The Bushes are all on the surface nice people. Jeb in particular, and while other candidates are brandishing their Glocks and challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin to arm wrestling, Jeb, the former Republican governor of Florida, lowers his voice. Jeb is what we used to call a "good Catholic," meaning most closely, I think, one who properly found the path to transcendence from the heart, rather than the head. And that heart was there in plain sight in a speech he gave last weekend. It is the good and true path but it is frankly a divergence in American politics. Yet to people like myself, reared Roman Catholic in the day of the Latin Mass, Jeb might temperamentally have been the president we wished Jack Kennedy, the first Catholic president, to have been. But he won't be.
In historic context: Liberalism long ago headed west from New York to colonize southern California. Conservatism today heads west from Texas.
The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is still holding out hope, but Bush's speech brought a definitive turning. Conservative kingmaker William Kristol of The Weekly Standard was very specific: "I think there's no way there will be a Bush-Clinton race in 2016," he said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." And the legendary Dorothy Rabinowitz, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of The Wall Street Journal, called Bush's comments "silken demagoguery."
"Last weekend was, of course, one moment in Mr. Bush's journey — but a kind, if he becomes a candidate, he'd do well to study," she writes.
But he won't take that journey. In Washington, establishment punditry is already shifting away from Jeb Bush and is saddling toward Perry. In March, longtime Bush supporter Ed Rogers asked, "Does Rick Perry deserve another look from Republican know-it-alls? Speaking as something of a know-it-all, I think so." This week Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post's prominent political writer, offers "10 reasons we shouldn't discount Rick Perry in 2016." And The Fiscal Times claims that "Rick Perry is sitting pretty for 2016."
Other Republican governors and senators have desires, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman possibly the best among them. I do not see Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul as a contender. I admire former Rep. Ron Paul's (R) libertarianism. But to advance these themes — I am not sure if Rand Paul wants to — he should be heading toward governor of Kentucky.
But do not rule out retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former CIA director. His important essay yesterday in The Washington Post, "The U.S. needs a plan for the day after the Iran deal," coauthored with Vance Serchuk, may be more than a military plan. My guess is that its timing suggests a rite of entry into the contemporary field in a post-Putin era, when everyone will want a "strong leader" all of their own. That would be David Petraeus.
Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.