Over the weekend, former Florida governor and momentary Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush made an appearance on CNN’s “The Axe Files” hosted by David Axelrod, and declared that Republicans should launch a challenge to President Trump in the 2020 presidential race.
You really do have to stop for a second and give Jeb credit. The man just won’t quit.
In the interview, Bush was on a roll. He criticized the president for his “dangerous” policies on trade. He spoke of “unilateralism or go-it-alone-ism” in foreign policy and how dangerous it is. He said, “Our friends no longer believe they can trust the United Sates and our enemies, in many cases, feel emboldened by [his] approach.”
All rhetoric. No evidence.
Bush further said that the president has defied the “bipartisan kind of consensus on foreign policy that has, by and large, kept America safe.”
Again, no evidence. More rhetoric.
Finally, he said Republicans should be given a choice between different ideologies (an interesting articulation for a primary) and that “to have a conversation about what it is to be a conservative, I think it’s important.”
I think Jeb missed the conversation we had about that very question back in 2015 and 2016. It isn’t his fault. He had to leave early.
I’m not sure what the measure of success would be for a Republican challenger who runs against the president. That person is not going to win, no matter who he or she is. Would the objective be to set himself up as a successor for 2024? Maybe, but then that person would run with the moniker of “betrayer” to every single supporter of President Trump.
Maybe he or she would run in order to help “beat up” the president and make him weaker in the general election so that the Democrat could win?
Wait. I forgot. That is what establishment Republicans accused then-candidate Trump of doing back in 2015. Remember the rumor that he was really running to help the Clintons? We subsequently learned that to be false when he routed her on election day.
Whatever the reason someone might challenge, I say, bring it on! Any challenge to the president from any member of the political establishment expressing the kind of “ideology” Jeb would like to have a “conversation” about will only serve to strengthen the president’s support and remind people why they voted for him in the first place.
A colleague of mine as far back as March of 2015 predicted not only that Donald Trump would declare as a candidate, but that he would likely be able to win the nomination. At that moment, not too many people were making that prediction and certainly, no political experts shared that belief.
When I asked my colleague why he thought Donald Trump would win, his answer was telling and remains relevant today when contemplating a 2020 primary challenger. He said that if Trump ran, there would come a moment when he would be up on stage during a debate with the other Republican candidates. Trump would be asked a question by the moderator. And he would do something that is simply not done in conventional American politics.
He would answer the question.
It might not be a polished answer and it might not be politically correct, but it would be direct, and it would reflect whatever he really thought about the matter. It would be candid and refreshing.
Then, my colleague continued, the moderator would turn to the next candidate and ask the same question. That person would be faced with a choice: Do I answer the question directly (something politicians hate to do), or would I deflect to my talking points and stories about growing up poor? If that candidate did the latter, he or she was going to look so weak and pathetic juxtaposed to Trump that Trump would easily vanquish the field.
They did, and he did.
There has been so much controversy surrounding the Trump presidency that someone who isn’t obsessed with politics may just want it all to stop. It is easy to start to think, “Yes, I voted for him and I don’t think he’s doing a bad job, but is his presidency worth all this conflict?”
A Republican challenger to the president in the 2020 election will remind those people that it is indeed worth it. I think the president would welcome the “conversation.”