Those of us who rely on political drama, real or contrived, to justify our professional existence are drooling over the possibility that the next presidential balloting will be a dynasty election. Obviously we have a huge amount of foolishness and outright nastiness to get past between now and then, but what a story it would be if the party nominees are Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, Queen Hil vs Prince Jeb. Imagine the plot lines: Tudors, Windsors and the Beverly Hillbillies.
Instead of a Democratic Convention, that party could have a coronation, assuming Hillary decides she’s ready to take the plunge and deal with the life’s worth of baggage the Republicans are sure to pile on to her. But from two years out, it looks like the nomination is hers if she wants it.
Jeb is a different story. Before he can even try to be Bush the Third, he’ll have to fend off the nasties in his own party. He’s already gotten a taste of how brutal they can be by daring to express an unhateful view of illegal immigrants: “Yes, they broke the law,” he said, “but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime, that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”
If that seemed innocuous to you, that’s because you’re not in one of those groups that wants to seal the border, or you’re not one of the other GOP wannabes, like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, who want to pander to them. Typical is the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC. Shortly after Bush committed his heresy, ALIPAC President William Gheen fired off a statement: “You could say that prostitutes do what they do out of an act of love for their children and families, or that bank robbers are engaging in an act of love because they’re stealing the money not just for themselves but maybe for some of their family members. No one has ever said anything as ridiculous as this before.”
So Bush is in trouble with the hardliners who seem to control his party’s agenda. Even though the Republican leadership insists it is trying to connect with the growing community of Hispanic Americans, who overwhelmingly vote against them, the controlling harsh sentiment within the GOP makes these outreach efforts appear to be nothing more than gloss. It’s similar to so many issues, where anyone who tries to inject the slightest hint of reason is labeled a traitor to the cause.
But maybe Bush is onto something. He’s high on the list of establishment Republicans who are less interested in ideological purity and more in victory. They could rally around Jeb as someone who can appeal to the bulk of moderate Americans who are frightened of the hellfire and brimstone immoderates. They’re the ones who don’t know that RINO is an epithet meaning “Republicans in Name Only.” They think it’s a big animal.
Right now, Bush isn’t even saying whether he’ll be a candidate. A big consideration, he insists, is whether he would be able to avoid “the vortex of a mud fight.” He’ll make up his mind, he promises, by the end of the year, or whenever he slips out of this latest immigration mud-fight vortex, whichever comes first.
Meanwhile, over in the Democratic realm, aka Hillaryland, the question is whether she’ll abdicate, and if not, who will be her person in waiting, aka vice-presidential selection.
Until then, those of us who are constantly desperate for a narrative are also waiting and dreaming about the 2020 election — the race between George P. Bush and Chelsea Clinton.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.