The Jeb Bush Optimism Challenge

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By Juliet Lapidos,

from The New York Times,

In preparation for his 2016 attempt to become the third of his name in the White House, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has launched a new PAC called “Right to Rise.” Michael Barbaro has ably “translated” Mr. Bush’s mission statement on First Draft, but I wanted to call attention to an apparent contradiction.

The statement starts with a hopeful, Reaganesque statement: “We are optimists who believe that America’s opportunities have never been greater than they are right now.”

But it immediately comes down from that high: “We know America is falling short of its promise.”

And then it meanders into Eeyorism: “Millions of our fellow citizens across the broad middle class feel as if the American Dream is now out of their reach; that our politics are petty and broken; that opportunities are elusive; and that the playing field is no longer fair or level. Too many of the poor have lost hope that a path to a better life is within their grasp.”

So Bush and co. “believe” that America’s opportunities are greater than ever, while millions of others “feel” that opportunities are slim? Is that idea that the pessimists are mistaken? Or is it somehow possible that America’s opportunities are simultaneously greater than ever and out of reach? (The implication being that we were even worse off before.)

Mr. Bush seems to assume that Americans prefer an upbeat message—it’s morning in America. He doesn’t want to follow Mitt Romney in waging an often negative, almost bleak campaign. But he also knows that he can’t pretend things are going swimmingly for the middle-class; and he of course feels the need to criticize the status quo under a Democratic president.

The result is a muddled message.

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