NBC, CBS and ABC on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning worried if yet another addition to the Bush "dynasty" will be good for the country. Yet, these same networks were excited earlier this year about the continuation of the Clinton brand. If, as many expect, Hillary Clinton announces a presidential run early next year, will journalists worry about the impact of a Democratic dynasty?
On Good Morning America, Jon Karl featured Donald Trump declaring, "The last thing we need right now is another Bush." Karl underlined, "And you know, a lot of folks agree with that. Just think about it...This would be the third president named Bush in 25 years." [See MP3 audio here.]
It wasn't until the very end of the segment that co-host George Stephanopoulos made the obvious point: "And the possibility of a Bush/Clinton race already having people’s starting positions saying shouldn't happen, we shouldn't have these kinds of dynasties."
On CBS This Morning, at the very end of the segment, Nancy Cordes pointed out the comparison to the Clintons:
NANCY CORDES: Democrats got in on the act, too, sending out fund-raising e-mails asking "Are you ready for the next President Bush?" But there's only so far they can take that argument, Charlie, when their own likely front-runner, Hillary Clinton, is pretty connected to a former president herself.
On ABC's World News, Tuesday, Karl suggested that "at least some Republicans agree with [Jeb's] mother, that three Presidents Bush might just be a little bit too many."
Unlike on GMA, however, Karl at least pointed out that the dynasty tag fits both sides:
JON KARL: Could it be? Clinton versus bush again? We had a Bush, defeated by a Clinton, followed by another Bush and after Obama, there's a Clinton almost certainly running and now Jeb Bush, the son of that President, the brother of this one is the first Republican to formally say he's exploring a run.
On the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams lectured viewers, "Remember this: Americans aged 26 or younger have only known a Republican President named Bush in their lifetime."
Back in September, when Clinton hinted she might run in 2016, Williams made no such warning of political dynasties. Instead, he appeared thrilled by the possibility:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Whatever else is remembered from Hillary Clinton’s trip to Iowa this past weekend to attend a big political steak fry, along with her husband, it’s this soundbite from her speech that may survive for all-time.
HILLARY CLINTON: I’m back!
— NBC Nightly News, September 15, 2014.
On the September 15 CBS This Morning, Nancy Cordes wondered if a trip to Iowa had "wet [Clinton's] appetite for another campaign."
In contrast, on the December 16 CBS Evening News, Scott Pelley reminded, "We've had Bush 41 and Bush 43, so what are the odds we'll have Bush 45?" Nancy Cordes warned of conservative discontent: "On the right, Rush Limbaugh fumed about Bush's moderate positions on education and immigration."
Chuck Todd on Nightly News highlighted the base's unease: "There are a lot of skeptical conservatives, the activist base of the Republican Party is more conservative than Jeb Bush is or his brother or his father and he's got to work hard to win over those conservatives."
If Clinton runs, will the networks spend time on the day of her announcement worrying about Elizabeth Warren?
A transcript of the December 17 GMA segment is below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We’re going to turn to politics now and the race for the White House has its first major candidate, Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, is both the son and brother of presidents, announcing he’ll actively explore a presidential run. As our latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows, he's an early frontrunner in what could be a crowded Republican field. ABC’s Jon Karl here with more and Jon bit of a surprise that Bush is first out of the box.
JONATHAN KARL: George, this is a genuine surprise. There's been a lot of speculation about Jeb Bush but most Republican operatives assumed he ultimately would not run. Now he comes out and is the first Republican to formally say he's exploring a run for the presidency. Now there was an early indicator though, if you remember back in October his son, George P. Bush told me that he believed that his father was going to run for president or was likely to run. At that time, a lot of people dismissed it as wishful thinking by his son, but it turns out the son may have had some inside information.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, even his dad dismissed it at the time but maybe a lot more was going on at the time. But Jeb Bush, you know, small frontrunner according to our poll. But he’s going to have some real challenges with the Republican base right now.
KARL: He will face real obstacles. You know, he was a genuinely conservative governor of Florida, but a lot conservatives now see him as simply too moderate on a whole range of issues; immigration, taxes, educations reform. And then there's the Bush name. Listen to what Donald Trump told me about this latest Bush news.
DONALD TRUMP: I think the last thing we need right now is another Bush. I'm a Republican
KARL: The last thing?
TRUMP: I'm a Republican. The last thing we need right now is another Bush.
KARL: And you know, a lot of folks agree with that. Just think about it George, this would be the third president named Bush in 25 years.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the possibility of a Bush/Clinton race already having people’s starting positions saying shouldn't happen, we shouldn't have these kinds of dynasties. Okay, Jon Karl thanks very much.
ROBIN ROBERTS: I like how he said, early front runner. Very early. Very, very early.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Very early.