The Corner

Is Jeb for Real?

In an interview recently, Jeb Bush said of the GOP: “We can’t be Democrat-lite. We can’t just ‘get along.’” He said: “We have to actually be proposing solutions to what appear to be intractable problems as it relates to education, healthcare, infrastructure. Across the board there are ways that we can show that we are truly on the side of the people that are concerned about the future of the country, without abandoning our principles.”

That’s what I was getting at in my Holder post earlier. Be a shadow government. Don’t announce it’s a free ride. And, yes, have proposals that are principled and will clearly make a difference in people’s lives (this is what NR urged John McCain to do again and again during the campaign) — all kinds of people.

And I have little problem with Jeb either when he talks about immigration and tone. (He talked about immigration at a National Review Institute summit a few years back in a well-received speech.) A heckuva lot of politics is about perception. And let’s face it: We’re perceived badly. We’ve got to fix that. (There is clearly more of a conversation to be had with anyone named Bush about immigration, but I think that we need to have that conversation regardless of whether or not Jeb is running for office again or not.)

So is Jeb just a great talker milking the speculation about him running for Senate in light of Mel Martinez’s announcement this week that Martinez will not be running for reelection? He is a good talker. But he also has a record as a doer — including staying involved in education reform since he’s left the governor’s mansion.

I talked to a few Florida politicos yesterday who do believe Jeb is taking the Senate-run possibility seriously. One said the former governor really ought to be, too, because Jeb sounds positively “inspiring” talking about the future of the party. But almost everyone wonders if he really wants to go to Washington. One think tanker I talked to said: “I think he’d make a formidable candidate, but I also think that he and — especially — his wife, Columba, enjoy living in South Florida, more or less out of the spotlight. I also think that he enjoys working in the private sector while also continuing his quest to reform education. He was very much in his element last June during the national ‘Education Summit’ that the James Madison Institute and Mr. Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education co-sponsored.”

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