If the U.S. Is Going to Have Dynasties, at Least Have Good Ones

The push for Jeb Bush.

Draft Bush! That's the GOP establishment's bold new scheme for 2016.

And people say they’re out of ideas.

“Many if not most” of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney's biggest donors are courting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the Washington Post reported Sunday; the “vast majority” would back him in a nomination fight, according to one top fundraiser. Jeb, brother and son to presidents 43 and 41, respectively, hasn't yet made up his mind: “the decision will be based on ‘Can I do it joyfully?'”

If he can, he's stranger than he seems, and maybe not the sort of fellow we want to trust with nuclear weapons.

Still, Jeb seemed pretty jubilant last fall, at a Philadelphia event, where he and Hillary Clinton, the odds-on favorite for the Democratic nod in 2016, “basked in a mood of bipartisan bonhomie.” Bush was there to give his potential 2016 rival the National Constitution Center's "Liberty Medal." "Hillary and I come from different political parties, and we disagree about a few things," he joked, "but we do agree on the wisdom of the American people -- especially those in Iowa and New Hampshireand South Carolina."

Bundlers are loose in the realm; the battle for the throne is shaping up as House Bush vs. House Clinton, and winter is coming. Oh joy.

In America, any child "may become president, and I suppose it's just one of the risks he takes," two-time Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson once cracked. But we run a bigger risk of getting someone with a famous last name. Since I became aware of politics, sometime around the start of the Iranian hostage crisis, either a Bush or a Clinton has been on a major-party presidential ticket in all but the last two races; 2016 would make it eight out of ten. And consider the irony that one of the main figures standing athwart another Bush-Clinton race is Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., himself the scion of a minor political dynasty.

The Founders wisely barred the federal government from granting "titles of nobility" (though they may have been too quick to dismiss "corruption of blood" as grounds for political disqualification). Still, they recognized that "there is a natural aristocracy among men," as Thomas Jefferson put it to John Adams in 1813, "the grounds of this are virtue and talents."

Neither Jeb nor Hillary, one suspects, is quite what Jefferson had in mind. Like his brother "43," Jeb is given to anti-Jeffersonian tropes about the dangers of "neo-isolationism" and "American passivity" in foreign policy. Hillary thinks it's the president's job to be "commander in chief of our economy," and she's rarely met a war she didn't like, including the Iraq debacle, which she voted for before she was against it.

Alas, political dynasties are hardly a new development in American life. They may even be unavoidable: some intriguing recent research focusing on the prevalence of certain surnames in high-status positions suggests as much.

It may be that the best we can do is what Adam Bellow calls "meritocratic nepotism," an ideal that balances "the privileges of birth" with "the iron rule of merit": connections can get you the job, but you’d better not screw it up.

If so, then we shouldn’t look for Kennedys and Roosevelts, Bushes and Clintons to fill the presidency. Whatever its faults, the Harrison presidential dynasty, William Henry (nine) and grandson Benjamin (23), did less damage than its more-famous rivals: "Tippecanoe" barely lasted a month after his interminable Inaugural Address. And the Tafts — President William Howard (our 31st) and son Robert as a senator — resisted the 20th century drive toward imperial presidencies.

If nepotism's our fate, we should go for better nepots.

This column originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.

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  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    How about the Bush twins instead?

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    I just realized that Jeb Bush looks like a 50/50 cross of W and Tom Brokaw.

  • Pro Libertate||

    In a vacuum, I'd think Bush would be an okay candidate for the GOP. He was a good governor, for the most part. But we can surely come up with someone not named Bush, Clinton, or any other recent president's family name out of a population of over 300 million.

  • Tman||

    That's the weird thing about presidential candidates. You have to be somewhat insane to want to run for president, so our choices are usually going to include people with giant egos and narcissistic tendencies. I mean, these people have to give repetitious speeches on how they are going to "save" America. That is insane on its own.

    It doesn't HAVE to be that way, and there are candidates that are not like this but they usually don't last very long.

  • Pro Libertate||

    If I ever ran, it would be to destroy, not to build. America, I did not come to save your government. I came to bury it.

  • Mainer2||

    "I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is "needed" before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents' "interests," I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can. "

    How did that work out ?

  • WTF||

    Fine, while it lasted.

  • Mainer2||

    Goldwater lost. Maybe if he had said, "Free Shit", he could have won.

  • WTF||

    Calvin Coolidge had the same program. Worked out fine.

  • american socialist||

    so, what happened 19 months after he left office during the term of another pro-business Republican?

  • american socialist||

    sorry... 7 months after he left office. his policies can't possibly be blamed! i now know that socialism is tyranny and only lead to economic catastrophy. after the Obama Depression of 2011, isn't it clear that government efforts to stimulate the economy only lead to 25% unemployment and a ban on whiskey?

  • ||

    Which policy of the prior executive led to Black Tuesday, in your estimation? Or was "post hoc ergo propter hoc" as deeply as you'd ever thought on the subject? On that note, what differed from the Depression of 1920 and the one that began in 1929, after Coolidge left office?

  • Will Nonya||

    Remember if you don't love big brother then you must be the insane one.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    Rick Perry is better than most current governors yet that didn't stop him from saying he wanted to send troops back to Iraq during the GOP debates.

    I mean Jeb's decision is based on whether or not he "can do it joyfully". Now that's sociopathic.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    That's playing to his base. They feel for him, they want him to be happy. It's straight out of the touchy-feely playbook. No policy, just politics.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    Still comes across as "bombs! adrenaline! stimulation! pain on others! more mansions paid for by tax slaves!".

  • Tim||

    AMERICA STAY OUT DA BUSHES!

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    The Bigshits in the GOP are trying to anoint Jeb before the riff-raff choose a loser like Huckabee in primary season.

  • WTF||

    BUSHPIGS!!111!!!!CHRISTFAGS!!111!!!!

  • fish||

    You should endorse the Bush selection Putins Buttplug.....it's a great opportunity to fellate a different flavor of statist!

  • JPyrate||

    Christ hanging from an ash tree !!! Gene you just gave the buttplug a loaded gun to play with.

  • JPyrate||

    Nevermind. It does not have the intelligence to switch off the safety, and pull the trigger.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    So we are headed for Hilary in 2016, George P Bush in 2020, Michelle in 2024, Chelsea Clinton in 2028, and then I'm sure by 2036 Sasha or Malia will be up for the task.

  • Mainer2||

    Thanks for depressing me with that view of the rest of my life.

    Throw in perpetual lawsuits over Obamacare, and I'm ready to my cabin in Monatana right now with my shotgun and typewriter.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    I plan to move to Idaaho, or perhaps to Wyomoming.

  • Mainer2||

    ass whole

  • Lord Humungus||

    You know who else wanted to start a political dynasty?

  • fish||

    Larry Hagman?

  • fish||

    Wait that was Dallas....John Forsythe then!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Good morning, angels!

  • Mainer2||

    Kate Jackson for me...the thinking man's angel.

  • Paul.||

    Emperor Chin?

  • WTF||

    Henry Tudor?

  • Mainer2||

    Hong Taiji

  • Tim||

    Tywin Lannister?

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    Not Hitler.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    +only one ball

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Sprüngli||

    Rudolf von Habsburg?

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Duckula. Count Duckula.

  • Loki||

    Kim Il-Sung.

  • Mainer2||

    The Kennedies are white trash with money.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    No, that's the Clampetts. The Kennedys are Jersey Shore without the class.

  • Restoras||

    Burn!

  • Mainer2||

    Ok I'm stealing that

  • fish||

    Draft Bush! That's the GOP establishment's bold new scheme for 2016.

    Let me just help with that bit of promotional text....

    Draft Bush! Lose to Clinton 2016.

    I like it!

  • Paul.||

    Still no love around here for Biden 2016. It's like the guy doesn't even exist.

  • UnCivilServant||

    He's tainted by his association with Obama at this point, no amount of gaffe laughs will save him.

  • fish||

    Still no love around here for Biden 2016. It's like the guy doesn't even exist.

    If I want to see Joe Biden I just watch "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"! He is the Ruprecht of American politics!

  • Zeb||

    That is a bit surprising. It is sort of traditional that the VP of an outgoing two term president is the assumed frontrunner. People seemed kind of annoyed that Bradley ran against Gore in 2000.

  • Will Nonya||

    "It's like the guy doesn't even exist"

    if only...

  • Tim||

    The Georges


    George the First was always reckoned
    Vile, but viler George the Second;
    And what mortal ever heard
    Any good of George the Third?
    When from earth the Fourth descended
    (God be praised!) the Georges ended.

    Walter Savage Landor

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    I'm George the Eighth, I am,
    George the Eighth I am, I am!
    I got elected by a country abhorred
    To concept of kings and yet before
    There've been 7 other Georges and now I'm the man
    I'm George the Eight, I am!

  • Pro Libertate||

    George, George
    George of the Jungle,
    Strong as he can be.
    (Ahhhhhhhh)
    Watch out for that tree.

    George, George,
    George of the Jungle,
    Lives a life that's free.
    (Ahhhhhhhh)
    Watch out for that tree.

    When he gets in a scrape,
    he makes his escape
    with the help of his friend,
    an ape named Ape.
    Then away he'll schlep
    on his elephant Shep
    While Fella and Ursula
    Stay in step.

    Well....George, George
    George of the Jungle,
    Friend to you and me.
    Watch out for that tree.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Hey there Georgie Girl!
    Na na na na something na na...

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    “He’s the most desired candidate out there,” said another bundler, Brian Ballard, who sat on the national finance committees for Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008. “Everybody that I know is excited about it.”

    Everybody you know is obviously an idiot.

  • Rich||

    Since the bundlers are all in bed with each other, are there bundling boards to keep them separate?

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

  • ||

    "“He’s the most desired candidate out there,” said another bundler, Brian Ballard, who sat on the national finance committees for Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008. “Everybody that I know is excited about it.”

    We should listen to Brian because of his stellar record picking winners.

    Y'know...they have a pretty impressive lineup. Romney, McCain, Dole, and then back to Goldwater. goldwater would probably do better today given the mood of the country, he might even win. The rest of those guys couldn't win a dogcatcher's race. And now Jeb Bush. I see 'LOSE" written all over him.

  • carol||

    I don't care about dynasties one way or the other. There are dozens of reasons why neither Jeb nor Hillary would be a good president and their last names should be the least of anyone's worries. They are two sides of the same fascist coin. The fact that Jeb would curb liberty for good reasons (he's compassionate, don't ya know!) doesn't in anyway distinguish him from Hillary.

  • Bam!||

    connections can get you the job, but you’d better not screw it up.

    Why? Bush fucked up royally before the 2004 election and still won.

  • crazyfingers||

    What about the Duck Dynasty? Bring back the bearded presidency!

  • DJF||

    Draft Bush and send him to Ukraine.

  • On The Road To Mandalay||

    Quite frankly, I would rather see Jeb Bush in the White House than some of these other ding bats who might be running in 2016. Jeb is smarter than his Dad and his brother, and he might have learned from their mistakes. In a way, a hope he makes a run for it and wins.

  • ||

    It is my understanding that his daughter has a serious drug problem that has been the source of a few scandals.

    this makes a red flag pop up for me regarding his character.

  • ||

    Mandalay is the slightly less erudite version of 'Murican, don't waste your time.

  • mohoo||

    Bush vs Clinton, the Military Industrial complex' can't lose match up.

  • Tony||

    Yes, let's nominate someone with the most hated last name in America who will completely negate Hillary's nepotism liability. Looks like the dumb is creeping upward in the GOP.

  • american socialist||

    as a person who considers himself a libertarian there's no way i'm going to vote for someone like bush, who supports restrictions on abortion and gay marriage. i'm supporting rand paul. he likes being called a libertarian alot and is very, very familiar with the movie "Gattaca", which is like my fave when i have insomnia.

  • Spawn of Nyarlathotep||

    So you're a socialist *and* a libertarian?

    Wotta coincidence: I'm a fundamentalist Muslim *and* and atheist!

  • ||

    That's gonna hurt. They can't afford to lose a demographic as large as the functional retard contingent.

  • american socialist||

    hey gene, quick question since we are talking about integrity and the bush administration. since you guys have gone all antiwar and stuff now that a Democrat is in office i'm wondering if you still have john yoo on your board of directors? is he still writing articles on drone warfare in pakistan or has he moved onto writing about how bombing libya is more oba tyranny?

  • VoluntaryBeatdown||

    Implying bombing Libya isn't fucking tyranny.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    What is the daily ration of toilet paper in the socialist paradise of Venetopia these days?

  • GroundTruth||

    Didn't you hear? They ran out of toiletpaper, so they've switched to sandpaper. Apparently there's a run on the 120, and even the 80 grit is starting to move off of the shelves.

  • american socialist||

    You mean in Denmark? It's about 50 cents a roll. How is your student loan payment? You know how much it costs to go to the DTU -- one of the finest technical universities in the world? I'll give you 3 guesses. Do libertarians factor in the lack of a social safety net and things like $500/month student loan payments, brought to you by the wunderkind at BofA, when they are quoting back those stellar disposable income numbers? I wonder.

  • XM||

    You get way more free stuff in the United States. Way, way more. And no one gives more to undocumented foreign nationals than America.

    I have cousins and friends living in Europe. The people over there are legendarily aloof, rude, xenophobic, and options on many things are limited. Smokers are everywhere, their cars looks rough and patched, streets are soaked with urine, etc.

    What Danish university more prestigious than institutions like UCLA or Brown? Can someone without papers attend school there or receive financial aid?

    Forget Denmark, Canada is right above us, and that place is still white as snow.

  • ||

    Denmark is arguably less socialist than America in a lot of ways. Nevertheless, I'm gonna clean up importing 44 cent per roll American toilet paper. Like a B of A wunderkind.

    Do libertarians factor in the lack of a social safety net and things like $500/month student loan payments, brought to you by the wunderkind at BofA, when they are quoting back those stellar disposable income numbers?

    Do functional retards factor in taxation and things like billions of dollars worth of lost wage-hours preparing tax documents when they are quoting back those stellar "free" benefits?

  • I can't trust my fans||

    Hi as,

    This comment is meant to be genuine and not sarcastic.

    Thank you for injecting some intellectual diversity onto this comment board. It was becoming too much like a circle jerk.

    I'm still a (moderate, heterodox, self-critical) libertarian, though.

    Cheers!

  • american socialist||

    Hi, thanks a lot. I agree with a lot of what is written here and think that it's a good idea to keep the power of government in check. I'm actually quite sympathetic to the goals of libertarians.

  • ||

    since you guys have gone all antiwar and stuff now that a Democrat is in office

    https://www.google.com/#q=site:reason.com+iraq+war

    You're welcome

  • XM||

    Jeb Bush isn't going to win. No conservative who matters is excited about Jeb Bush.

    It's going to be Rand vs. Christie in the primary.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    You don't think Cruz or Rubio will be in there too? I can see establishment going for Jeb just because of the connections. If Christie hadn't had the bridge fuckup he'd have that block locked up. Oops.

  • XM||

    Rubio lost some of his spark. I don't think the moderate crowd that backed Romney will warm up to Cruz.

  • GroundTruth||

    Almost hope the fat one takes it. Rand is doing a pretty decent job right where he is. I'll vote for him, but don't think the media will ever allow him to get elected in the general election.

  • american socialist||

    Yeah man, he's being brought down by the librul media. Libertarians everywhere should support the candidacy of a man just itching to force a women to carry a baby to term in order to satisfy the dictates of Jesus.

    I can't figure out what I find more laughable. People that will vote for whatever hack politician the RP puts forward or the right-wing Gary Johnson libertarian cult types?

  • XM||

    What stopped the woman from having sex, or using a pill?

    You carry that baby for 9 months, give him or her for adoption, and you bring joy to someone's life.

    Give me a break, socialists are responsible for death and destruction all over the world.

  • ||

    Libertarians everywhere should support the candidacy of a man just itching to force a women to carry a baby to term in order to satisfy the dictates of Jesus.

    There's a minority of libertarians that would apply the NAP to fetuses and oppose abortion on those grounds. Also, Abrahamic religious proscriptions on abortion come from the Torah, which predates jeebus by about, oh, 600 years. It's a relatively minor issue regardless of one's viewpoint since SCOTUS has already decided it constitutionally and it is literally not legally possible to outlaw the procedure or prevent women from availing themselves of it. No president could even restrict the procedure as severely as, say, socialist Denmark does.

    I can't figure out what's more laughable. When your abject stupidity or your ignorance.

  • ||

    Also, your objection is rather hilarious coming from someone who holds as an exemplar of socialism a state which collects a church tax.

  • I can't trust my fans||

    By the time primary season is in full swing, he's going to be "the former fat one" due to bariatric surgery.

    He's still a cheater, a scumbag, and a loudmouth. The American People see a lot of themselves in him. He could plausibly be our next President.

    America is rotten because most of our citizens are rotten. The whole world would be better off if we disappeared into the ocean. And now the government thinks I'm a fucking terrorist. Howdy, Mr. NSA Officer!

  • antisocial-ist||

    Were any conservatives excited about Romney or McCain? Was anybody?

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  • Rhino||

    Probably wouldn't vote for either a Republican or Democrat, no matter who the candidate is.

    Funny thing though. People started talking about potential candidates for 2016 on Nov 6th 2012. As soon as Obama won, everyone couldn't wait for it to be over.

  • jeeenmik||

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail
    ✒✒✒✒✒
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  • A nation of boiled frogs||

    If it's going to be Bush versus Clinton, can't we just declare that the Director of National Intelligence is the President and be done with the pretense?

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