Much of the discussion about Jeb Bush nowadays — on paper, over the air, and down to various watering holes at happy hour — seems to be a search for a tell-all label. Is he a conservative? Is he a moderate? Is he a liberal? The answer to every one of these questions is yes. He’s all of the above. But this doesn’t tell you much. With Jeb, who hopes to be Bush III, those wishing to take his political measure need to drill deeper into specifics than with most candidates.
Before conservative audiences, Bush, and those whooping him up, can justifiably point to Bush’s two terms as Florida’s governor where he cut taxes, cut the number of state employees, reined in affirmative action in state matters, and pushed for more accountability in the state’s bloated education industry. Then and now he’s been consistently pro-life and pro-Second Amendment. He says he admires Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and considers Antonin Scalia the most interesting of the court’s opinion writers.
All these things should make conservatives comfortable, especially about the kind of federal judges Bush might appoint. But tarry a while before awarding Bush the Conservative MVP (Most Valuable Politician) Award. Since leaving his eight-year day-job in Tallahassee — which, by the way, ended in January of 2007 — a long time ago — Jeb Bush has said and done a lot of very un-conservative stuff. As alert TAS readers know, this runs in his family.
Bush’s latest un-conservative infarct is to urge statehood for Puerto Rico. Exactly how adding a 51st state to the union that would send two Democratic Senators and Democratic representatives to Washington forever (para siempre, if you prefer) helps the conservative agenda would be mighty hard for Jeb to explain. Also he didn’t mention whether the folks in the existing 50 states should have any say on whether Puerto Rico comes on board or not.
At a campaign stop last Tuesday in Puerto Rico, Bush told the folks at the Universidad Metropolitana de Cupey that Puerto Rican citizens “ought to have the right to determine whether they want to be a state. I think statehood is the best path, personally. I’ve believed that for a long, long while.”
Well, that’s clear enough.
Sticking with immigration, this latest Bush, like his brother before him, does not take America’s southern border seriously. In fact, he seems to think rather poorly of the idea of America having borders at all. He has repeatedly said there is no urgency to secure America’s southern border and that the 11 million (or 12 million, or 15 million, or whatever the actual number is) people here illegally should not be deported but should be given something called “earned legal status.” Translation: nobody goes home. And a strong incentive for more millions to sneak into El Norte would hereby be created. Apparently, in immigration policy according to Jeb Bush, one “earns” the right to stay in America by breaking American law. And Bush is taking this open-borders stance at a time when not just conservatives but a majority of all voters consider illegal immigration a serious problem. Americans are concerned about border security. Jeb Bush isn’t.
If Jeb Bush believes there is any useful distinction to be made between people who are citizens of the United States and those who are not, one cannot divine this from his public statements. This does not play well with conservatives, who have nothing against immigrants or folks with Spanish last names, but who don’t consider national borders and sovereignty to be hate crimes. And certainly don’t consider breaking America’s law “an act of love,” as our Jeb has so famously said he does.
Bush also declines to back away from his support of Common Core education standards, which he refuses to see as a useful tool to transfer yet more power over government schools to Washington. Common Core may not have been born in Washington, but if a contest were held to find the best system to accelerate the transition from education to left indoctrination in the nation’s schools, Common Core would take the gold. Conservatives, who see education as a state and local responsibility, understand this.
Bush is not badly crosswise with conservatives on many other matters, though conservatives are justified in wondering why he urged the Senate to confirm Loretta Lynch as attorney general, or why he’s giving Obama and the rest of the global-warming hustlers cover by saying, as he did lately on the campaign trail, “The climate is changing, and I’m concerned about that.” But it’s likely that enough conservatives consider him spectacularly wrong on immigration and Common Core to make his journey to the Republican nomination in 2016 an unlikely one, despite his ability to charm a gaudy amount of campaign cash out of his Establishment admirers.
Some political analysts, too clever by half in my view, have claimed that Bush actually wishes to win votes by taking positions unpopular with the many. He hopes, this line of reasoning goes, to appear to be principled by sticking to positions that are unpopular — not bending to the popular will for political advantage. It’s true that many voters, especially conservatives, admire principle. As they should. But there’s a limit to how many folks will vote for a principled candidate who, on principle, supports policies they believe would be disastrous for the country.
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