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The Other President Bush

by @ 9:37 am on January 21, 2007. Filed under 2008 Election, Politics

In today’s Washington Post, S.V. Date, a reporter who has covered Florida politics for years, writes about the Bush Presidency that might have been, if the Bush elected in 2000 had been Jeb instead of George:

Under President Jeb, the nation still would have had large federal tax cuts, skewed heavily toward the rich — or the “risk takers” and “job creators,” in Bush family parlance. In Florida, he reduced taxes by $12.2 billion over his eight years, with more than half of that going to the wealthiest 4.5 percent of the population. That saved the average risk taker more than $1,500 a year by the time Jeb left office. And much as President George W. Bush cites tax cuts as the explanation for any positive economic results, Gov. Jeb Bush says that his tax cuts created jobs in Florida and gave us the best economy in the country. (In reality, Jeb had the lowest job-creation rate of any Florida governor dating to 1971.)

On education, Jeb quickly pushed into law a testing program, just as his brother did in Texas and later nationally through No Child Left Behind. Unlike George W., however, Jeb succeeded in introducing the nation’s first statewide school-vouchers program. The results are unclear: Jeb says that students who used vouchers to attend private schools received better educations than they had been getting in public schools. But all we know is that the vast majority of such schoolchildren received religious educations at the public’s expense. Gov. Bush refused to release the scores for the few voucher children who had to take the public-school standardized test, so whether their educations were superior or awful remains anyone’s guess.

For a brief period, George W. sought to include school vouchers in NCLB, but he eventually relented; Jeb, I believe, would never have let it drop. Indeed, much more than his older brother, Jeb seems to take pleasure in the business of governing, as opposed to just campaigning. Whereas George W. claims to stay at 30,000 feet and see the big picture, Jeb is all about the details. He kept long hours as governor, took home fat binders to study each night and knew enough about policy matters to make detailed and cogent arguments for his ideas. It’s hard to imagine a President Jeb countenancing the explosion of pork-barrel earmarks in the federal budget the way his brother did, for example. During his eight years as governor, Jeb took the time to slash thousands of such projects out of Florida state budgets, most of them inserted by Republican lawmakers.

But all of this may just prove to be speculation. While it is still possible for Jeb Bush to run for President someday, it would require him to find a way to disassociate himself from a brother who is currently, and is likely to remain, quite unpopular:

Once the family’s brightest hope for this generation, Jeb may now prove a victim of the political ruin his older brother has brought to the Bush brand. Barely three in 10 Americans think that George W. is doing a good job. What are the chances that voters will gamble on the First Brother?

Then again, maybe not:

No one should write Jeb’s political epitaph just yet. Even a 2008 presidential run should not be ruled out entirely. Should John McCain or Rudolph W. Giuliani or Mitt Romney fail to build a dominating presence by mid-summer, there is probably only one Republican who could come in at such a late date and still build an effective organization and a powerful fundraising machine in a matter of weeks: Jeb Bush. After all, Jeb raised about $35 million to win reelection as Florida governor four years ago. Pulling in $100 million in a few months is well within the realm of the possible.

In all likelihood, though, 2008 would be tough. The Iraq war is not getting any more popular, and U.S. troops may not be coming home quickly enough to allow Jeb a credible run.

The author goes on to discuss the possibility of Bush as a Vice-Presidential nominee in 2008. While not entirely implausible, I think it comes too close to the type of political dynasty that Americans have traditionally shied away from. If George W., or Jeb, had tried running earlier than 2000, I don’t think either one would have made it. Jeb Bush may still have a shot, and the Bush family may still play a role in American history, but I don’t see it happening before 2012.

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