Jeb Bush came here this weekend to bask in the glow of his extended family. His sister called him “remarkable and brilliant,” a president-in-waiting. His mother said she had changed her mind, that it was time after all for another Bush in the White House. And his father, the 41st president, cheered him on.
Yet even as Bush embraced his dynastic family as relatives, he tried not to get saddled by them as politicians. When a reporter asked how he might have handled differently his brother’s unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush said: “I won’t talk about the past; I’ll talk about the future. . . . It’s not about re-litigating anything in the past.”
But it won’t be so easy to escape the burdens of being a Bush. Wrestling with how to handle the legacies of the two previous, controversial presidents in the family, Bush and his advisers say one of his foremost challenges will be to establish his own political identity distinct from theirs, just as he did in two successful campaigns for governor in Florida.
The campaign stickers his supporters wore back then, and which they are sporting anew these days, say “Jeb!” with no hint of the Bush name that comes after.
There are other ways the Bush team thinks the Jeb brand could be unique. His father, George H.W. Bush, governed as a free-spending, tax-raising, foreign-policy pragmatist, while Jeb Bush aims to offer himself as a small-government conservative reformer motivated chiefly by domestic concerns.
Where older brother George W. Bush was widely regarded as an incurious and at times inept executive, Jeb Bush believes he might appeal to voters as a competent and detail-oriented leader with wonkish curiosity and a zest for big ideas.
The 41st president presented himself as an patrician patriot and public servant, while the 43rd styled himself as a brush-clearing cowboy with Texas bravado. The Bush who hopes to become the 45th president thinks he can do so by portraying himself as the embodiment of modern America’s cultural melange: a fluent Spanish speaker and Catholic convert who married a Mexican immigrant, made Miami his home and preaches a gospel of inclusion and opportunity.
SOURCE: Philip Rucker