Is Jeb Bush toying with us?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Jeb Bush is in DC to host a national summit on education reform on Tuesday, and *somehow* a member of the press discovered he would also be meeting with former aides on Monday.

This, of course, was guaranteed to fuel speculation about Bush’s future. And when asked about a possible run by National Review’s Robert Costa,”Bush did not rule out a presidential run.”

The immediate response from conservative opinion leaders seemed to be to assume that Bush was milking the speculation for publicity reasons.

Ben Domenech, editor of The Transom, tweeted, “Jeb’s flirtation with 2016 will ultimately come to naught, but it’ll be fun to watch people run around it for a while.” And the DC Examiner’s Philip Klein added, “Even if Jeb has no intention of running, he has a huge incentive to keep talk alive to bring publicity to his initiatives.”

I hope they’re wrong. You might not like the dynastic implications of yet another Bush nominee, but Bush was a popular governor of a very important state. He has every right to seriously explore a run for the presidency.

But I sincerely hope he isn’t about to jerk our collective chain.

I, for one, have grown tired of the trend of opportunists with ulterior motives exploiting the political process. Running for president isn’t like lunching at The Ivy and hoping the paparazzi spot you.

Whether it’s celebrities like Donald Trump dabbling in politics in order to garner buzz — or “pundits” and talk radio hosts saying outrageous things just for the ratings — or even politicians (remember Sarah Palin’s bus tour?) feigning interest in a presidential run — we all pay a collective price for this selfish behavior.

And because he would immediately be considered a top tier candidate, the possibility of a Jeb Bush candidacy has especially serious consequences, including the potential to suck up a lot of media oxygen, and to tie up potential supporters — and donors — who might otherwise begin backing a potential candidate.

(To be sure, this hardly matters today — just weeks after the 2012 election. But at some point — probably sooner than we may want to believe — candidates will have to begin making decisions and laying the groundwork for a presidential bid. And it’s especially easy to imagine that Jeb Bush’s flirtation with running for president could have major consequences for Sen. Marco Rubio)

If Jeb Bush is serious about exploring a run, he should make that clear sooner, rather than later. But don’t be coy, Mr. Bush. Don’t play games. Not now. Not after all we’ve been through.

There is nothing wrong with sincerely testing the waters — but the stakes are too high to exploit the political process for mere publicity — even if the goal is to raise awareness about a legitimate issue like education reform.

Matt K. Lewis