John Tabin writes, “Republican primary voters are going to want to hear candidates distance themselves from the fiscal profligacy of the Bush years. It’s not clear that Jeb Bush would be willing to do that.” I would go one step further: Jeb Bush has given every indication that he would not be willing to do that. Just last week, I read him saying that he would be proud to run on his father and brother’s record — an admirable position for a brother to take, but a suicidal one for the Republican Party.
Jeb Bush is a smart man who is interested in policy, communicates effectively, and was a decent governor. In many respects, he is better equipped to be president than his brother and probably would have been president if he’d won that first gubernatorial race in Florida in 1994. But we don’t get to do this particular do-over. Nominating Jeb Bush would be the most blatant signal the GOP could send that it has learned literally nothing from the Bush years.
The difference between George W. Bush’s spending and Barack Obama’s is a difference of degree, not kind. Ditto the reckless borrowing: Bush borrowed money to pay for wars, increased domestic spending, and a shiny new entitlement — the biggest since the Great Society — all at the same time. None of this was funded. Bush also began the TARP bailout. Offer an uncritical appraisal of Bush’s presidency and much of the case against Obama descends into partisan boilerplate. Frankly, it isn’t clear that Jeb Bush sees anything wrong with any of his brother’s policies.
There is one counterargument to this: Bush’s fiscal record would look a lot different if he had managed to pass Social Security reform. Maybe with Jeb’s political skills and a better Congress, that failure could be rectified. But the recent track record of Bushism counsels skepticism on this front. Rich Lowry makes a good case that it would be in Jeb Bush’s interest to run for president now if so inclined. I fail to see how it would be in the country’s or the Republican Party’s best interest, however.