After remaining in hiding for the past 4 years, George W Bush has reemerged and sparked conversation about his legacy and how his time in office will ultimately be remembered. As the pomp and circumstance fades from today’s ceremonies, we can’t help but turn our eyes to the next Bush in line, W’s brother Jeb and the complicated political calculus that he faces simply for having the last name Bush.
In fact, it’s remarkable that being the brother of a former president and the son of a former president could possibly be a bad thing—but that in fact is what some are saying.
The always entertaining, if not insightful, former Republican National Committee chair Haley Barbour had this to say “If Jeb’s last name was Brown instead of Bush, he’d probably be the front-runner for the Republican nomination.”
Ok, yes—George W. Bush is unlikely to be looked upon kindly by the history books for having left office with the lowest approval ratings since Nixon—but it’s pretty silly to assert that being a Bush, being the son of a former President, being wealthy, and having had every door opened for you in your life, is a negative.
Jeb Bush is in a position to run today because of his elite background. It’s hardly an up-by-the-bootstraps story.
He got his first job at Texas Commerce Bank thanks to family friend James Baker. He cut his teeth in politics working for his Dad’s 1980 presidential campaign. As The Atlantic pointed out, the Palm Beach Post said of his failed 1994 gubernatorial bid that Bush’s “political resume begins and ends with his last name.”
Sadly, as we know, one of the most critical parts of campaigning is fundraising. Do you think being a Bush might have helped a tad with that aspect, too? He had immediate access to and relationships with big Republican money from the very moment he stepped onto the political stage and continues to benefit from that network today.
None of this is to say that Jeb doesn’t have talent as a politician and didn’t make full use of the benefits and opportunities afforded to him. There are dozens of children of former presidents who were not able or willing to translate the advantages of that position into a career in politics. But let’s not get all caught up in the sad story of how tough it is to be born with the name Bush. I’d wager that 99.9% of America would be quite content to have been born into those hard knock circumstances.
This also isn’t to say that Bush doesn’t have other challenges, starting with his immigration book flop and a potential challenge from a brash New Jersey governor. He also apparently still needs to get his mom on board.
But all in all, it’s still good to be a Bush and there are some advantages to sharing the last name of a former president in your quest for The White House. In fact, I have an idea. If Jeb Bush just becomes Secretary of State, travels one million miles restoring our image abroad and figures out how to inspire an entire generation of young leaders around the world, maybe then he can restore the Bush legacy. On second thought, maybe he should just call himself Jeb Rodham Clinton.