If Jeb Bush is going to run for president as something other than a Bush, it will take a transformation worthy of Rachel Dolezal.
And yet the former Florida governor, who once accidentally checked "Hispanic" on a voter registration form, is doing everything but change his appearance to de-emphasize his inheritance. His presidential campaign logo, introduced over the weekend, is a simple exclamation: "Jeb!" His brother, the 43rd president, and his father, the 41st president, were not in attendance forhis presidential announcement speech in Miami on Monday. He didn't even mention them until nearly the end. "In this country of ours, the most improbable things can happen," he said. "Take that from a guy who met his first president on the day he was born and his second on the day he was brought home from the hospital." And then the punch line: "The person who handled both introductions is here today. . . . Please say hello to my mom, Barbara Bush." The adoration of the 90-year-old family matriarch was disrupted by demonstrators who wore T-shirts spelling out "Legal status is not enough." The candidate, taken off script, made a remark about immigration reform, then tried to pick up where he left off. ." Actually, the next heir to the Bush dynasty is going to be returning to his family over and over again, whether he likes it or not. His name is the reason he is a leading contender on the presidential stage, the reason he has an enormous campaign war chest, and the reason he became Florida's governor in the first place. Yet he is pointlessly running from it. "My life began in many ways when I was in Leon, Guanjuato, Mexico, where I met my wife," Bush says in a video put out by his campaign on the eve of his kickoff event. That may be so. But in other ways literal ways his life began when he was born into a patrician family: The grandson of a sitting senator, he went off to boarding school at Andover and vacationed with his future-president father and brother at the family compound in Kennebunkport. His desire to distance himself from dynasty is understandable. His brother presided over an unpopular war and economic collapse. Many Republicans worry that giving their nomination to another Bush will blunt their complaint that the Democrats are giving their nomination to another Clinton. Hence Jeb's awkward dance of keeping his brother at arm's length while attempting not to insult him a dance that tripped up the candidate no fewer than four times as he tried to say whether he would have gone to war in Iraq.
Clinton, in her own kickoff rally over the weekend, had "hillaryclinton.com" on the lectern, mentioned her husband near the top of her speech, and received the former president onstage for a hug. Bush's lectern had his Bush-free Web address, Jeb2016.com, and the signs and thunder sticks shouted "Jeb!" (a logo Bush also used in his gubernatorial campaigns) in a scene reminiscent of Lamar! Alexander's red-plaid bid for the 1996 Republican nomination. There was plenty of salsa music at Bush's Miami "fiesta," and the candidate did his very best to position himself as an outsider. "We don't need another president who merely holds the top spot among the pampered elites of Washington," he proclaimed. "We need someone to challenge and disrupt the whole culture in our nation's capital." He would do this, he said, "because I was a reforming governor, not just another member of the club." But is there anybody who believes Jeb Bush is the man to take on the pampered elites? That this scion will "disrupt the whole culture" any more than did his brother, also a governor, who campaigned in 2000 as a "reformer with results"? Bush was at his best when he ceased this charade and finally embraced his lineage. "Long before the world knew my parents' names, I knew I was blessed to be their son," he said, recalling that they approved of his "cross-border outreach" in finding his future wife in Mexico. He spoke movingly of his wife, Columba, and of his children, who "brought us more Bushes" their "near-perfect" three grandchildren. Good stuff but the only time in the speech, other than the mention of his mother, when John Ellis "Jeb" Bush spoke his famous surname. Bush will own that name no matter what his logo says or who comes to his announcement. He'd be more genuine more of his "own man" if he embraced it.