The Next Mitt Romney - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Next Mitt Romney

Jeb was neutral.

Say again, neutral.

As Ronald Reagan might say, there he went again.

What was Jeb Bush neutral about?

The choice between liberal Charlie Crist and conservative Marco Rubio for the Republican nomination for United States Senator from Florida.

Oh, he finally came around. After then-Governor Crist endorsed the Obama stimulus, this was a bridge too far even for former Governor Bush.

But when others were out there at the barricades for an unknown conservative Marco Rubio at the very beginning? When Mark Levin was, typically, out there first to give the conservative underdog some much needed attention with appearances on his show? Where was Jeb?

Say again: Jeb was neutral.

Why does this seemingly small detail amount to anything?

Over the Thanksgiving holidays, the New York Times ran this story on its front page, headlined as follows:

Jeb Bush in 2016? Not Too Early for Chatter

The paper might as well have had another headline:

Jeb Bush in 2016? Here Comes the Next Mitt Romney

The Times went on at length about the love for all-things Bush coming from the very same kind of people who were once upon a time insisting that only Mitt Romney could win the day for the GOP. The paper included favorable reference to Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, about which more in a moment.

The Jeb-in-2016 sentiment was expressed this way:

Still, calls for Jeb Bush to enter the arena in a bigger way represent vindication of a sort. His family’s longstanding advocacy for a more broad-based and “compassionate” Republican Party was largely ignored and eventually repudiated by the populist, small-government conservatives who held sway over the party after Mr. Obama’s election. 

The article then gets this gem of a quote from Ana Navarro, the inevitable “Republican strategist”: 

“This election result has made Jeb Bush’s voice that much wiser and that much more needed for the Republican Party: What he’s been warning about all along proved to be true.”

Ms. Navarro, it should be noted, was the “McCain National Hispanic Co-Chair” in 2008 and did the same for liberal Establishment Republican Jon Huntsman in 2012. No word from her as to how the moderate McCain or Huntsman presidencies have worked out.

The GOP has been here before. And before and before and before. Only Jeb Bush… or Mitt Romney… John McCain… George W. Bush…Bob Dole… George H.W. Bush… Gerald Ford… Tom Dewey… pick one…. can win the day.

And what happens when these Republican Establishment favorites are picked? They lose outright… or win what should be walkaways by the skin of their teeth. In the case of George H.W. Bush, who won by tying himself tightly to Reagan’s coattails in 1988, a re-election was lost with an appalling 37% of the vote. And when GOP Establishment candidates do lose? They immediately start mumbling into their Chablis about how something has to be done with those damnable conservatives.

And when that rare win comes along? It quickly becomes plain that these people are not about a Reagan Revolution. They are about managing the bureaucracy that is already there… when not adding to it.

A case in point is Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. A visit to the group’s website is not unlike reading the old Sherlock Holmes tale Silver Blaze in which there is this bit of dialogue between Holmes and a Scotland Yard detective named Gregory:

Gregory: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

The curious incident at Jeb Bush’s education foundation? There is not a single word about abolishing the federal Department of Education. And in not even mentioning this, Bush adds to the perception that yet another Bush presidency would be in some fashion just like the other two. Either taxes would be raised to accommodate liberals (Bush 41) or the government would be expanded to placate liberals (Bush 43).

Which is to say, Jeb Bush — like Mitt Romney or others in the long dismal losing line of GOP moderates addicted to such bogus concepts as “broadening the base” and “the Big Tent” — would seek the presidency to timidly tinker at the edges when not making the problem worse. All the while patronizing the minority-of-the-moment instead of approaching them as equals who need real economic growth just like everybody else in America regardless of color.

The impression of Jeb Bush as the Next Mitt Romney comes clearer with his every entry into the national political dialogue.

On taxes?

Bush would refuse to sign on to Grover Norquist’s Reaganite pledge that he won’t raise taxes. 

“No, I — okay, so I ran for office three times. The pledge was presented to me three times. I never signed the pledge. I cut taxes every year I was governor. I don’t believe you outsource your principles and convictions to people. I respect Grover’s political involvement. He has every right to do it, but I never signed any pledge.”

So raising taxes is an option for Bush. And he was once neutral between Crist and Rubio.


Why, why, why?

The question goes to what might be called First Instincts. First Conservative Instincts. And the hard fact is that like both his president father and brother, Jeb Bush is adrift when it comes to conservative principle. Missing in conservative action. 

In uncanny if not surprising fashion, Jeb Bush to Marco Rubio was like Mitt Romney to Romney’s own Massachusetts liberal opponents before winning the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. He couldn’t quite figure out where he stood on the conservative/liberal line.


Not unsurprisingly like George H.W. Bush to Ronald Reagan, Jeb just didn’t recognize the liberal/conservative line or on which side he wanted to stake his colors. So — unlike Reagan boldly staking his claim for Goldwater in 1964 or taking on Gerald Ford in 1976 — Jeb Bush wimped. Say again: wimped. Neutrality between the Reaganite Rubio or RINO Crist was to effectively join a not-so-subtle campaign against conservatism. And when he had the chance to step up for Marco Rubio — Jeb Bush flinched.

And then changed his mind. Which is to say, the issue of conservative principle never was part of Jeb’s equation until Crist was so egregiously running away from conservatism Bush could no longer safely ignore it.

Just like his father on raising taxes, just like his brother on increasing the size of government, Jeb Bush is tone deaf to conservative principle.

To wit, the obvious: Jeb Bush is the Next Mitt Romney.

The latest moderate favorite of the GOP Establishment.

The guy whose backers think being married to a Mexican is a policy statement in the same way Romney supporters thought being a successful businessman was a policy statement.

The guy who has all the same people who swore up and down on the record that Romney’s so-called “moderation” was THE ANSWER… and post-election have denied Mitt not three times but a thousand times.

Jeb Bush… after multiples of years of experience between family and personally held political office… is in fact blind as a bat to conservative principle. When liberal push comes to conservative pull… Jeb Bush is either pleading neutrality between Rubio and Crist or waving the white flag on taxes or falling dead silent on the existence of the Department of Education.

In the vernacular: Jeb Bush doesn’t get it.

Contrast this with, say, Marco Rubio. The very man about whom Jeb Bush was once a professed neutral — when Rubio was risking all to challenge the deeply liberal Crist.

Senator Rubio happens to be a Latino married to a Latina. Wonderfully fortuitous — but not a reason to support him for president. The reason to support Marco Rubio over Jeb Bush is that Rubio is a conservative. The real deal. A Latino version of Ronald Reagan. Fearless in challenging the Florida GOP Establishment when it counted, just as Reagan was willing to take on first the California GOP Establishment and later the national GOP Establishment.

Mr. Bush, famously, is the Republican Establishment. His very first instinct wasn’t to challenge Charlie Crist and what Crist stood for — it was to stay on the sidelines. To effectively roll over.

Of course Jeb Bush will consider raising taxes. Of course he won’t zap the Department of Education. For a reason.

Establishment Republicans don’t rock the boat. That would be “extreme” or “divisive.” Both labels, not coincidentally, once applied to Ronald Reagan by his own Establishment GOP foes who were truly appalled at Reagan’s views. “Reagan is a conservative, an extreme conservative. All the dummies and blockheads are with him,” Jeb’s Dad — RR’s own vice president — is reported to have once told then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Gerald Ford insisted Reagan could never win a national election because he was “extreme.”

None of this means Jeb Bush isn’t a smart guy or a good guy. He is merely the latest guy to embody the relentlessly rigid principles of GOP “moderation.” The next guy in line to be celebrated by the media for his oh-so-caring compassion… until nominated. At which time, just as with Mitt Romney and John McCain or any of the other moderates, he will be assailed as an immoral if not racist tool of evil corporations whose life, once examined with the skill of the liberal political proctologists, will be discovered to be a life-long testament to a sordid list of fill-in-the-blank horrors.

One can only shake one’s head at enduring the umpteenth round of this business.

America, make no mistake, is in trouble.

It is awash in a culture that has nothing to do with being Hispanic, black, gay, straight, a woman or a rhinoceros. A reckless, selfish culture that will spend — has spent — every American dime and intends to spend every borrowable Chinese dime it can lay its hands on. A culture absolutely divorced from the hard, realities of economic life and the consequences for everybody of an endlessly growing government that can never — will never — have enough tax dollars to support it if they took every last dime from every millionaire and billionaire in the land.

There will be consequences for the decision made on this past election day. The next four years in America will be grim.

And being the guy who wants to merely rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, as it were, is all Jeb Bush appears to be about.

Of the many challenges that need to be addressed by the Republican Party is the reality that moderate, Establishment tinkering-at-the-edges politics are not only an abysmal failure at the national ballot box, they are a disaster as a governing philosophy.

Say again — a disaster.

Jeb Bush… nice guy that he may be…has thus far shown no ability whatsoever to rise to that challenge.

That New York Times front-page story?

It was nothing more than the first bars of music in the next verse of the same old, same old GOP Establishment song.

Here comes Jeb Bush!

The next Mitt Romney!

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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