Jeb Bush has been raising quite a stir the last week or so. It seems to be intentional, such as with his hour-long appearance on the Charlie Rose Show. His basic message is: this is not my father's (or Ronald Reagan's, for that matter) Republican Party. And the unstated message is: if I run for President, my message will not be the kind of message that seems to be party orthodoxy at the present time.
It's been clear for some time that Bush felt this way about the radical agenda of the Tea Party and the extreme right wing in the Republican Party. But why is he is raising this issue now? Does it have something to do with the forthcoming vice-presidential selection to be made by Mitt Romney? Does he somehow want to influence the forthcoming Republican Nominating Convention? Does he think he is somehow setting himself up for a run in 2016?
None of these possibilities seem to make any logical sense to me. Jeb Bush's message hits me the same way that Jon Huntsman's 'moderate' campaign did back a year ago: I am definitely receptive! But I am a contrarian, an independent thinking, and definitely not a Republican. And I doubt very much that the Republican Party as a whole is receptive at this time, given that it seems to be a critical message about the party and not just a message of support for Mitt Romney, the last candidate standing from the primaries.
Republicans are trying to be respectful of Jeb Bush, given the almost royal nature of his family, but they are also deflecting his criticism for obvious reasons. It certainly wouldn't seem to endear him to the right wing of the Republican Party.
All I can think of is that Jeb Bush has calculated in his own mind that he would rather make clear his position now, regardless of the consequences, then hold his peace. But that also doesn't seem like the controlled, calculated Bush approach that we are quite familiar with.
One possibility that just popped into my head is that Jeb is genuinely regretting the fact that he didn't run this year, and so he is trying to sow dissension within the Republican Party in order that Obama wins the race. Then Jeb would be free to run in 2016.
Is this possible? It sounds so coldly calculating, so Machiavellian, so....so....Bushian!
The other possibility is that Jeb Bush really wants to be the Vice-Presidential pick, and this is the only way he can think of to 'campaign' for the position. His son, George P. Bush, recently said that if asked, he would accept the position (which is at odds with what Jeb himself has said).
It will be interesting to somehow get more insight into this strange behavior on the part of Jeb Bush.
Update: The well-connected Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote this today in his column: "This has been one of the worst stretches of the Obama presidency. In Washington, there is a creeping sense that the bottom has fallen out and that there may be no second term."
It strikes me that it could be this change in the political landscape that is now driving Jeb Bush out into public with his peculiar message. Can't think of the logic behind it other than what I said here above, but it could be connected.