Run, Jeb, run.
I mean it, despite two powerful arguments against a presidential run by Jeb Bush — one specific to the former Florida governor, one more generic.
Generic first, because it is the more compelling: The thought of a Republican president makes me shudder, largely because of the irreparable harm to the Supreme Court. Legislative and regulatory mistakes can be fixed, albeit at enormous cost and difficulty. (Think George W. Bush’s tax cuts.) Foreign policy blunders are harder to repair. (Think George W. Bush’s war in Iraq.)
But the real risk is the judicial legacy a Republican president would leave behind. By the time the next president takes office, three of the justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy) will be in their 80s.
With the exception of Scalia, a Republican replacement of any of them would likely tip the balance of the court firmly into the hands of its conservative justices, to the peril of the court and the country. The impact would be felt when George P. Bush — or Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky — is running for president.
The Bush-specific objection is obvious from the previous sentence, and stated best by the prospective candidate’s own mother: America is not, or should not be, a dynastic nation.
“If we can’t find more than two or three families to run for high office, that’s silly,” Barbara Bush told C-SPAN this year. “I refuse to accept that this great country isn’t raising other wonderful people.”
The weakness of this argument is that it ignores the fact that Jeb Bush happens to be well-qualified to run for president. And it arises in the looming shadow of a presidential run by Hillary Clinton, another candidate whose qualifications extend far beyond her surname.
As a general matter — sure, Barbara Bush is right. The more expansive our political roster, the better. But in the context of 2016 — well, this gets to my “run, Jeb, run” argument. He and Clinton are two of the best-qualified candidates.
My argument for a Jeb Bush candidacy is also twofold: It would be good for Bush’s party and good for the country.
Good for Republicans not just because it would give them a better shot at the White House but because the GOP has veered off the ideological rails.
Even the notion that Bush is seriously considering running — his son told ABC’s Jonathan Karl that it is “more than likely” — is a comforting sign. Jeb Bush is not naive about the GOP’s loony tendencies and the distorted ideological landscape of its nominating process. For him to be weighing the race indicates that he believes those extremist instincts can be tamed.
A Bush candidacy would deviate from party orthodoxy on numerous issues, most notably immigration and education reform; a Bush nomination would usefully yank the party toward the center.
On immigration, Bush favors granting undocumented immigrants the opportunity for legalized status, although not necessarily a path to full citizenship. “Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony,” he said in April. “It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family.”
He has also been a champion of education reform efforts, including the new GOP heresy of backing national education standards known as Common Core.
And speaking of heresy: In 2012, when none of the party’s presidential contenders would back a hypothetical budget deal of $1 in tax increases for $10 in spending cuts, Bush told the House Budget Committee he’d snap it up. “Put me in, coach,” he said, adding, “This will prove I’m not running for anything.”
Make no mistake: Bush is a conservative. But he is a conservative who believes in the role and capacity of government and in the imperative of bipartisan cooperation.
“Back to my dad’s time and Ronald Reagan’s time — they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support,” Bush told Bloomberg View in 2012. Contrast that with Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz: “I don’t think what Washington needs is more compromise.”
And this is why a Bush candidacy would be good for the country as well. A saner Republican Party would produce saner, more productive politics.
A more extreme nominee might be easier for Democrats to beat. But what if they don’t? I’d rather see the more reasonable Republican candidate, because I’d rather see the more reasonable Republican president.
Run, Jeb, run.