The Clintons and the Bushes Will Meet in the U.S. Presidential Election.
The upcoming 2016 U.S. presidential election promises to be a political duel between members of two infamous families. On one side, the wife of the 42nd American president, Hillary Clinton. On the other, the younger brother of the 43rd president, and son of the 41st, Jeb Bush. The Democratic and Republican candidates can’t just rest on their dynastic traditions. They must form a new idea of America’s growth after the eight-year Obama era.
The Democrats Are Already Ready
Although Hillary Clinton will officially announce her intention to run in 2016 in the coming weeks as expected, there is little doubt in the U.S. that she will be the Democratic candidate. Proof that Clinton has a huge lead in the Democratic Party came a few months ago with the “Ready for Hillary?” movement.
After stepping down as secretary of state in the winter of 2013, Clinton began actively traveling around the country on a book and lecture tour. According to the U.S. media, she could easily raise around $1 billion for her presidential campaign. That’s a third more than Obama raised in 2012. Furthermore, according to some sources, Clinton has already thought of appointees to several key positions in her administration. It’s expected that her campaign headquarters will be run by John Podesta, President Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff and former counselor to President Obama.
Another obvious sign that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic candidate in 2016 are the numerous attacks on her from the Republican side. The biggest story of the past few months has been the scandal known as “email-gate,” in which Republicans accused Clinton of violating secrecy protocols by using her personal email for work.
According to experts in Washington, the Republicans’ attacks on Clinton will increase towards autumn, when the presidential race picks up speed. Current Vice President Joe Biden is another proposed candidate. However, a background in working on President Obama’s team for the past eight years is an obvious disadvantage for Biden in the primaries. Other potential Democratic candidates – former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia – are also, judging by surveys, incapable of presenting a serious challenge to Clinton.
However, even a weapon as powerful as the “Clinton” political brand doesn’t negate the need for Hillary to create a platform for her campaign and future presidency. Currently, this platform is in the development stage; nevertheless, preliminary conclusions can already be drawn. Firstly, Clinton has begun more frequently and publicly criticizing her former chief, Obama. Thus, the “Ready for Hillary” formula involves dismantling a significant portion of the Democratic administration’s heritage, which has a direct bearing on the candidate herself.
Secondly, as reported by those in her circles, Clinton has analyzed the mistakes of 2008 and will take them into account during her electoral campaign. She is especially planning to improve her relationships with the media. Furthermore, she intends to broaden her electoral base and not confine it to traditional Democratic voters. Her most important task is to not simply mobilize the “Clinton fan club” of those nostalgic for the golden age of Clintonism, but to look like a president for the entire country.
According to some sources, Mrs. Clinton is planning to invite famous economist Robert Reich, who worked for Bill Clinton, to join her team in order to more actively attract the left. And in order to draw in African-Americans, she is planning to include Rep. John Lewis – a civil-rights icon for over 50 years – in her team. Relations with the African-American electorate are a sensitive spot for Clinton’s future campaign. In order to win the election she must win the black vote, but she needs to distance herself from Barack Obama’s policies at the same time.
The Republicans Are Gathering a Crowd
According to majority opinion, Jeb Bush – younger brother of the 43rd president, and son of the 41st – should be Clinton’s Republican opponent. If Clinton’s campaign goal should be distancing herself from Obama’s policies and presenting a new version of Clintonism in the context of 21st-century challenges to the electorate, then Jeb Bush must keep from looking like just another member of the family brand who will continue the extremely unpopular policies of his brother. In presenting his platform, he must solve the same problem as Clinton: presenting a new version of the Republican values represented by the Bush political clan and its circles, and finding a way to make it attractive to the cynical American voter.
“It will be hard for Jeb to overcome the memory of his brother’s presidency,” political analyst at The George Washington University Matt Dallek explained to Kommersant.* He recalled that George W. Bush, like the current U.S. president, finished his eight-year term with extremely low ratings.
Just like for Hillary, Jeb Bush’s situation is exacerbated by fatigue with the Washington establishment and Americans’ loss of confidence in government institutions as they are. All previous attempts to find the mythical “third-party candidate,” an independent with an alternative political platform who could challenge the main political dynasties and influential groups, have been unsuccessful. The most notable achievement occurred in the 1992 presidential elections, when billionaire Ross Perot won 19 percent of the vote. Ironically, Ross Perot’s rejection of nepotism worked in favor of one of the families: by taking votes from George Bush, he helped Bill Clinton win.
However, the perennial inability of political neophytes to break the established rules of the game involved in the battle for the seat in the Oval Office only increases the demand for novelty. The idea that those who represent famous political dynasties should give way to new politicians is gaining popularity in society. “We’ve had enough Bushes. Americans would be wise to stop advancing more new politicians from the most famous dynasties,” said 89-year-old former First Lady Barbara Bush, mother of the potential candidate.*
However, last month she nevertheless participated in a fundraising event for Jeb Bush in Houston, along with George H.W. Bush, the 41st U.S. president. In recent years the Bush family patriarch has rarely made public appearances, due to his paralysis. But this time Jeb Bush’s mother and father found the strength to make an exception. “[They’re] 110 per cent behind whatever Jeb wants to do,” former press secretary to the elder Bush, Jim McGrath, stated. A day earlier, George W. Bush and his wife Laura held a similar event in Dallas. Money raised will go into the “Right to Rise” fund, founded by Jeb a few months ago.
After former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney—who lost the 2012 election to Barack Obama and the 2008 Republican primary to John McCain—announced that he does not intend to run in the 2016 election, Jeb Bush lost his main potential rival for the Republican nomination.
In an interview with Kommersant, political analyst Dallek expressed his confidence that Jeb Bush will raise significant funds for his electoral campaign. “His campaign is well-organized, and many former employees of his father and brother support Jeb,” Mr. Dallek believes. *
Furthermore, the fact that Jeb Bush won the gubernatorial election in Florida—a traditionally Democratic stronghold—twice in a row is a strong argument in his favor. Serving as governor from 1999 to 2007, Jeb Bush became the first Republican governor in the state’s history to win a second term, and moreover, to leave office with a 60 percent approval rating.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the first to officially declare his candidacy, is a potential rival for Bush in the Republican primaries. In contrast to Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz opposes “crony capitalism” and criticizes Wall Street bankers and large financial institutions.
The list of those who must play to the “Republican crowd” doesn’t stop with Ted Cruz. One of the most famous names in American business, former chief financial officer of personal computer manufacturer Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina, unexpectedly announced her desire to run.
In the near future, other famous Republicans are expected to announce their candidacies. Among them: Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, who portrayed himself as a deeply-religious opponent of abortion in the 2010 gubernatorial election. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist and son of famous libertarian Ron Paul, is named as another potential candidate. Names like former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, junior Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and billionaire showman Donald Trump also feature in the news. None of these candidates is considered serious competition for Jeb Bush; however, Washington never misses the opportunity to remind us that U.S. elections are unpredictable.
No One For Russia
Politicians and experts surveyed by Kommersant have no doubt that no matter who is in the Oval Office after the 2016 election – Democrat or Republican – relations between the U.S. and Russia will remain complicated at best. “Today in Washington there is no demand for normalization of relations with Moscow. And the future president, no matter who he is, has no reason to improve relations. He wins nothing, and could lose much,” Nikolai Zlobin, president of the Center on Global Interests in Washington, told Kommersant.
According to him, “the potential for a worsening of relations with Russia remains, while the preconditions for normalization are missing.” Assuming that the new president decides to begin another “reset” with Moscow, he must convince legislators that it’s a good idea. However, the current makeup of Congress is distinguished by its particularly harsh rejection of Kremlin politics. “I don’t remember a more anti-Russian Congress,” Zlobin told Kommersant, adding that Congress has powerful levers of influence on America’s foreign policy.
In turn, a source for Kommersant in the U.S. State Department noted that Moscow hopes in vain that the election of a Republican president will allow relations between the two countries to become more pragmatic and unburdened by debates about values and ideology. “I often hear from Russians that it’s simpler for the Russian leadership to deal with the Republicans. Supposedly, they can do realpolitik,” the source told Kommersant. “However, there are now so many fundamental conflicts between Moscow and Washington mostly connected with the situation around Ukraine, that there’s no point in hoping for a swift resolution of the crisis. Unless, of course, the authorities in Russia drastically change course,” the source said.
An example of the prevailing mood in the Republican camp came from a statement by potential presidential candidate Ted Cruz, a harsh critic of the Kremlin and supporter of delivering American arms to Ukraine. Cruz compared Obama’s policies in relations with Russia to a “kitty cat” standing up to a bear.
Finally, the idea that the Republicans are better for Moscow is contradicted by the Russian view of the previous U.S. electoral campaign. You will recall that at that time they called a victory by Republican Mitt Romney a possible threat to bilateral relations. At the same time, Moscow considered Obama, who nowadays avoids meeting with Vladimir Putin face-to-face, the most suitable candidate for Russia.
Unwillingness to restore relations with Moscow certainly doesn’t mean that the Russia issue won’t feature in candidates’ agendas for the 2016 election. More likely, the opposite will be true. After all, electoral campaigns need powerful stimuli, and harsh rhetoric towards the Kremlin is the perfect way to score political points.
According to Thomas Graham, managing director at Kissinger Associates and former senior director for Russia on the National Security Council staff, relations with Moscow will be one of the key foreign policy campaign topics for candidates from both parties. He expects a lot of harsh rhetoric and invective during the debates. However, he isn’t discounting the possibility of the White House’s position softening after the elections. True, this would only occur “if the conflict in the Donbass region is stabilized, and if Russia agrees to certain compromises regarding Crimea.
“Parties must work toward a long-term solution of the Crimean problem which can satisfy Moscow, and with which Kiev, Washington, and Brussels can agree,” Graham told Kommersant. “There’s room for dialogue on this issue.” In Graham’s opinion, a compromise could include the following: Russia could grant Ukrainian companies greater rights in the peninsula’s territorial waters, compensate Kiev and private businesses for nationalized property, and organize another declaration of self-determination (“not necessarily in a referendum format”) which would confirm that the majority of Crimeans want to be Russian citizens. “The most important thing is to begin a dialogue, even in private. The current Russian position, which consists of stating that there is nothing to discuss, means that no matter who the next U.S. president is, relations will not recover,” Graham told Kommersant.
Perhaps Hillary Clinton can reservedly be called the “least of all evils” among candidates for Moscow. On the one hand, the former secretary of state publicly criticized Russia several times. Declaring that the “customs union or Eurasian Union” could be the USSR with a new name, she assured that the U.S. will find “effective ways to slow down or prevent it.” And she recently called for increased pressure on Russia, and blamed European nations for an “excessively timid” attitude towards Moscow. According to her, unless the Kremlin receives a “harsh rebuff” in response to its actions in the Ukrainian situation, then it will attempt to spread its zone of influence to the entire post-Soviet region.
On the other hand, harsh invectives towards Moscow and Vladimir Putin personally certainly don’t keep Hillary from demonstrating her willingness to seek a compromise with Russia, rather than distancing herself from dialogue, as Obama did when he was offended by the Kremlin and lost interest in Russia. Answering a question a few months ago about whether she knew the secret of how to behave with Putin, Clinton said that Washington’s future Russia policy should be a combination of “patience, conviction, and strength.”
Thus, in contrast to other presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton is willing to demonstrate not only strength, but also to at least show the patience Obama didn’t have.
*Editor’s note: This quotation, although translated accurately, could not be verified exactly.