As it happens, I'm in the mood to defend the Bush who's about to leave office. But that's for a future column. Right now, my attention is on the Bush who has been out of office for a few years. The president's younger brother, Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, is living a successful life as a private citizen and policy wonk, working primarily on education reform. But just after Thanksgiving, Florida's Republican senator, Mel Martinez, announced that he will not be running for re-election in 2010. And with that news, we learned the future of Jeb Bush.
Mind you, if the world were a different place, I might be writing you in two years explaining what a great presidential candidate Jeb Bush would be for the Republicans. But judging by today's political climate, that option seems far-fetched. Is that fair? Not really. Not only was Jeb Bush one of the most conservative governors -- the kind with real executive skill whom the GOP should be looking toward for leadership -- but one of the best, period.
And though the Oval Office may be out of sight for Jeb, that's OK. Right now, our ailing government needs a good man from Florida to head to Washington and shake things up. Bush clearly has his eye on Martinez's seat, and nearly every Florida wag I've talked to says that he would win it easily. "I think he'd really add a lot to the debate in Congress," one admirer and longtime Washington aide told me upon returning from Florida this week. The comment gelled with everything I had been hearing from sources close to Bush and politicos in the state.
Running against the Washington establishment has been a resonant campaign strategy this year. Mitt Romney didn't win the Republican presidential nomination, but gained traction during the primary campaign with his claims that Washington is broken. Barack Obama -- even though he was a U.S. senator at the time -- did something similar. John McCain -- even though he's been a creature of the capital for decades -- followed suit. Radio-talk-show host Sean Hannity echoes the sentiment daily. People aren't happy with Washington.