Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jeb Bush: The Stealth Candidate

There are two years remaining in President Bush’s Presidency and already the jockeying for position to replace him has begun in earnest for both political parties. One would suppose that since President Bush is a lame duck politically speaking that the field is wide open for anyone in either the Republican or Democratic parties to vie for the Presidency? The truth is, for the Republican Party, it will not be a wide open race simply because President Bush will not allow that to happen. Despite what the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution says in limiting a person to serving only two terms as President the Bush Administration is gearing up for the 2008 Presidential primaries and beyond. The President himself cannot be a candidate but there is no stopping him from utilizing the enormous powers of the Oval Office in influencing the outcome of the Republican primaries which will decide who will be the G.O.P. Presidential nominee in 2008. No, President Bush will not remain a disinterested spectator instead he will use all manner of political leverage to insure the nomination and election of his younger brother, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to the office of President.

Even though Jeb Bush has repeatedly demurred on whether he will run in 2008 he has been running a stealth Presidential campaign since 2004. (One example of his stealth campaign took place in December 2004 when President George W. Bush sent him to accompany Colin Powell to Southeast Asia to coordinate aid-relief efforts in the wake of the tsunami which struck the region. Despite the President’s stated “reasons” that he was sending Governor Jeb Bush as an “expert” on disaster relief (it was the same year Florida was struck repeatedly by major hurricanes) there was no legitimate reason for Jeb Bush to be on that aid mission. All it did was provide a nice photo-op for his future Presidential campaign. Rest assuredly the Jeb Bush Presidential campaign will use the footage of that trip to demonstrate his foreign policy credentials).

Indeed his public displays of disinterest in the 2008 Presidential campaign have lacked conviction and Jeb Bush himself has yet to make any unequivocal statement refusing to seek the Presidency. Further evidence comes from disingenuous statements made by President George W. Bush and his father former President George H.W. Bush that they hoped that Jeb Bush would seek the Presidency.

No, Jeb Bush’s stance of “disinterest” is a calculated pose designed to deflect unwanted attention before he is ready to make his formal entrance into the race. Timing will be very important for Jeb Bush because when he does announce for the Presidency his campaign will be the trickiest and most unique Presidential campaign in American history. No brother has ever succeeded another brother to the Presidency. (It might have happened in 1968 if John and Robert F. Kennedy had not been assassinated) but it will happen in 2008.

A Jeb Bush candidacy will be the closest thing to a Third Term you can get in the post 22nd Amendment era. No matter what Jeb Bush says his candidacy will be a referendum on the present Bush Administration policies since 2001. There can be no other way. The question that remains is how will the electorate respond to a Jeb Bush candidacy? The problem that Jeb Bush will face will be the same one Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced in 1940 when he sought a Third Term. Something that Presidential historian James MacGregor Burns once wrote, in describing FDR’s dilemma, can also describe Jeb Bush’s problem too: “Roosevelt’s basic problem, if he chose to run, was not how to get the nomination—his ability to get a decisive convention majority was never in doubt—but how to be nominated in so striking a manner that it would amount to an emphatic and irresistible call to duty. This party call would be the prelude to a call from the whole country at election time….Roosevelt’s task—in event he finally decided to run—clearly was to bring about a unanimous party draft that would neutralize the anti-third-term sentiment….If the President were to run again, everything depended on a spontaneous draft.”

Although Presidential politics have changed greatly since 1940 the dynastic ambitions of the Bush family creates the same problem that FDR faced that year. What’s ironic though is that while World War Two helped FDR win a third term the war in Iraq will be the greatest obstacle facing the Jeb Bush campaign in 2008. One can argue that Jeb Bush’s chances in a crowded G.O.P. field will be slim. I think not. I feel that Jeb Bush has an excellent chance in getting the G.O.P. nomination, far better than his brother George did in 2000. So far, none of the declared or potential G.O.P. candidates have excited the masses. John McCain’s best chance for the Presidency was in 2000 and he failed. His age and his public cries for victory in Iraq stand against him politically. None of the other G.O.P. candidates have made a public dent at all. (Most of the media coverage has been discussing the political merits of Senators Hilary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama).

There are ample reasons which will compel Jeb Bush to run for President. If the Presidency should go to the Democrats or to a non-Bush G.O.P. candidate then there are great risks that the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq will be repudiated or at least radically altered. Another great risk caused by a non-Bush Presidency in 2008 is the exposure of the false pretenses used by the present Bush Administration to get America to invade Iraq and the exposure of the Bush Administration’s covert war on civil liberties in America and deliberate misuses of Federal agencies to damage the personal and political enemies of the Bush Family. A non-Bush family President could gain enormous political capital in revealing and correcting these abuses. Also the present Bush Administration has put an enormous amount of energy and effort in constructing this elaborate edifice of institutionalized abuse of Executive power. Does the Bush Administration really want to see its efforts exposed, eradicated, and its perpetrators potentially investigated? Another reason comes back to the Bush Family’s dynastic ambitions. Jeb Bush’s son, George Prescott Bush, has political ambitions in his own right and the father has publicly expressed his desire in furthering his son’s political ambitions. Those ambitions could include the White House some day. (Don’t laugh there is also talk of both George W. and Jeb’s nephew Pierce Bush, son of Neil Bush, having political ambitions too).

To prevent any repudiation of the Bush Family’s policies and to insure the dynastic ambitions of the Bush Family there can be only solution: that is for Jeb Bush to run and be elected President.

A Jeb Bush candidacy will come with enormous advantages. First and foremost is money. The Bush family’s ability at political fund-raising has been unparalleled in American political history. Secondly in terms of appealing to the conservative base of the G.O.P. both George W. and Jeb Bush have done well in pandering to their supporters (ironically far better than their father ever did). Indeed there have been several reports made in the past that Jeb Bush is even more fanatically devoted to conservative social issues than even George W. Another factor is the fact that Jeb Bush will have the full weight of the White House behind him. Voters must understand that the White House’s ability to manipulate press coverage and alter government policy to benefit a political candidate is limitless. One could question the propriety of the present Bush Administration blatantly supporting a Jeb Bush campaign but the Bush Family has never allowed propriety ever to get in the way of its dynastic ambitions; especially now when events seem to be conspiring to bring down the Bush Administration’s standing not only in American politics but also in the world arena as well. History has shown that when the Bush Family has its back to the wall that it is notorious for lashing out with great viciousness and effectiveness (who could ever forget the Willie Horton ads that destroyed Michael Dukakis’ campaign in 1988 or the Florida electoral fraud in 2000 or the Swift Boat Veterans’ ads of 2004?). Lastly, one must consider the nature of the primaries themselves: Jeb Bush doesn’t need to win every primary, only those primaries which will have maximum effect in advancing his candidacy (i.e. Iowa and/or New Hampshire, South Carolina, and especially the Southern Regional Primary on Super Tuesday). The Deep South has been and remains a bastion from which the Bush Family can draw political capital. History has shown that a sweep of Super Tuesday can insure a candidate’s nomination: it worked for the elder George Bush in 1998, Bill Clinton in 1992 and George W. Bush in 2000. I am sure it will do the same for Jeb Bush in 2008.

If and when Jeb Bush does gain the G.O.P. nomination I have a rough guess as to who his running mate will be when it comes time for the 2008 Republican Convention to take place: it will be Karl Rove. (This is not the first time I’ve predicted this. My blog entry of July 20, 2005 said the same thing).

As for a Jeb Bush candidacy its future lies in the hands of the electorate but does the electorate really want another four to eight years of the same?

If Jeb Bush doesn’t win the nomination or the Presidency in 2008, I will be mighty surprised—but also pleased.

The worst is yet to come.

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