Amid the wreckage of the Mitt Romney presidential debacle and the Republican scramble to find a new savior, now comes ... yet another Bush!
The ruminations of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, son of one former president and younger brother of another, on maybe seeking the presidency in 2016 raises among other possibilities another campaign clash of the Bush and Clinton dynasties.
The talk of Jeb, now touring the talk-show circuit peddling his new book, "Immigration Wars," conjures up a matchmaker's dream of one political heir against another, former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
A Democratic consensus seems already to be building that if the latter chooses to run in 2016, she will "clear the field." That is, she will scare off any other party hopefuls, including Vice President Joe Biden, and have the party's nomination for the asking.
A similar scenario may be brewing on the Republican side, although with considerably less certainty of chasing away other GOP hopefuls, for an obvious reason. Many voters in both major parties may consider a third Bush in the White House a bit too much of a good thing, or even a downright calamity.
If so, such a judgment would be unfair to the second Bush son, who established a credible record as governor in Florida, and who in two terms there showed none of the megalomaniacal traits of his brother that wrecked this country's domestic and foreign policies for eight years.
Jeb Bush has projected himself more in the image of his father, a well-meaning if often hapless Republican weather vane who adhered to the conservatism of Ronald Reagan after a career of relative moderation and personal goofiness. The senior Bush's presidency, however, proved to be sufficiently uninspiring to deny him a second term.
The third Bush seems to be neither as eager to please the GOP's conservative core as his father was, nor as reckless nor as persuadable to power-driven subordinates as Dubya was. Yet the Bush label bears such political and policy barnacles from the two Georges as to render him a vulnerable target to Democratic assaults.
Another possible Republican candidate, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, told Politico recently that "if you took your finger and covered his last name, and just talked about 'Jeb,' there'd be a lot of us who would have been talking about him running for president a lot sooner."
Jeb Bush has resurfaced just as Republican appraisers of the Mitt Romney defeat are rushing pell-mell to address their party's several deficiencies in support from minorities, and particularly with Hispanic-American voters. The Floridian is bolstered by his marriage to a Latina wife, his fluency in Spanish and a familiarity with the culture.
But the timing of his book's release may be initially unfortunate for him, in that he speaks in it of a position on immigration reform not likely to thrill that particular ethnic voting bloc. He says he now advocates a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but only if they first return to their countries of origin — the notion advocated by Mr. Romney and dubbed "self-deportation" by others.
That Romney caveat appeared designed in the 2012 Republican primaries to placate party conservatives opposed to what they called "amnesty" toward immigrants who entered and have stayed in this country illegally. Mr. Bush now says he would back such a path as long as it "isn't an incentive for people to come illegally" and would comport with the rule of law. All of which led Republican Sen. Jeff Flake to say it left him "a bit perplexed," hardly a perception a candidate for office would want to leave.
The younger Bush has pointedly said he has no more than opened the door to a possible presidential candidacy, telling one television interviewer: "I'm not saying yes. I'm just not saying no," which moves him away from previously stated disinclinations.
Nevertheless, what he has now uttered casts a shadow on the presidential ambitions of fellow Floridian Sen. Marco Rubio, considered the early poster-boy of the Hispanic-American bloc. It certainly adds interest, if not clarity, to the GOP presidential nomination race in 2016, with plenty of time for more confusion.
Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption" (William Morrow). His email is email@example.com. Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts