You may have already figured out (not that it should be any big surprise) that Jeb Bush is not a carbon copy of either his father or his brother. (For starters and superficially: Less preppy than G.H.W; smarter than G.W.) In an excellent overview of the course that might be titled Jeb 101, published in New York magazine, Jennifer Senior (who stipulates that she disagrees with Bush on most policy issues) shows respect for many of Bush’s qualities, and ultimately concludes that he is not as lucky in his timing as either previous Bush.
But, writing with authority based on her coverage of him as governor of Florida, Senior portray him as more conservative than you might think (notwithstanding several areas in which he breaks ranks with the far right, including immigration issues), a very hands-on governor who knew how to pull the levers of power (or does one mean turn the screws), and a complicated, interesting character who has made several major decisions that seem to create distance between himself and the family traditions. After his two terms as governor of a fairly purple state, she writes:
“The result was one of the most radically conservative state governments of its day. He slashed taxes and the government work force; he tweezed out every stray bit of pork he could find in the state budget, earning himself the nickname ‘Veto Corleone,’ as he never gets tired of saying. He ended affirmative action; passed the ‘stand your ground’ gun law; and extended the long arms of the state into Terri Schiavo’s hospital room, trying to block her husband’s efforts to remove her from life support. He also enacted massive education reforms, imposing high-stakes testing in Florida’s public schools while creating two different voucher programs.”
Senior portrays Jeb Bush as forceful, effective and substantive — very much the opposite of the current model of a candidate who goes to face the cameras and recite a few poll-tested words and stick to them. He believes in some things and he argues forcefully for them. Even as he has struggled with some of his early interviews as an (undeclared) presidential candidate, I have noticed this difference in his communication style and appreciate it.
Senior’s piece begins and ends with the flukes of bad luck that have imperiled Jeb’s current ambition. The timing is not ideal, but this may be his last shot. The party has changed in ways that may make being the leading choice of establishment Republicans not quite the advantage it used to be. She wraps up her piece thus:
“So here we are, 16 years later still. George W. has poisoned the Bush-family name with a horrific war in Iraq, and the tea party has poisoned the GOP with its assault on rational discourse and nuanced policy. A charismatic bright young thing from the governor’s home state is nipping at his heels [that’s a reference to Marco Rubio]. Yet this may be Jeb’s only moment to jump into the fray. As blessed as he is, the ultimate political prize — lucky timing — seems to have eluded him in a way it never did his less talented younger brother, even his father. But what can he do? It is what it is.”