Wednesday, July 8, 2009 at 3:40 p.m.
For all his annoying bow-tied smarm and often embarrassing behavior (Dancing With the Stars, anyone?) Tucker Carlson has emerged as one of the few high-profile conservative journalists who seems unafraid -- or able -- to get to the root of the Republican party's dire problems. It's through Carlson's eyes that the latest issue of Esquire presents former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. The two met for an in-depth interview at Bush's office in Coral Gables.
Unsurprisingly, for all his potentially damaging family connections and mixed legacy in Florida, Bush comes off as one of the few high-profile voices in the Republican party who seems generally interested in fixing his party's problems.
Compared to another (soon-to-be) former Republican Governor, Bush comes off as a far more professional. He's a good candidate to put his party back on track either through elected office, or to borrow a phrase, to "effect positive change outside government."
Bush seems generally confused by the Joe the Plumber phenomenon, He thinks labeling Obama and other liberals as socialists is "a turnoff. It doesn't help." While he doesn't dismiss Rush Limbaugh as "an entertainer," he recasts him as only a "part of a mosaic of people and thought in the conservative movement."
As far as his thoughts on who may become the leader of his party he bypasses most of the current major players (save for Newt Gingrich) and instead points to the fact that just five years ago Barack Obama was a state senator. So, he says, the next generation of conservative leaders may be people few are familiar with now. He mentions St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. If Marco Rubio's name came up, it didn't make the final edit. As far as his own possible political future, he says his main goal is financial stability for his family, not blind political ambition.
He also hones in on the GOP's problem of Hispanic outreach.
"The people that are on television are the loudest on the immigration issue. The emotion, the anger, is a signal. Put aside the substance, but just in terms of the language. It makes it sound like them and us. And the evidence is that after [the GOP] making major inroads, Hispanics have turned toward the Democratic party in the last two election cycles. Big time. Compare that to how my brother did and how I did and how other Republican candidates have done in the past and you can see a trend line that's quite disturbing."
Jeb's solution for this is much like the solution he offers to most other political problems -- The GOP desperately needs a new tone, a fresh coat of paint, and most importantly new ideas. That doesn't mean abadoning conservative principals to Bush. It means, the Republican faithful need to stop directly channeling the ideas Ronald Regean, and start channeling his general attitude and communication skills.
"In general conservatism has gotten a little nostalgic and less focused on the here and now, and on the future. I'm a huge Ronald Reagan fan. The Republican primary was almost all about Ronald Reagan: Who was the heir to Ronald Reagan? Well, I mean, Ronald Reagan would be talking about ideas, would be talking about broad principles, would be talking about issues, more than what we heard in the primaries. The world is radically different than it was in the 1980s, dramatically different."