Thursday, August 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The Pulse: What Jeb Bush was really saying

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Chicago. Getting ready to run for president means working through a hefty checklist of activities long before most people are paying attention to the contest ahead. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Chicago. Getting ready to run for president means working through a hefty checklist of activities long before most people are paying attention to the contest ahead. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made news last weekend at the 25th anniversary celebration of his father's inauguration while speaking about his approach to a potential run in 2016. Even when appearing extemporaneous in an interview with Fox News' Shannon Bream, the possible candidate was delivering a deliberate message to the party faithful. Here is some of what he said, with my interpretation of each quote.

Jeb Bush: "We need to elect candidates that have a vision that is bigger and broader, and candidates that are organized around winning the election, not making a point."

Political parties exist for one purpose - to win elections - not to be ideological vessels. So our party needs to decide now: Do we want to win this thing in 2016, or nominate one of the usual suspects whose primary or caucus strength will never translate into a general election contest against Hillary Clinton? I'm interested in winning, and I believe that, to do so, we will need to do well with Hispanics and independents.

JB: "Campaigns ought to be about listening and learning and getting better. I do think we've lost our way. I'm not being critical of my party, but campaigns themselves are reflective of this new America."

Actually, by saying that I am not being critical of my party, I am doing the opposite. C'mon. That nomination process in 2012 was an embarrassment, especially the debates. Remember when every candidate on the debate stage raised a hand and said he'd reject a 10:1 tax cut to the spending hike deal? Guess what. I'd have kept my hands in my pocket. And regardless of my feelings on the death penalty, I wouldn't have saluted Rick Perry for overseeing 234 executions. I would never have stood silently when a war veteran was booed for revealing he was gay. And I would not have let people in the audience cheer at the notion that someone without health insurance should be allowed to die in an ER. Those incidents formed an impression of our party that we couldn't shake in the fall.

JB: "The way I look at this, and this is not, you know, and I'm going to say this and it will be on tape and so be it."

I'm about to say something really important. Get out your recorders.

JB: "The way I look at this is, someone who comes to our country because they couldn't come legally, they come to our country because their families, a dad who loved their children, was worried that their children didn't have food on the table, and they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's an act of love, it's an act of commitment to your family."

Let me talk about Hispanics, both because I believe in what I am about to say, and because, if we don't do well with this constituency, we cannot win in 2016. First of all, immigrants don't come here to malinger. They come here to provide for loved ones.

JB: "I honestly think that is a different kind of crime, that there should be a price paid. But it shouldn't rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families. And the idea that we're not going to fix this but with comprehensive reform ends up trapping these people when they could make a great contribution for their own families, but also for us."

The type of risk-taker who risks everything to live here embodies the same characteristics as entrepreneurs who provide benefit to our economy. Our economy actually needs this influx.

JB: "Can a candidate run with a hopeful, optimistic message, hopefully with enough detail to give a sense that it's not just idle words? And not get back into the vortex of the mud fight?"

Don't expect me to fight dirty if I get into this thing. I'm cut from the same cloth as my old man, and I believe in a fair fight.

JB: "He's the real deal. . . . He's a spectacular guy."

Gov. Christie gets what I am saying. I know he is fighting this bridge thing, and I'm willing to stand with him in his time of need, because he would have been the standard bearer for the people I wish to represent, and he's not like Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, former Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Michele Bachmann, ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Gov. Mike Huckabee. He's practical and pragmatic, like me.

JB: "Leading from behind is so odd to me."

President Obama is not my guy. Don't mistake anything I've said as a willingness to further the liberal policies that are anathema to me.

JB: "I just don't feel compelled to run for cover when I think this is the right thing to do for our country."

I abhor litmus tests on things like Common Core, and I will not bend to interest groups on either side of the aisle to capture the nomination. Remember, I'm the guy who said in 2012 that Ronald Reagan and my dad would have had a "hard time" succeeding amid the "disturbing" hyperpartisanship of today. Each succeeded with bipartisan support, and that is the way I would approach the job, just like I did in Florida.

So, to quote Jack Nicholson in "As Good as It Gets": "Sell crazy someplace else. We're all stocked up here."


Michael Smerconish can be heard from 9 a.m. to noon on Sirius XM's POTUS Channel 124, and seen hosting "Smerconish" at 9 a.m. Saturdays on CNN.

Michael Smerconish Inquirer Columnist
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