So Jeb Bush is in – the third Bush to run for president in three decades.
Other than showing his ability to raise money (substantial, but not surprising, given the family history), Jeb’s pre-announcement performance had been clunky. Awkward speeches. Maladroit interviews.
Then there was the choice to lead in policy positioning with Common Core and a “you’re heartless if you don’t agree with me” permissiveness on immigration. It is one thing to have a different position from, say, half of the party you hope to nominate you for president of the United States. It is very different to suggest that the other half’s positions are ignorant and small-minded. By the sound of it, he had exactly the wrong take on his party and his times.
This was all very strange coming from the man who, when he first ran for governor of Florida, was known in conservative circles nationally as “the Reagan Bush” – which applied to today would mean a candidate who was astute about the challenges to our economy, our national security and our governance that so animate reformers.
The apparent missteps were also strange coming from a former governor who had compiled such a record of success that, highly reliable sources tell me, had you in his last year in office asked sitting governors of both parties who was the best governor in the nation, the unanimous choice would have been Jeb Bush.
But yesterday the pre-announced period ended – and how. The announcement speech and the video that preceded it presented first-rate critiques of the current regime that Hillary Clinton aspires to perpetuate and started on drawing a compelling road map for where the country needs to go after the accumulating disasters of the last six-and-a-half years.
On the pair of issues that was most problematic in the pre-launch phase, he was very smart. He said the federal government should get out of the school curriculum business entirely and, if only for national security reasons, we need to reestablish control of our border and do it fast.
At a minimum, the next GOP nominee needs to be capable of uniting the reform and establishment wings of the party and of winning Florida and at least one state beyond Indiana in the Midwest. Yesterday, Jeb Bush made a striking and (given his performance earlier this year) startling case that not only could he lock in Florida, but energize both halves of his party — not to mention that he could attract Mexican-American voters.
Another detail. With his experience in Latin America, his time in international business, and his close-in exposure to both the foreign policy and national security successes and shortcomings of his father and brother’s tenures, he may have one other advantage. He may be able to stake a better claim than other candidates on ability to guide the nation through the very dangerous global waters to which the current White House crowd has steered us.
This may sound like an endorsement of Mr. Bush. It is not. I, for one, am as yet agnostic on which candidate should next occupy the Oval Office. I want someone to show me that he or she has the best chance of winning and, once the office is won, knows what is needed to open the economy, reform the government, and protect the nation.
Yesterday Jeb Bush made a first-rate case that he is the one – or, rather, one of the ones — for both jobs.