Bush 2008? Anyone who worries at the prospect will want to have a look at this partial—and revealing—portrait.
The Bushes harbor dynastic ambitions, but the old patrician noblesse oblige has changed. “Somehow,” writes Palm Beach Post Tallahassee bureau chief and longtime John Ellis Bush watcher Dáte, “Prescott Bush’s duty to lead has, through a new combination of chromosomes, mutated into the right to rule.” By Dáte’s account, that conviction impelled George W., older and less gifted, to seek the White House. It may set Jeb Bush—unlike his brother, a reader, policy-minded leader and hard worker—on the same course, unless Dubya so tarnishes the name that no Bush is named dogcatcher, much less chief executive. The brothers do not always get along, especially on Election Day 2000, when it appeared that Jeb, governor of Florida, would not be able to deliver his state. Dáte suggests that a clear-cut Dubya victory might have been in the bag had not Jeb alienated some 300,000 black voters with an attack on affirmative action; but then, as he notes, Jeb, though not racist as such, has some difficulties with minorities, mostly the poor ones, who, in his worldview, bring poverty on themselves. In this, Dáte writes, Jeb is much like his brother. He shares other points on the résumé, having been allowed to use other people’s money—especially the taxpayers’ in the wake of the infamous S&L scandal—to make their fortunes. He is also like his brother in having come to office on a pleasing “compassionate conservatism” platform that instantly hardened into a rightist, “win-at-any-cost” antagonism, much beholden to fundamentalist Christians and the hardcore right. Jeb has also frittered away Floridians’ money by giving massive tax cuts to the rich—Dáte writes that his Democratic predecessors raised taxes and created more jobs than Bush has, disproving his fiscal arguments—and, though priding himself on being an “education governor” of the no-child-left-behind ilk, has much worsened Florida’s schools. There is scarcely a positive note in the book, save that Dáte finds Jeb personally likeable in some measure and notes that Jeb at least registered for the draft during the Vietnam era, even if, as Bush said, he “wanted to get married, work and have a family” and had “no compelling reason to go to Vietnam.”
After reading this, voters may find no compelling reason to support Jeb, either.