This is not an insignificant story. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who many think will one day run for President, has taken a polite but quintessential firm shot at the current crop of Republicans running for President and their often over-the-top rheotoric:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Thursday that he found it “troubling” that the 2012 presidential candidates are “appealing to people’s fears and emotion” on the campaign trail, according to reports.
Bush expressed concern about the type of rhetoric the candidates were using, but didn’t offer specifics or mention names.
“I used to be a conservative, and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective, and that’s kind of where we are,” said Bush, according to Fox News.
The “I used to be a conservative” quote is interesting because he’s say what many people (including me) have said: the Republican Party has rapidly changed — moving further to the right and using rhetoric that you’d mostly find on conservative talk shows but not hear a serious candidate use.
“I think it changes when we get to the general election. I hope,” he added, according to wire service UPI.
Notice the “I hope.”
Consider Jeb Bush the voice of the Republican establishment on this and, most assuredly, a reflection about how the underrated President George H.W. Bush feels and probably his brother George W. Bush, who also had a sense of dignity and limits when he campaigned. For most candidates over the years, there are certain rhetorical depths to which they would not lower themselves. Not this year.
He also asserted that it was important for the presidential candidates to appeal not only to Republican primary voters, but independent voters as well.
“I think it’s important for the candidates to recognize though they have to appeal to primary voters, and not turn off independent voters that will be part of a winning coalition,” he said, according to CBS.
Once again, you’ve heard that often, including here at TMV.
Bush also said there is no chance he’ll be running this year, and also this:
“I know these men and they are very capable… but I’m kind of hopeful the primary process ends so we unite behind a candidate and eliminate the potential of a circular firing squad….”
Right now what has occured is that candidates are scrambling to appeal to Tea Party members, talk show hosts and those who love the kind of rhetoric used on talk shows. But the Bush family — whether you agree with them or not — always tried to maintain a certain amount of dignity. and build winning coalitions. The days of the old Lee Atwater ads look tame now compared with the kind of campaign rhetoric that seems most popular in the Republican Party today.
I’ve long contended that what could happen in 2012 is that the Republican Presidential candidate will go down to defeat no matter how bad the economy is due to campaign rhetoric that scares independent voters, more moderate Democrats and even some moderate Republicans away. Then, in the wreckage of an election which Republicans should have won, Jeb Bush and the more establishment candidates will move in swiftly to take control and get a candidate for President in 2016 who is more interested in building political bridges than delivering political verbal bombs.
Now Bush’s comments have led to speculation that he could be either waiting in the wings to run this year or ready to be drafted — despite his insistence that he won’t run:
Speculation that a late challenger might still emerge in the increasingly bitter race for the Republican presidential nomination is set to surge after former Florida governor Jeb Bush made remarks criticising the current field.
Bush, who is the brother of President George W Bush and son of President George Bush Sr, is a beloved figure among many conservatives who see him as a strong and charismatic leader who is popular in the must-win swing state of Florida.
That contrasts with a widespread unease among many Republican leaders and grassroots activists with the remaining crop of Republican candidates and the vitriolic nature of the fight between frontrunner Mitt Romney and his main challengers Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.
I predict Bush will never run this year. Even if he got in late with tons of GOP support he might not have the time he needs to craft a national persona more accessible to GOPers than he has now. He would face some resistance from some voters who don’t want another Bush in office. Picking up the pieces in 2016 would be more desirable than picking up damaged goods after a bitter primary season has undermined the Republican brand.
UPDATE: Time’s Joe Klein:
You must understand: Jeb Bush really is a conservative, and a thoughtful one at that. And yet, he manages to live on this planet, in this country, in the 21st century, and has a track record of actually trying to solve the problems we’re facing without denying that they exist or demagoguing them. He obviously senses that the current Republican candidates are on a Jonestown course, drinking the Rush Limbaugh Kool-Aid on a wide variety of issues.
It is especially sad to watch Mitt Romney, who is not an unintelligent man, make such a fool of himself on so many issues. Part of his alleged “electability” had to do with the fact that he was not insane, that he could appeal to moderates and independents–the sliver where presidential elections are won and lost. But I’ve not yet seen him say, “Whoa guys, that’s a little bit extreme for my tastes” in any of these debates, much less disagree with his opponents from the center. Instead, he has–shamelessly and sometimes hilariously–tried to portray himself as righter than thou whenever the opportunity arises.
This hasn’t worked particularly well with the wing-nuts–who are, by the way, more radical than they are conservative–and, if Romney wins the nomination, his history of posturing is likely to be cataclysmic in the general election. Jeb Bush is clearly frustrated by the byplay, and his fellow Republicans would be wise to heed his words.
Klein is correct. Jeb Bush is an intelligent, issue-oriented Republican. His comments are probably the tip of the iceberg with the Bush family. FOOTNOTE: His dad George H.W. Bush has made it clear that he favors Romney.