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Lawrence Martin

Lawrence Martin

LAWRENCE MARTIN

U.S. could do worse than Clinton vs. Bush Add to ...

Can this be right? Are we seeing straight? Yet another Bush for U.S. president? After the many afflictions brought on by George W., we thought we’d seen the end of that line.

But here comes another. Jeb Bush is at the starting blocks in a race that promises to be one of the wildest the Republicans have ever had. There are at least a dozen legitimate contenders, and the younger Bush brother is near the top of the list.

Down here in the sunshine state, where Jeb Bush used to be governor, there’s a lot of enthusiasm. While beating golf balls with a Republican in orange pants, I gently asked if two Bushes weren’t enough already. “Nah,” the fellow said, before whacking one over an alligator’s nose into a lagoon. “Jeb is more intelligent than his brother.”

As tributes go, it didn’t exactly tip the Richter scale.

“Thing is,” he continued, “after what W. did, I think the father wants Jeb to recoup the family image.” Jeb, who is known to be not terribly close to his brother, probably thinks the same way. The family name is at stake.

If Jeb succeeds, it would mean three different Bush presidencies in 25 years. But the nation’s pundits were generally on board with his entry, as was the party. It’s been noted that the last time the GOP won the White House without a Bush on the ticket was 1972. I recall standing on the convention floor in Detroit in 1980, when Ronald Reagan announced that George H.W. Bush would be his vice-presidential nominee. The excitement was less than palpable, but it marked the beginning of that run.

Coinciding with Jeb Bush’s recent announcement that he would explore running was the news, not so favourably received, that 2012 loser Mitt Romney is also seriously considering jumping in. His persistence could also have something to do with family image – in the 1960s, his father George Romney’s campaign was torpedoed after he said he’d received a “brainwashing” on Vietnam. That led to the putdown attributed to senator Eugene McCarthy, who supposedly said “a light rinse” would have done.

Jeb Bush will be up against a long list of big-name Republicans. Others who have indicated interest include Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker and, of course, Donald Trump. It’s great for democracy, as one wag cracked, provided that the ludicrous levels of campaign spending don’t touch off a round of hyper-inflation.

Mr. Bush is as qualified as any, but he has a more cultured and nuanced mind than his headstrong brother. He’s a self-described introvert and a policy wonk who has moderate positions on immigration, education and income inequality. He said last week that he would “rather read a book than go out and get in a conga line.”

Hmm. Good luck with the redneck vote after that one. But the Republicans have been handcuffed by their troglodyte wing for years now – they could use a smart moderate on the ticket.

The crowded race reveals the party’s optimism about winning back the White House. But things are suddenly looking better for the Democrats, too. America is on its way back. The economy is starting to sing. President Barack Obama’s numbers are improving again and they have a popular candidate in the wings in Hillary Clinton.

Another duel of the dynasties – Ms. Clinton vs. Mr. Bush – could be in the offing. Some recoil at the thought, but the United States could do a lot worse. They are both highly capable.

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