COMMENTARY | Former President George W. Bush has decorously avoided, for the most part, commenting publically on political matters, concentrating instead on his painting. But he did find the time to address the Republican Governors Association.
The content of the address have been kept secret, but is presumed to contain words of safe advice from Bush’s years as both a governor and president. It may also be part of the campaign by the moderate wing of the Republican Party to make sure it is not taken over by the tea party. This is because New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is said to have arranged from the surprise speech,
The address also highlighted the idea that the Republicans should pick a governor for its nominee in 2016. This is not a frivolous argument, since governors are presumed to have executive experience that is easier translated to the presidency than do senators. Successful presidents such as Bush, Ronald Reagan and, to some extent, Bill Clinton had been governors before being elected to the Oval Office. Of course, Jimmy Carter had also been a governor and was not, mildly speaking, very successful.
Governors are also presumed to be isolated from the mess in Washington. If one can run a state with any sort of alacrity, like Scott Walker in Wisconsin or Rick Perry in Texas, the thought is that one can translate that success to the federal level.
Of course the political culture in Washington is far different than that of most state capitals. Bush was able to get along with Texas Democrats, including Lt. Governor Bob Bullock, by turning on the charm and offering respect. Except for a few brief months after 9/11, Bush’s outstretched hand across the aisle was pretty much slapped away by congressional Democrats. Partisanship reigns supreme inside the Beltway and there is likely little that can be done with it. The prize is the ability to affect the lives of over 300 million Americans and shape events around the world. That is the sort of power that people tend to fight for to the last ditch.