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Reprise: Jeb Bush’s Forward Tip-Toeing

It’s been three years since I saw Jeb Bush begin tip-toeing toward a presidential run. I wrote about it in a January 2012 column published on Yahoo! But since I hadn’t written a column for Yahoo! in over two years, deciding to publish elsewhere, I recently discovered that Yahoo! had erased all my columns, making them no longer available on the Internet. So, for the record, I’m publishing this original column about Bush’s candidacy, which appears even more true today.

Is Former Florida Gov Setting Up for Four Years Hence? Or Sooner?

The Republican presidential candidates are battling via accusations, nastily: Mitt Romney is a cold-blooded venture capitalist who makes too much money. Newt Gingrich makes too much lobbying money and has had too many wives. Ron Paul, also a millionaire, keeps yammering about the Constitution and scrapping the Fed; the military-industrial complex’s major-media controllers can’t stand him, and wish he’d go away. Republican voters keep suffering alleged “debates” on TV and trudging to primary polls. Who possibly can bring peace to the party, and deliver them back to their dream of a centered, economic, privileged promised land?

Suddenly it’s Wednesday, Jan. 25 [2012]. The Republican presidential candidates are in Florida, prepping to debate yet again and paw through yet another primary. It’s the home of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, potential heir to the Bush political dynasty, who has laid a firm rock to the family’s ruling foundation on his own through governing the sunshine state.


Jeb Bush gazing toward 2016.

But Jeb Bush isn’t in Florida on this particular Wednesday, at least in the minds of the nation. He’s on the op-ed page—not of the Miami Herald in his home state—but, of all places, the notoriously liberal Washington Post, grand stalker of truth in the backyard of presidents.

He is speaking, of all things, about Hispanics, commonly referred to in Republican, and especially Tea Party circles, as “illegal immigrants.” At least that’s the reigning image solidified through legislation and actions in states like Alabama and Arizona. But that’s not the way Jeb Bush talks. His op-ed headline announces, “Four ways Republicans can win Hispanics back”.

He leads his opinion piece off with the straightforward statement, “In the 15 states that are likely to decide who controls the White House and the Senate in 2013, Hispanic voters will represent the margin of victory.”

The four ways to win them back, according to Bush: (1) recognize that America is a deeply diverse community; (2) “echo the aspirations” of Hispanic voters, basically to experience the American dream; (3) “press for an overhaul of our education system” including school choice, accountability, and scrapping social promotion; and (4) “we need to think of immigration reform as an economic issue, not just a border security issue.”

This is heady, practical political fodder at a time when TV audiences have been inundated primarily with candidates’ shouting about non-issues and supported by wild applause from partisan, divided audiences. Bush now seems to step forth, almost out of the blue, as a calming voice saying, think what you want and say what you will, here’s a political reality you’d better respond to, or else watch from the sidelines as government functions without you in the next Olympiad.


Wife Columba, Jeb, and mom Barbara Bush.

This pro-Hispanic argument isn’t a new one for Bush. He raised it as early as 2006, when still governor. At that time, he said politicians’ anti-immigration “chest-pounding” had proved hurtful to him and Columba, his Mexican-born wife. The Los Angeles Times reported that Bush called it “just plain wrong” for the Republican-led House of Representatives to introduce legislation to charge illegal immigrants with a felony or to penalize their children by denying them U.S. citizenship. “My wife came here legally, but it hurts her just as it hurts me when people give the perception that all immigrants are bad,” he told the Times.

His pro-Hispanic stance has led to his current position as co-chair of the Hispanic Leadership Network Conference, just one of his several activities since leaving the governor’s office in 2007 after serving eight years.

In 2008, he said he was considering running for the U.S. Senate, but later announced he wouldn’t. Rumor flourished through 2009 and 2010 he would seek the Republican presidential nomination, but so far he hasn’t.

Could his direct communication to the nation, through the Washington Post rather than a home-state newspaper, be a sign of Bush beginning to tip-toe toward a go at the presidency in 2016? Or could he have something more immediate in mind? Could he be setting the stage for walking into the Republican National Convention in late August in Tampa, Florida…yep…his home state?

Since the inception of the nationwide primaries, which have clarified the presidential nominees in recent elections, the national conventions have stood primarily for show, their substance essentially consisting of efforts to unify each national party. But what if there isn’t a consensus candidate coming out of this year’s Republican primaries? Or what if the Republicans become so split, they need a unifying force the presidential candidate can’t provide internally? Could delegates turn away from the primary results and pick a new candidate? The odds are against it. But stranger things have happened in politics, and the national convention still remains the official arena where party delegates select the candidates for president and vice-president.

Bush–now seen raising his national voice–may be looking to go to Tampa as a peacemaker, or a major force in the party, or an alternate choice, or to begin establishing a base for 2016. Or maybe all four. His political pedigree offers that potential.

Roger Armbrust

Roger Armbrust's articles and columns have covered labor and management, Congressional legislation, and federal court cases, including appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. He formerly served as national news editor of Back Stage in New York City, where he also taught a professional writing course at New York University. His recent book of sonnets -- oh, touch me there: Love Sonnets -- is available from Amazon and other book sites. He is an associate curator of The Clyde Fitch Report. He is also co-founder and co-curator of reality: a world of views.

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