Former President Bush — that would be President #41, George Herbert Walker Bush — says here that he would like to see his son become president someday. But wait, you say, hasn’t his son already been president for eight years? That would be President #43, George Walker Bush (aka W). No, #41 is talking about his son Jeb Bush, the former two-term Governor of Florida.
Jeb has signaled that he may be interested in seeking the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by Mel Martinez (R-FL), who has announced his retirement, leaving an open race for the seat in 2010. Jeb was relatively popular as governor, so he likely stands a good chance of being elected by Floridians, should he seek the seat.
But president?! Even the former President Bush admits that “right now is probably a bad time” for another Bush to seek the White House. Gee, you think so?
Let’s assume, for argument sake, that Jeb is elected to the U.S. Senate in two years. And let’s assume that voters find his service in that position as satisfactory as they found his service as Governor of Florida. About the time his six-year term would be drawing to a close, he would be 63 years old, just a year older than his brother will be upon his exit after eight years as president.
Standing alone as an individual politician, it is possible that Jeb could make a reasonable run for the presidency in 2016. But as a Bush, his chances are limited — I think appropriately so — the Bush political machine notwithstanding.
Regardless of how well Jeb performs as a politician, he is inescapably tied — for good or bad — to the Bush brand. It took Americans only one term to sour on Jeb’s father. It took only slightly longer for Americans to sour on Jeb’s brother. Let’s face it: if W had been standing for re-election in 2006 (or 2008), he would not have won, regardless of who is opponent happened to be.
There is no denying that the Bush brand is damaged, perhaps permanently so. Will eight years change that? It is possible that it might be tempered somewhat. It’s generally impossible to accurately say what the future historical view of current events will be. Although American’s didn’t much care for #41, they were willing to give one of his sons a chance at being president. But I wouldn’t expect Americans to give another of #41’s sons a similar chance. I wouldn’t expect them to give a grandchild (or even great-grandchild) such an opportunity.
Do Americans really like dynasties? There is the Kennedy clan that suggests that some do. But frankly, we have a country of 300 million people. There are plenty of other decent candidates for the presidency outside of the established dynasties. When it comes to political campaigns, name recognition buys a lot. But, as Hillary Clinton found, it may not buy enough. It can also work the other way.
I will say this about #41. He demonstrates some good sense and class that some other former presidents obviously lack when he “said it would be “gratuitous” for him to offer advice to the incoming president.” Rather, Bush 41 said that if he saw something amiss, “I'd like to have the feeling I could bring it up with [the President] just based on some experience in the past, war and peace, Middle East, Europe, Germany.” He’s not going to try to publicly insert his opinion of the President’s actions, but he might speak to the President privately about a matter.
It is possible that Jeb Bush could be a great president. But I seriously doubt that fate will give him a chance to ever prove it. I think most Americans are OK with that.