Former Florida governor Jeb Bush was in Seattle on September 27, speaking at a dinner for the Washington Policy Center ("Improving lives through market solutions") held at the downtown Westin. Interested in what the older, somewhat less strident Bush brother would says about the presidential race, I headed down to the hotel, where he was having a press availability before his talk.
It wasn't hard for me to pick Bush out in the small room, filled with men in suits, where a few reporters had gathered to question him. A woman helping to run publicity for the Policy Center had a more difficult time, however, confusing him with another be-suited man in the room—another reminder for Jeb Bush that he is not the Bush brother people tend to remember. (He laughed it off, and later told a self-deprecating story about passing through airports unnoticed, an experience his brother will never have.)
I asked Bush what he thinks of the current Republican field, which is remarkable for how unsettled it remains so close to the first primaries. "It's wide-open," Bush agreed. He wouldn't name a favored contender, but did say that he really admires Mike Huckabee for his accomplishments as governor of Arkansas.
Would Bush be interested in the vice-presidential slot when the Republicans eventually settle on a nominee?
"I'm in self-imposed exile for a year," he said. "I had a pretty intense job... I'm really taking a year off from being involved in politics... In all honesty, my dream came true when I got to be elected governor."
I noted that his brother would soon have some time off from politics and wondered if he had any advice for him. He laughed.
"No," he said. "He's going to be in a different realm than I am... I'm not worried about him. He's got a compass that points north. He'll spend some time in Crawford."
Okay. What about all this dynasty talk? Bush-Clinton-Bush, and now maybe Clinton again. Good for the country?
"I think that's a legitimate question, to be honest with you," he said. "I'm not casting aspersions on Hillary at all. But this is a big country. There are 300 million people. I could see why people would think it a little off that there's been a Bush or Clinton in office since 1988."
So does he believe, like his brother, that Clinton is a shoo-in to be the Democratic nominee?
"I think that she's going to be tough to beat in the primary," he said.
I asked: What about all the criticism that your brother gets these days for his decisions and attitude as president? Your father has been vocal about how it hurts him. What about you? Does it hurt you?
"I hate it," he told me. "I hate it because I know it hurts my dad, and I hate it because he's my brother."
But, Bush added, he doesn't worry too much about his brother in the end. "He's got a tranquility that's pretty amazing and he's accepted the fact that some of his decisions are controversial. I don't think he's angry. He doesn't personalize any of this—and that gives me some comfort, because I take it personally."
Someone in the room asks: Any presidential plans of your own?
Bush's response: "I don't have that blind ambition that you need to have to be running for president."