(Senator Prescott Bush — father of President George H.W. Bush; grandfather of President George W. Bush and Governor Jeb Bush)
Let’s just say that in 1992, you or someone you know and care about was eight years old. Although my first political memory occurred when I was between four and five years old, I think most kids start remembering presidents when they are eight — but that’s just a guess.
Given current trends in the Bush-Clinton dynastic rivalries, we could conceivably see four and a half decades of political memory spread between just two families.
If Hillary Clinton won the next presidential challenge and held the White House for two terms, that would take us quite a number of decades of Bush-Clinton all on its own. But on Sunday in the Washington Post, S.V. Date speculates in “What Would Jeb Do?” that 43’s brother and 41’s son could run in 2016, 2012, or even this next time in 2008.
Let’s chart this out:
8 years — Age at first “Political Memory” (1980-1988)
4 years — George H.W. Bush administration (1989-1992)
8 years — Bill Clinton administration (1993-2000)
8 years — George W. Bush administration (2001-2008)
8 years — Hillary Rodham Clinton administration (2009-2016) — potentially
8 years — Jeb Bush administration (2017-2024) — potentially
I think that the “dynasty” question is something that the Clinton campaign must have already prepared well in advance to answer — because people in three coffee shops I ventured into today were buzzing about this exact issue. They don’t like dynasties.
But the fact is, America has always had them — and there is a bit of contradiction in despising familial succession and then looking at what Americans have produced in their electoral history. A good book about this is Stephen Hess’s America’s Political Dynasties.
Another DC political anecdote came Thursday evening this last week when I bumped into Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL-18), a member of the House of Representatives representing Florida’s 18th District. Five minutes later, his brother and fellow U.S. House of Representatives Member Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25), joined us for a brief chat at a reception in the Cannon House Office Building Caucus Room.
Lincoln Diaz-Balart began to lobby House International Relations Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA-12) to take note of the new opportunities that surround Fidel Castro’s precipitously collapsing health condition. Diaz-Balart thought that the House International Relations Committee might issue a resolution to be voted on by the full House protesting any “automatic succession” from Fidel Castro to Raul Castro, his brother.
I guess the key term here is “automatic” — and that is important, as I am opposed to “automatic succession” as well. I just don’t know if we Americans are so pure on the subject — though we do invest more in political cosmetics.
But it is interesting to note that the Diaz-Balart brothers, who I enjoyed speaking to and discussing what was happening in Latin America to the problem of an ongoing embargo of Cuba (the conversation changed quickly when I mentioned that), are sons of the former Majority Leader in the Cuban House of Representatives, Rafael Diaz-Balart — who himself was once brother-in-law to Fidel Castro.
In Japan, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the son of the late Japan Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe. One of his LDP rivals, Taro Aso, who is currently Foreign Minister is the grandson of the well-known Japan Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.
And of course, Kim Jong Il in North Korea succeeded his father Kim Il Sung in a Communist state.
China seems to frown on dynastic succession. Hu Jintao and most around him got where they are by their own wits, for the most part.
So, critiquing the Bush and Clinton dynasties is hard to do given our own political history and the realities of similar behavior elsewhere in the world — particularly in democracies.
But it’s still fun to think and argue about.
— Steve Clemons