When you mention the prospect of Clinton vs. Bush 2016 a funny thing happens.
First, there is the reflexive response: "Oh no, not again. We don't need more dynastic politics in this country."
But upon further reflection, you realize Jeb Bush vs. Hillary Clinton would be a great race and actually good for the country.
QUALIFICATIONS—THEY’VE BOTH GOT THEM.
Barack Obama won the presidency because in an election where the premium was on change, it mattered little that he was inexperienced. In fact, it was an asset.
Presidential campaigns are more about the outgoing president than the challenger each party faces. No matter who the nominees end up being in 2016, it's a pretty sure bet their message focus will be much more on competence and experience than a fresh face.
Clinton and Bush would bring a world of experience to the White House. Not only are they known for their competence and deep policy chops, but they are surrounded by a deep network of highly capable staffers, operatives, allies and friends who actually know how government works. If either Clinton or Bush were elected, they would seed the federal government with people who actually know what they are doing.
True, many associate partisan politics with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, but Hillary and Jeb have demonstrated a surprising level of respect for civil dialogue and bipartisanship. In fact, Bush, as chairman of the board of trustees of the National Constitution Center located in Philadelphia last year awarded Clinton their annual Liberty Medal saying: “Former Secretary Clinton has dedicated her life to serving and engaging people across the world in democracy."
And Hillary Clinton has been increasingly vocal about the problems resulting from hyper-partisanship. Last week, Clinton said that excessive partisanship is causing the U.S. to march "backwards instead of forward" and declared we need to "get back to evidence-based decision making" in her belief that “compromise is an essential part of running a great democracy.”
LINCOLN DOUGLAS-STYLE DEBATES
Perhaps more than any other debates in presidential history, debates between Jeb and Hillary would be engaging, respectful, substantive, high road, civil and, most importantly, worthy of our time and attention. Full stop.
Both Clinton and Bush support early childhood education intervention strategies—but with much different approaches. Jeb Bush has an extraordinary record on education in Florida where among other achievements he’s established an extremely successful free, voluntary (about 80 percent participate) Pre-K program that requires no taxes. And I’ve had the privilege to work with Secretary Clinton on a campaign called “Too Small to Fail” that aims to help parents and businesses take meaningful actions to improve the health and education of children ages zero to five. I'd pay per view to watch them debate issues like these.
MIDDLE AMERICA—ITS REPRESENTED BY BOTH.
Contrary to the Pavlovian GOP notion of Clinton, she is generally centrist in her views and approach. Thinking of all the possible Democratic alternatives who might win the nomination should she decide not to run, they are mostly much worse for Republicans in terms of policy and politics.
Jeb Bush recently stuck a stick in the GOP beehive on immigration and common core education standards. He had the audacious decency and candor to say that people who came to the Unites States illegally in search of a better life for their children "broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's an act of love." And Bush has been a vocal supporter of education standards that specify what math and reading skills students should achieve in each grade.
Which of course has set off the dog whistles among the local control jihadists in the GOP.
FINALLY, THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT.
In the mid-90s, Republicans had gone from brief ascendancy under Newt Gingrich's Contract With America to a government shutdown in 1996, which turned off a whole lot of Americans and helped to re-elect a Democrat like Bill Clinton. But then some Republicans like George W. Bush emerged on the stage with a different approach, a message about compassionate conservatism; about a limited, but proactive role of the federal government on issues like education and immigration reform.
And it was those issues and that message almost 20 years ago that attracted a then-conservative Democrat to cross the bridge and become a progressive Republican willing to support and then work for George W. Bush.
Interesting parallels: Gingrich burning down the house in 1996; Tea party now doing the same now. Enter a candidate like Bush, talking about the importance of a federal role in reforming education and immigration.
I chuckle when I hear “movement conservatives” talk about how it's a different era and how Jeb Bush hasn't run a campaign since 2002 and doesn't understand the dynamics of the current Republican Party. You mean, the dynamics where we haven't won the Presidency in the last two presidential elections? Oh yeah, that dynamic.
Some rabid conservatives call me a "RINO" (Republican in Name Only) or a “squish," but it's us “squishes" who made it possible for a Republican to be elected president the last time around. The Republican Party has indeed changed in the last decade. But most of America, the people who create majorities and elect presidents in general elections, have not.
Clinton vs. Bush? Count me in.