Why Jeb Bush’s Advice to Republicans is Wrong
by Alex Urban | University of Georgia
On Wednesday, Jeb Bush offered advice to 2012 Republican presidential candidates via Fox News:
I hope that the Republican candidates–when they are offering their solutions–it’s good to be critical of the president, I think the president means well, but his policies have failed. And to point that out, nothing is wrong with that. That is politics. But just to stop there and say, ‘Well, I’m going to win because I am against what is going on’ is not enough.
There is one problem with that statement, Jeb: it isn’t true. At all.
Jeb Bush is, in my opinion, the brightest Bush son (though I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about the third brother who didn’t get into politics). In fact, I think Jeb should have been president instead of his brother, George (remember him?). I don’t harbor the deep hatred of all things Bush that has permeated our generation; as a political science scholar I judge him based on performance. President Bush was pretty mediocre, but not comparable to Hitler or Stalin, no matter how much the internet tries to convince me.
But I take Jeb’s opinion to heart. He was a strong governor in Florida, helping clean up its education system, protecting the everglades, and making himself more accessible to the public than previous governors. He was the first Republican governor in Florida history to ever be re-elected to a second term.
Clearly the man has some political knowledge, so then why do I disagree with his statements about the 2012 presidential race? Because they are wrong.
To find an example of a time when Bush’s statements can be proven inaccurate, one has to open up the history books and go all the way back to the 2008 presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain.
If you can remember back that far, the 2008 race featured an unpopular lame-duck president (our old pal, George) vs. the polished and charismatic Barack Obama, who had the same amount of experience in executive politics as I did at the time. …Now before you write our editors pointing out my error in the preceding sentence, let’s agree that for all practical purposes, Obama was running against Bush. It didn’t matter who the Republicans put on the chopping block in 2008, they were battling negative public opinion about the Bush administration.
How did Obama win the 2008 election despite being weak in experience? He hammered the previous administration (and then-candidate McCain) for the problems they created. I am sure we all remember the rhetoric of “hope” and “change” that surrounded Obama’s 2008 campaign. The biggest knock on Obama’s campaign in 2008 was that nobody knew what the hell his policies actually were. He was so vague and general with his rhetoric, that it wasn’t apparent what exactly he was going to change. And that strategy worked to perfection, exactly as planned.
People like hearing that things are going to change; they aren’t interested in hearing a nuts-and-bolts description of foreign, domestic and economic policy. Policies aren’t actually exciting to anyone but the highly educated and those studying political science, so Obama played the best hand he had, his charisma.
By examining this election, we can clearly see a case where a candidate won by solely pointing out the follies of another person or group.
I believe Jeb Bush has a more hidden agenda with his comments. He is subtly distancing himself from the Tea Party candidates who are constantly spitting verbal fire at Obama. Though he is currently “neutral” in his support for the Republican candidates, I think he is leaning towards supporting a more even-keeled candidate like Mitt Romney, who will be unveiling his job-creation strategy soon.
Whatever his motives for making the comments, Jeb Bush isn’t correct in saying that it is necessary to do anything more than just attack a candidate to win–Barack Obama already proved that.Alex Urban is a NGJ Voices Contributor and Public Relations Master's student at the University of Georgia. He graduated from Clemson University in 2011 and was the editor of Clemson's school paper's (The Tiger News) opinions section. He is interested in a wide range of topics from international relations to sports and pop culture.