The Jeb Bush Presidential Trial Balloons Launch!


This is a very funny-and very important-little Jeb Bush profile from Matt Bai in the Times today. It’s fascinating, and there are some very odd things about it!

1. “Jeb, who now runs his own consulting firm, seems at ease out of public office.”

That this passes without a word on who Bush’s clients are seems negligent. (They are: “everyone,” I gather. Jeb Bush & Associates is just a little shop-it’s all Bush, making connections, bringing friends together.) Also, describing him as being “out of public office”-although, obviously, true! He is not in public office!-barely begins to explain Bush’s extremely central position in all Florida (and even southern U.S.) politics. When Bai writes “He has been deeply involved as an informal adviser to the party’s candidates for governor,” that approaches expressing the kingmaking, political don position that Bush is in.

2. Jeb Bush “is said to have mentored Marco Rubio, the Senate challenger in Florida who gave the Tea Partiers a national lift.” Okay, so Rubio-a longtime lobbyist, which makes him the most unlikely person to be so successfully identified with the Tea Party-”is said,” in fact, to be exist at this level solely due to Bush’s steering and stewardship. When people talk about Rubio, they talk in almost literal terms about Jeb Bush being something even more than a Darth Vader to Rubio’s Luke Skywalker.

3. “…Some influential Republicans persist in believing that Mr. Bush might still make a strong candidate in 2012… Mr. Bush says he has no interest in running, because he wants to make money for his family, but his political allies seem to read a ‘for now’ into such statements.”

In fact this extremely rare appearance of Bush talking to a reporter, and this is something he does not much do, is related to these very “some influential Republicans,” which are, actually, “pretty much all of them,” and is also part of their quest to float a trial balloons of how a third Bush candidacy would go. (“Some” is probably properly to be said as “including Jeb himself.”)

As for money: well, being in office cut down on his income for a while, sure. That’s the problem with politics (though Cheney showed how to solve it). Bush left the Florida’s governor office with a net worth of a mere $1.3 million, and immediately renewed his real estate broker’s license, went on some fancy boards and became a consultant to Lehman Brothers.

This making “money for his family” is a strange thing to say, isn’t it? All of his children are grown and scattered around; two are in their 30s! His son George Prescott Bush, at first moved to Texas, went into real estate and has since disappeared from public view after joining the military; last anyone heard, he was going to be shipped overseas. Who knows what Noelle is up to, but the other Bush son, still in his 20s, also went into real estate as well as politics after college, at least in part because it’s an easy way to make money when you’re from a well-connected family and also because Jeb was, for a time, South Florida’s most successful real estate broker. Jeb Bush is often called a “real estate developer”; that is incorrect.

If things go even vaguely right, Jeb Bush will be a candidate for president, if not in 2012, then not long after. That America would even consider a third Bush is, to me, bizarre-even if Jeb Bush is the least objectionable of any Bush. But everyone knows that we’re a country where brands succeed almost solely based on name recognition. That advantage is incalculable.