George W. Bush's former chief of staff: "We have a responsibility to make sure Jeb runs"

Via BuzzFeed, a vignette from the big Bushworld confab over the weekend to honor Bush 41. Imagine if the “tea-party era” in Republican politics, which began after eight years of Dubya and the nomination of John McCain, produced Mitt Romney and then Jeb Bush as presidential nominees.

I’m treating the prospect of another Bush nomination as a test of whether the Republican grassroots, realistically, has any influence at all over who their party chooses. Say what you will about O but his win over Hillary six years ago proved that it’s still possible for the establishment favorite to be beaten in a Democratic primary. When was the last time that happened on our side? If a power complex exists within the party capable of elevating a guy to the nomination (a) who hasn’t run a campaign in 12 years, (b) who’s suspicious to the party’s own base, and (c) whose surname is a heavy liability everywhere in the country except within that power complex, in what way does any sort of conservative activism — at the national level at least — matter?

“We have a responsibility to make sure Jeb runs,” said longtime Bush adviser Andy Card after the speech.

“If Jeb Bush does not run, shame on us.” Card added, “I would work in a Jeb administration in a heartbeat.”

“Look at all of us,” said another former campaign aide, Jill Collins, excitedly motioning to an auditorium filled with former ambassadors, appointees, and cabinet members. “We are all ready to fundraise and start planting yard signs. We have all done it before and we will do it again.”…

“Those of us who support [H.W. Bush] know that he was worthy of a second term,” McGrath said. “The Bush style of leadership needs to return to Washington.”

“If Mitt Romney had had the Jeb package,” said tireless Romney 2012 surrogate John Sununu, “we would have won in 2012.” Even if Jeb doesn’t run, though, or — miraculously — ends up getting beat in the primaries by a righty insurgent, how many former Bush advisors will end up as part of the eventual nominee’s campaign? It may be possible to avoid having another Bush on the ticket. I’m not sure it’s possible to have a new Republican administration that keeps Bushworld out of the White House. Here’s WaPo on the “credentials caucus,” the race among 2016 Republican hopefuls to recruit policy advisors before the primaries start hopping:

With the exception of some voices within the circle of libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), those being tapped hew to Republican norms on foreign policy, with emphasis on a vigorous military and a willingness to use force overseas…

Former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, known for his controversial decisions during the Iraq war, has been courted by several potential candidates and plans to meet with Cruz. Cruz has hired former Rumsfeld aide Victoria Coates as his national security adviser…

Walker is doing more prep on global issues and has developed a bond with Washington Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen, a former George W. Bush speechwriter and a foreign policy hawk. In 2013, when Thiessen helped Walker write the governor’s memoir, they talked via Skype about many issues.

Actual quote: “On foreign policy especially, the potential candidates are still learning. A frequent counselor is Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the GOP’s 2008 nominee.” I’m guessing Cruz isn’t one of them, although the fact that Cruz is hiring Rumsfeld alums means the Cruz/Paul contrast on foreign policy next year will be even sharper than we thought. Maybe that’s Rand’s best play — presenting himself as an alternative not just to Republican orthodoxy generally but to the Bush legacy specifically. Is that too risky in a Republican primary, though, even five years after the tea party emerged? The one virtue of a new Bush candidacy is that it’d be a fascinating temperature check of GOPers about Dubya’s legacy. Are they, after flirtations with libertarianism and isolationism, nonetheless prepared to offer Bush 3.0 to the country? Can the party’s coalition survive that?

The one really obvious move Jeb could make to lighten some of the baggage he’s carrying and present himself to voters as distinctly his own man would be to criticize the Iraq war, even to the point of saying that it never should have happened. I doubt he’s willing to do it, though, and even if he was, he’s on record as recently as last year as saying he thinks people will eventually stop seeing the war as a mistake. Rand’s been tiptoeing away from dad’s views for the past three years and people are still suspicious of his true intentions. Even if Jeb tried the same move vis-a-vis Dubya’s foreign policy, how likely is it he could convince people at this point that he’d be different? And even if he did, how excited would Bushworld be about him then?