Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who's running for president, had this to say on the first-ever late-night show for Stephen Colbert:
"I think my brother didn't control the Republican Congress's spending," Jeb said, noting that when he himself was governor of Florida, he was such a fiscal conservative that his treasured nickname was Veto Corleone. "He should have brought the hammer down… Our brand is limited government. He didn't veto things. He didn't bring order and fiscal restraint."
Well, that's a start. Certainly, it's better than Jeb's muddled endorsement of the Iraq War (which, lest we forget, was a dumb war fought badly).
Jeb Bush was the second guest on Colbert's show, which got a rave review from Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast. The former Comedy Central star's first guest? George Clooney, who must have thought he was stepping back on The Colbert Report set:
"We don't know each other," Colbert told Clooney, after noting that he wasn't invited to Clooney's wedding last year to international human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin. "I don't know you, but I wanted to give you something," he added—handing over a robin's egg blue Tiffany box.
When the goateed, mustachioed Clooney opened the wedding gift, it turned out to be a silver paperweight engraved with the words, "I don't know you."
"You can pass that on to another celebrity that you don't know," Colbert suggested.
To go back to Jeb: While I'm heartened to hear any politician claim that his party's "brand is limited government," the GOP has a long way to go before laying claim to such a description. Certainly, George W. Bush and the Republicans who controlled Congress through a chunk of his time in office were spendthrifts (spending increased about 50 percent in real dollars under Dubya).
But limited government isn't just about spending and in many ways, Bush and the GOP are in favor of expansive and invasive government. First and foremost, they are forever talking about bombing and invading and embroiling the U.S. in other countries via military intervention. With a few notable exceptions (Rand Paul, Thomas Massie, Justin Amash), they've got no problem having the state spy on us and put us in jail for doing drugs. George W. Bush gladly signed off on Sarbanes-Oxley, Medicare expansion, No Child Left Behind, and TARP, as did most of his fellow conservatives then in Congress. And of course nowadays, basically all the GOP presidential candidates are in favor of mandatory E-Verify, an anti-illegal-immigrant mechanism that will essentially mean all employment decisions must be cleared by the federal government. Cripes on steroids.
This is no small matter for the GOP to understand: Yes, limited government is about spending less, but it's also about regulating less—even and especially when it comes to the ways that individuals want to live their lives. If the GOP is really serious about limiting the size, scope, and spending of government at all levels, it would do well to dust off Leonard Read's old libertarian credo and pronounce that the party is in favor of "Anything that's peaceful."