Newspaper article International New York Times

The Struggle over Who Is 'American'

Newspaper article International New York Times

The Struggle over Who Is 'American'

Article excerpt

The question of who is a "genuine American" is being directed in a slightly different form at, of all people, the former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

What does it mean to be a genuine American?

That question has gotten a prominent airing in the past several weeks. It has been raised once more by some conservatives about President Obama, who, facing fringe but persistent attacks in his first term about his legitimacy, had to go so far in 2011 as to release his full birth certificate to tamp down speculation that he had not actually been born in the United States.

And now it is being directed in a slightly different form at, of all people, the former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the son of one president, the brother of another and the grandson of a senator.

A stinging article in National Review, a leading organ of American conservatism, argued that Mr. Bush would, if elected, be the second "post-American president," after Mr. Obama, because of his "dissatisfaction with America, and desire to change it to be more to his liking." The writer, Mark Krikorian, seemed particularly ruffled by Mr. Bush's repeated suggestions that immigrants can refresh America, because, in Mr. Bush's view, they're "more entrepreneurial," "more fertile," and prone to "more intact families" than the native-born.

But the article also went on to argue that Mr. Bush wished to remake America in the image of his personal cosmopolitanism: his marriage to a Mexican-born woman, his early work experience in South America, his self-styled "bicultural" household. Mr. Krikorian accused Mr. Bush of having "so little affection for and grounding in his own heritage that he wanted to assimilate into a Latin-American milieu" -- and of now seeking "to 'fix' America by making it more like Miami."

Another prominent conservative voice, David Frum, a former speechwriter for the second President Bush, George W., looked at the same facts and concluded that his former boss's brother could be a godsend for Republicans. He said Mr. Bush was perhaps a "candidate for the age of fluidity," in which ever more people see themselves as "Americans-plus" and standing in between the traditional binaries of "black or white, male or female, American or foreign. …

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