No one honestly believes that America needs another Bush president. Well, no one except Jeb Bush.
Over a series of recent media appearances, the former Florida governor has made no secret of his interest in a 2016 White House run: “I won’t [rule it out] but I’m not going to declare today either,” he said, pretending he doesn’t have a huge anchor tied around his neck — his last name.
“History will be kind to George W. Bush,” he said on “Meet the Press,” which was presumably not a joke.
But Democrats have gotten great mileage out of hanging (George) Bush around the necks of other Republicans the past two presidential cycles. Jeb would only make that task easier. Even worse, the Bush family faces hostility from the Republican grassroots. George H.W. Bush was shunned for raising taxes after famously asking us to read his lips about them, while the younger George is credited with single-handedly destroying the modern Republican Party. There’s a reason both Bushes were kept away from their national convention two cycles in a row, contrasting with the Democrats’ warm embrace of their own former presidents. Could Jeb Bush the nominee keep his brother away in 2016? Of course not!
But if last week was any indication, Bush has bigger problems than his family name. His big media splash coincided with the release of his new book on immigration reform. After years of arguing for saner immigration policy, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Bush released a book foreclosing on that possibility: “It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences — in this case, that those who violated the law can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship.”
That’s quite the flip-flop, but it brought Bush into alignment with his party’s xenophobic primary electorate. Not that base conservatives bought the conversion, but then again, John McCainJohn McCainMcCain to support waiver for Mattis, Trump team says Senators crafting bill to limit deportations under Trump Trump picks Mattis for Defense secretary: report MORE and Mitt Romney both got nominated after their pretend conversions, so why couldn’t Jeb pull it off?
Yet Sheriff Joe Arpaio evaporated almost as soon as he appeared. Within a day of his book’s debut, Bush once again supported a path to citizenship. “This book was written last year at a time when the tenor of the debate on immigration was dramatically different,” he argued lamely. In other words, it was written at a time when xenophobic bashing of undocumented immigrants was seen as a political plus, not the obvious electoral death knell it is today.
And that’s how we were treated to the unexpected and hilarious spectacle of a fierce Jeb Bush vs. Jeb Bush debate, one that made Romney look like a model of well-grounded principle and consistency.
It was as disastrous an unveiling as you could imagine, riling up his distrustful Tea Party detractors and generating myriad unflattering headlines over his whirlwind of flip-flops. And he isn’t even that electable, trailing in primary trial heats against the likes of Marco RubioMarco RubioThe ignored question: What does the future Republican Party look like? Graham to roll out extension of Obama immigration program Trump and Cuba: A murky future MORE (Fla.) and Paul RyanPaul RyanOvernight Healthcare: GOP in talks about helping insurers after ObamaCare repeal Ryan on Trump: 'We're not looking back' Walden to head powerful Energy and Commerce Committee MORE (Wis.), and getting crushed by Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonEric Trump to Arab-American comic: Come on, you really think we'll have a Muslim registry? The Hill's 12:30 Report Wahlberg: Celebs should stop talking about politics MORE 51-37 in a January national survey by Public Policy Polling.
Thus, Bush begins his quest for the White House with no natural base of support, outright grassroots hostility, no electoral rationale and self-inflicted ideological confusion — an ignominious start for a political family that has featured in every winning Republican ticket since 1972.
Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.