, “Who’s the hottest Florida politician right now? Is it you or Marco Rubio?” As speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio was Governor Bush’s protégé, implementor of his privatise-everything priorities; now he may become Bush’s rival. Even in the scrum of a Republican primary campaign, there won’t be room for two sunshine state conservatives. Not that it would be much of a contest: the big money would be sucked into Bush’s orbit. Rubio would have to wait his turn. Gregory’s question irked Bush, who accused the media of being like “crack addicts”—Gregory was a bit taken aback. As was the nation. Bush amended his accusation: “OK, heroin addicts. Is that better? You really are obsessed with all this politics.” Imagine: politics on a political TV show. Bush’s recent interviews illustrate some of what consultants might call his “challenges” as a candidate: he can be arrogant and short-tempered. Moreover, accusing reporters of being junkies isn’t terribly smart, what with his daughter, Noelle, being sentenced to ten days in prison in 2002 after a rock of crack cocaine was found in her shoe while she was undergoing court-ordered rehab. Mind you, being rude to the “lamestream media” doesn’t cost conservative votes. On the contrary: in 2012, Newt Gingrich made loathing the press part of his platform. But flip-flopping on important policy positions is riskier. During the last presidential campaign, Jeb Bush moved towards the centre, suggesting that if Republicans want to win elections they should stop demonising immigrants, and remarking that Reagan would struggle with the rigid orthodoxy of the contemporary GOP. He also supported giving the undocumented a “path to citizenship.” Now he has reversed himself, at least in his new book, where he says, “a grant of citizenship is an undeserving reward for conduct that we cannot afford to encourage.” His limp explanation is that the book was written before Republicans lost the 2012 election, as if he had no idea back then that alienating Latinos was a bad idea. Now Bush says he’s “assured” the likes of Rubio, who is working toward immigration reform, that he is on the “same page.” Perhaps Bush, who left elected office in 2006, is just out of practice. Perhaps he’ll just write another book for 2014, when the primary campaigns start to gear up. In the meantime, he can polish his act and say stuff like, “I’m not saying yes, I’m just not saying no.” Yep, he’s running.