As often noted in this space, the journalistic reflex toward “balance” often leads to distortions of the truth: false equivalencies. For example, how often have you read or heard that a Bush v. Clinton race in 2106 would be a clash of “dynasties“?
On reflection, this is obvious nonsense. John Ellis Bush’s great-grandfather was the president of a steel company; his grandfather was a U.S. Senator; his father and brother were both Presidents. That’s dynastic power.
Hillary Rodham’s grandparents were coal miners in Wales. Her father graduated from Penn State with a degree in Physical Education. He then rose from being a fabric salesman to running his own textile company, but there’s no evidence that her family connections helped her career at any point. Wellesley, Yale Law, House Judiciary Committee staff (working on the Nixon impeachment): pretty much a standard meritocratic career track until she married a Yale Law classmate (also without any hereditary juice) named Bill Clinton, and joined him in Arkansas. No one ever doubted that “the Clintons” were a political partnership, not just a politician and his wife.
So it’s absurd to treat Jeb and Hillary as equivalent beneficiaries of privileged head starts. More than that, in Jeb’s case it’s hard to see what he’s done other than being born a Bush that would qualify him to seek the Presidency.
Below is a note from a professional observer of Florida politics, who for career reasons prefers not to be named. Note also what he doesn’t say: that J.E.B., who accomplished nothing of note before becoming governor and nothing of note as governor, has accomplished anything of note since except earning a bunch of money.
Take away the Bush name and is there any reason why Jeb stands above John Kasich, or several others?
And how exactly did he get to be governor of one of the largest states? If you look at all the major party gubernatorial nominees in Florida in the past 40 years, almost all had significant electoral success. Governor is not usually an entry level position. The least among the politicians had 10 or more years in the legislature. Martinez was the Mayor of Tampa. Lawton Chiles had been a three term U.S. Senator. Skip Bafalis was a Member of Congress. Charlie Crist was the Atty Gen etc. There were only three who had never been elected: Jack Eckerd, who was an Undersecretary in the Ford Admin, and had grown his family drugstore business into a huge chain and could massively self-finance, Rick Scott, who also is a self-made zillionaire who could self-finance and Bill McBride, who was at least the managing partner of one of the biggest law firms in the country and who beat Janet Reno to get the nomination.
Jeb has been cut in on various business deals, but he can’t compare with Scott, Eckerd or even McBride for private sector achievement. His only governmental credential for being governor is spending a year and a half as Bob Martinez’s state secretary of Commerce. It’s a post he was probably under-qualified for when he got it in his early 30s, but it hasn’t exactly been the stepping stone to glory for many others. And what happened when Jeb got the Gubernatorial nomination in 1994, the best GOP year in ages? He LOST. It was close, but have any other defeated gubernatorial nominees in recent Florida history gotten another shot four years later? Without having won any other office in the intervening period or ever before? Of course not.
Look, he’s a reasonably intelligent, tall, white Christian, heterosexual man. He’s not an alcoholic like his older brother, but not as gregarious either. So he was dealt a pretty good genetic hand. Probably if Barbara and George left him on the doorstep of some childless dentist’s family in Midland he would have done all right in life. He wouldn’t have gone to Andover, but he might have gone to UT and been some kind of banker or insurance executive living in a nice subdivision somewhere in Texas. But is there any reason at all to believe he would be close to where he is today?
There were people who saw Clinton and Obama as comers from very young. Even John Edwards was a minor celebrity trial lawyer and had obvious gifts, snake-oil salesman that he was. But Jeb? Please.