Jeb’s Trip to the Border
Sizing up that other Bush from Texas.
Forty percent of the people who have served as president during my lifetime are men named Bush. I have no personal animus against the latest iteration, whose name is Jeb, but I doubt I’ll summon much enthusiasm for another Bush until it’s Jenna’s turn to make a play for high office.
With that said, Bush—the Jeb one—is, in addition to being the former governor of Florida and a current candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, a Texan. He was born in Midland and raised in Houston. He is also the father of Texas’s new land commissioner (another George), and enjoys some support in the state. So we would be remiss if we failed to observe that Bush (again, the Jeb one) made a pilgrimage to McAllen this week.
While on the border, Bush spoke on immigration, presumably with a view to striking a more moderate tone than the current Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, and apparently part of an effort to add nuance to his own reference to “anchor babies” the previous week. Reviews were decidedly mixed, not in the sense that Bush received some criticism and come praise, but in that he was criticized by some observers, and excoriated by others. The editorial board of the New York Times was among the latter, arguing that Bush’s efforts at diplomacy—and his attempt to explain away his “anchor babies” remark—actually made matters worse:
In less than 15 minutes, Mr. Bush managed to step on his message, to give Mr. Trump a boost and to offend Asian-Americans, a growing population that is every bit as important as Latinos in winning presidential elections. And he failed to give Latino voters any persuasive evidence that he had anything better to offer them than his opponents in a revoltingly xenophobic Republican campaign.
Michael Lewis, writing for Vanity Fair, took the contrary view, such as it is, arguing that whatever Bush’s shortcomings, he’s obviously not the most noxious person in the field:
In defending himself to reporters on Monday, Bush claimed, obviously dishonestly, that he was referring to Asian businesses that bring pregnant women in on tourist visas. The Times admits that “the phenomenon is real,” but instead of criticizing Trump for phony umbrage on behalf of both Asians and Latinos, went after Bush for giving Trump the opportunity to start “an unnecessary battle.”
I find it hard to argue with Lewis’s reasoning. To me, Trump makes Mike Huckabee look like a gentleman and a scholar. At the same time, it’s a safe bet that Jeb, as the son of one president and brother of another, can count on being held to the normal professional standards of a presidential candidate, Trump notwithstanding. To that end, if he needs any help with message discipline practice—and recent events suggest he might—I’d suggest he consult his son George P. Bush, who has, after nearly eight months in statewide office, done nothing to discredit the state, unlike several of his peers.