By James M. Perry
First there was John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams. Then there was William Henry Harrison and his grandson, Benjamin, followed in time by the Roosevelts, Teddy and Franklin. And, of course, more recently, we've had two Bushes, father and son, and both called George, in the White House.
And now there seems to be a cry among reasonably responsible Republicans to draft -- entice might be a better word -- John Ellis Bush (Jeb to his friends and everyone else) to run for president. That might set a mark. If he were elected, it would be the first time that one family gave us three presidents.
"If we can't find more than two or three families to run for higher office, that's silly, said Barbara Bush, possibly the toughest member of her clan. She was referring to the Bushes, the Clintons, and the Kennedys. "There are other families," she said. "I refuse to accept that this country isn't raising other wonderful people." She did clarify her remarks later by saying maybe it would be OK if Jeb, her second-oldest son, ran for president.
So-called mainstream Republicans are profoundly disturbed that Rand Paul, the Tea Party-supported junior senator from Kentucky, is showing a surprising ability to attract young millennial-generation voters, a group that supported President Obama. I suppose many of these sensible Republicans would prefer to rally around someone other than Jeb Bush, knowing that poll numbers suggest voters have little appetite for sending a third Bush to the White House.
But it's hard to think of anyone else who fits the bills.
Various pundits and politicians have been saying for years that Jeb Bush is the smartest of George H.W. Bush's boys, and maybe he is (no great achievement, smart alecs might say). He grew up in Texas and moved to Florida in 1986, and plunged almost immediately into that state's politics. He was elected secretary of commerce, resigned that post in 1988, and ran for governor in 1994, losing by a couple points to Democrat Lawton Chiles. He ran again four years later, and won easily with 55 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 2002 with 56 per cent of the vote.
He was, by most counts, a successful governor, concentrating on improving education in the state, the economy, and the environment. He is, to his lasting credit, deeply sympathetic to the challenges faced by illegal immigrants. Many of them, he said, came here "out of an act of love." Jeb's wife, Columba, was born in Mexico.
He left office in January of 2007, a long time ago in the political time warp. Since then, he 's been doing some writing, giving some speeches, and no doubt thinking about running for president.
He showed up Sunday at his father's presidential library to mark the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the elder Bush's one-term presidency. The event was closed to the media (thought it was moderated by a Fox News anchor, helping to solidify the widespread belief that Fox is the semi-official GOP network). Those who did attend said Jeb promised he would decide whether to run or not by the end of the year. His decision, he said, would depend on whether he or any other candidate could "run with a hopeful, optimistic message, hopefully with enough detail to give people a sense that it's just not idle words and not get back in the vortex of the mud fight."
What was he doing, then, at a forum in Las Vegas a few days earlier sponsored by the casino king, Sheldon G. Adelson, the man who famously bankrolled Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney? Adelson reportedly makes $32 million a day. Republicans came to Las Vegas, where Adelson owns the mammoth Venetian Resort Hotel Casino (8,000 suites and hotel rooms, largest of its kind in the world), to beg for a piece of the casino action. "I don't want to spend millions on another loser," Adelson explained.
It was the least edifying political spectacle this country has seen for a long time.
James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, is contributing regular observations for post-gazette.com. . Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.