Jeb Bush has finally faced up to the fact that he is not going to be president of the US and has ended his campaign for the Republican nomination. It must be a particularly bitter pill for him to swallow given that he was the son, not his brother George W, who was always thought to be the one who would be president and was groomed for it by his parents,
While GW was older, he was the wild and irresponsible one, while Jeb was the serious one who built up a resume as governor of Florida as a stepping stone to the presidency. But GW’s surprising rise to the presidency and his terrible policies in office left such a dubious Bush legacy that Jeb could neither shake off nor embrace his family, despite his attempts during his campaign to do both at different times. It did not help that Donald Trump knocked him off his stride from the get-go and he simply did not have the political instincts to recover, running at best a lackluster campaign. There is little doubt in my mind that had Trump not been in the race, Jeb could have easily won the Republican nomination, given his overwhelming financial and institutional party support.
There is a parable somewhere in this story of the ne’er do well sibling coming out ahead of the responsible one, but neither the tale of the biblical prodigal son nor the story of the ant and the grasshopper quite seems to fit.
One must wonder at the many ‘what ifs’ going through Jeb’s mind. He was governor of Florida during the infamous recount of the 2000 election and he worked mightily to see that his state’s electoral college votes went to his brother, giving him the presidency. If he had not put his finger on the scales so heavily and GW had lost, Jeb might well have been able to become president later, perhaps in 2008, unencumbered by the public’s Bush fatigue, and at a time before Trump made his move.
This passage from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act IV, Scene 3) spoken by Brutus perhaps best describes Jeb’s situation.
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
History will record that Jeb missed his current and lost his venture.