Inside Jeb: Is the Smarter Bush Brother in Line to Take Over the GOP?

So Jeb Bush, according to Tucker Carlson, may be, whether he knows it or not, the future of the Republican Party.

That’s right, as if two Bushes haven’t been more than enough, another — this time the smart one, at least when compared to his more famous brother, Obama’s predecessor — may be on the way to presidential politics. If, that is, he can find a way back to high-level elected politics at all.

You can read the Jeb-Tucker interview here. It was published just yesterday at Esquire, but it took place way back in April, presumably, just days before Arlen Specter’s aisle-hop to the Dems.

There really isn’t much new here. It’s pretty much just Jeb commenting on the sad state of the Republican Party and of a possible (in his view, likely) conservative resurgence. What it does show, I think, is that Jeb remains a formidable political figure (with a fairly formidable mind, especially by Republican standards) even out of office, and one only imagines how things would have been different had he, and not Dubya, been elected in 2000, had, that is, the GOP gone with the right Bush boy. What we also find is a deeply curious and engaged man, again in stark contrast to his brother. At the start, he’s talking about his Kindle, and about how he subscribed to HuffPo, “just to see how the forces of evil are conspiring.” One assumes that that is intended hyperbole.

Evidently, too, Jeb is a Republican who thinks seriously about his party and a conservative who thinks seriously about his preferred political ideology and the movement to which he belongs. This should concern Democrats, I think — it certainly concerns me (Americans have elected two Bushes, so why not a third) — which is why they ought to take him seriously well ahead of a future run for the Oval Office (or, perhaps, for the Senate, though, in Florida, there may not soon be an open seat for him). And it is what makes this interview rather interesting, and well worth the read.

Let me just address a few points:

1) On Limbaugh: “I feel happy for Rush to get all this attention. He’s one part of a mosaic of people and thought in the conservative movement.” I’m not sure the Dear Leader of the conservative base of the GOP is just part of a mosaic, or that he actually considers himself just another tile in a pattern of diversity. And how is conservatism, in its present form as an increasingly absolutist movement, just some sort of “mosaic”? Jeb may want it to be that, but it is not. It’s not a mosaic, it’s a white-out.

2) On Republican unpopularity and the Democratic gains: “I don’t think there’s any seismic shift. The Democrats have won on tactics. Barack Obama would not have gotten elected if he’d let us in on his secret plan prior to the election.” First, the Democrats may have won on tactics, but they also, and more importantly, won on substance. American voters didn’t reject Republicans because they didn’t campaign effectively but because their ideas are a black hole of failure. Simply put, Americans, while not fully behind Democratic policies (obviously, the country is still polarized), trust the Democrats on issues like national security and the war on terror (as well as the Iraq War, a specific Bush failure), the environment and global warming, health care, and the economy. Second, what is this “secret plan”? The scope of the economic downturn was not fully known during the campaign, but Obama spoke to the need to address the crisis in a meaningful way (and not just through those old Republican stand-bys of tax cuts and deregulation). As well, he spoke to the need to address the climate crisis. There’s nothing “secret” about his agenda.

3) On Obama’s popularity: “First of all, who cares? His popularity is no greater — in fact it’s less — than what my brother’s was during the beginning of his tenure, in a time of unbelievable friction, if you think about it, because of the 2000 election. His approval ratings were higher than Barack Obama’s during his first one hundred days.” This is silly. It was a different time — there was nothing remotely like the current economic crisis, 9/11 was still months away, the Democrats weren’t nearly as negative and obstructionist as the Republicans are now, and there wasn’t a liberal anti-Bush campaign to rival the concerted conservative smear campaign against Obama today. Although there were some who questioned Bush’s legitimacy, what conservatives are doing to Obama is much more nasty and much more ugly.

4) On global warming: “I’m a skeptic.” He may not be an Inhofe-like denialist, but he seems to buy into industry-manufactured denialist propaganda. Yes, he’s a good Bushie.

5) On the leaders of the GOP: “Newt is fantastic.” Okay, that’s enough. I can’t take anymore. Just read it, if you have the stomach for it.

(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)