Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush and the Gospel of Economic Growth

Jeb Bush defends himself on Common Core and immigration while talking up economic expansion.


Author: Gage Skidmore / photo on flickr

Jeb Bush isn't the most popular man at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). When the former Florida governor stepped onto the main stage at the annual conservative confab this afternoon, he drew a loud reaction from the crowd—and not all of it was cheers. Bush, who has said that he is actively considering a run for president, is the biggest figure in the GOP fundraising game right now. But amongst the conservative activists at CPAC, he faces significant skepticism, and even outright hostility.

Bush has committed three big sins against conservatism, two by choice, one by birth. First, he's the brother of President George W. Bush, whose big-spending presidency is not widely celebrated by the CPAC crowd. Second, he supports Common Core education reforms. Finally, he favors large-scale immigration reform—including creating a way for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country to achieve legal status.

Conservatives can forgive the first easily enough; after all, his last name isn't really his fault. But the second two are more of a challenge.

Yet in a high-energy, high-stakes question and answer session this afternoon with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Bush forcefully defended his stances on education and immigration, while making the case that Republicans should be focused first and foremost on economic growth.

Hannity's interview started with a nod to Bush's family history, asking whether Jeb was mad at his mother for saying she didn't know if we needed another Bush in the White House. It was the clever opener, a delicate but direct way of saying the first thing that almost anyone says about Bush—do we really need another one? Bush's job was to acknowledge this fundamental concern, and he did. "That was a little difficult," he said, "but since that time she's had a change of heart." The implied hope was that others might too.

The rest of the interview was heavily focused on the other two issues of conservative domestic policy disagreement (national security was the other major topic, although there wasn't much daylight between Bush and the crowd).

Speaking rapidly but not quite nervously, Bush firmly defended his support of Common Core, but said that he understood that, with the current Department of Education, it might become the sort of Washington overreach that many conservatives worried about. It was a polite way of suggesting that worries about the program aren't totally crazy, but that he nonetheless disagreed. Asked directly if it was a federal takeover of education, Bush practically cut Hannity off to say, "No, it's not. And it shouldn't be." In Bush's framing, Common Core is about standards, not control. 

An even bigger share of the interview was focused on immigration. Bush was adamant that he favored securing the border. "Let's control the border," he said. "There's nothing wrong with that. That's what a great nation has to do."

But he also insisted that any plan to reform the immigration system include a realistic plan to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already inside the nation's borders. "The simple fact is there is no plan to deport 11 million people," he said, adding, to the crowd's vocal disapproval, that "we should give [illegal immigrants currently in the country] a path to legal status." Doing so would make it possible for those immigrants to work, not break the law, learn English, and "make a contribution to society."

What about the millions of poor and out of work Americans, Hannity countered. Shouldn't they be first in line for jobs, not immigrants? Bush pushed back again: "The simple fact is that this nation needs to start growing at a far faster rate than it's growing today," he said, adding later that, "I believe what we ought to be focused on growing the economic pie."

The big theme of Hannity's questions was that Bush diverged from the CPAC line in some serious ways. The big theme of Bush's responses was that those disagreements are distractions from the larger goal: creating opportunity through economic growth, especially for the middle class.

"We need to give people a sense that if we started growing our economy again, the middle would start growing again," he said early on. Throughout the interview, he tied any discussion of domestic policy to the need for growth. He came as a sinner, looking for atonement, but also as a preacher with a vision of a way to wash away all sins. That vision: "high sustained economic growth, where more people can have earned success."

The phrases "earned success" and "sustained growth," or variations on them, were repeated several times during the 20 minute interview. This was what Jeb Bush really wanted to talk about, what he really wanted to sell. It was the only way to break out of the party's Obama-era struggles. Republicans, he argued, had spent too long being against things, and weren't focused enough on a positive message.

"It's good to oppose the bad things, but we need to be for things," he said early in the interview. Several minutes later, as the session was heading toward a close, he repeated the idea again. "We need to change the subject to high-sustained economic growth." For 20 minutes on stage at CPAC this afternoon, that's certainly what he tried to do.

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  1. Oh good, another Bush. Only this one doesn’t have the administrative chops of the first or the common touch of the second.

  2. But he also insisted that any plan to reform the immigration system include a realistic plan to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already inside the nation’s borders. “The simple fact is there is no plan to deport 11 million people,”

    Which is nothing but begging the question and saying FYTIW. There is nothing to say we couldn’t deport 11 million people. If Bush thinks we shouldn’t, he should say why not just “well you can’t do that”.

    Bush firmly defended his support of Common Core, but said that he understood that, with the current Department of Education, it might become the sort of Washington overreach that many conservatives worried about.

    At best that is saying “it will be okay once we get the right people in charge” and at worst that is saying FYTIW.

    Central planning doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work with regards to the economy, something Jeb claims to believe, it doesn’t work in education either. The fact that Bush wants to die on this hill says that he doesn’t believe what he says about economics. He clearly believes in the virtues of central planning or he wouldn’t be so steadfastly in support of common core.

    Fuck him. What an insulting douche bag.

  3. It was the only way to break out of the party’s Obama-era struggles.

    Republicans currently hold more elective offices nationwide than they have since Reconstruction. The only struggles I see was their inability to beat Obama in 2012. And that occurred because they ran someone who looked and sounded a whole hell of a lot like Jeb Bush.

    1. Actually Mitt Romney sounded nothing like Bush. He was defeated for two reasons…voter fraud and the fact that conservative evangelicals think Mormons are children of Satan…never mind the fact that the entire doctrine of the church centers around Christ and His teachings.

      1. Mitt Romney sounded an awful lot like this Bush and lost because he doesn’t appear to have any guiding principles, like individual liberty being important. He was a bureaucrat who thought Washington needed better management not that Washington is the problem. Agree that without the IRS shenanigans Romney might be president.

      2. Voter fraud? Really? Might be time to update your version of Excel.

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  5. This country clearly needs more Bush.

  6. Everything Bush said is just psychobabble from a career politician. The solution to illegal criminal aliens is heavy fines and criminal indictments against employers who hire them. When the jobs dry up, the illegal criminal aliens will go home or to another feed trough easier than ours.

    His comment that we need to grow faster than we are insinuates that our economy is growing, it isn’t. The government is killing jobs faster than they can be created and the number of companies that die or fail is greater than the number of new companies starting up and has been for over a decade.

    And lastly, the federal mafia has no business being involved in education at all. The education department should be eliminated along with many other parts of government, but Bush will never admit that because republicans are just as bad as commiecrats. A vote for Bush is just a vote to trade one fascist for another.

  7. What a fraud. 91 million work capable Americans are unemployed. How does importing millions of illegals most of who are illiterate, unhealthy, can’t speak english, create economic growth. This guy is as dumb as his brother. We’ve had more than our share of the Bushes.

  8. I appreciate that everyone thinks there is a simple solution to illegal aliens. The fact is they do jobs for cash wages better than otherwise offered by avoiding bureaucratic red tape and taxes that make jobs extremely expensive. To fix the problem of illegal aliens you have to fix the regulatory burden on employers, the high marginal taxes on recipients of gov’t assistance for working and the immigration system that is far to slow and burdensome to respond to actual market demands. Legalizing or deporting the millions here already won’t fix the inherent problems with the system.

  9. “It’s good to oppose the bad things, but we need to be for things,”

    So is he for Prohibition? Is that a good thing?

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  11. Jeb is a neocon. A big-tenter. A Reagan-era “supply-sider” and hence an inflationist, same as Obama and Bernanke, et al. His immigration ideas follow on that. He’s not a Republican or a libertarian. That’s his main problem, not Common Core.

  12. A Bush talking about economic anything makes my skin crawl.

    Please do not hand this man the keys. The transmission on the tow truck is still shot.

    1. If the Presidential election is between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton I will move to Mars. I swear it. I will move to Mars.

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