Candidate Profile: Jeb Bush
If you’ve ever felt stuck in the shadow of your family, Jeb Bush knows how you feel. The former governor is running for president right now, but both his father and older brother have already taken turns running the country. To make matters worse for Jeb! (as his campaign slogan proclaims), the young senator he once mentored, Marco Rubio, is currently tied with him in the latest polls. Will Jeb bring dishonor on the Bush family (and his cow), or will he follow in George’s (and George’s) footsteps?
Who is Jeb Bush?
Jeb Bush is a businessman and former governor of Florida. Bush, a Texas native, holds a B.A. in Latin American studies from University of Texas at Austin and worked in banking in Venezuela before working on vice presidential and, later, presidential campaigns for his father, former President George H.W. Bush. In 1994, the same year that Jeb’s older brother George was elected Governor of Texas, the younger Bush staged an unsuccessful bid for Governor for Florida. Four years later, Jeb campaigned for the same position and won, but prior to that success, he served on the board of conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation and helped establish Florida’s first charter school. Since leaving office in 2007, Bush has served on the board of several banking companies and was offered the position of commissioner of the NFL (a position also offered to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; both politicians turned the offer down and the job eventually went to Roger Goodell). Bush still lives in Florida with his wife, Columba (whom he met at 17 during a foreign exchange program in Mexico), and their three children.
Fun fact: “Jeb” is actually an acronym: his real name is John Ellis Bush.
What is this candidate’s campaign theme?
The Iran Deal?
Although Bush denounced the Iran Deal when it was finalized in June, calling it “appeasement” for “the violent revolutionary clerics who rule Tehran with an iron fist,” he has departed from GOP rivals such as Senator Ted Cruz by refusing to make a pledge to tear the agreement up. “That sounds great, but maybe you ought to check in with your allies first," Bush said in July. "Maybe you ought to appoint a secretary of state, maybe a secretary of defense. You might want to have your team in place before you take an act like that."
Bush has heavily criticized the Obama administration for contributing to the Middle East’s destabilization by “pulling back.” While speaking at the Reagan Presidential Library in August, Bush termed the Islamic State “the focus of evil in the modern world” (a term used by President Reagan to describe communism). During this same address, Bush introduced his plan to defeat ISIS, calling for a no-fly zone in Syria and for the deployment of over 3,500 American troops into Iraq (“major commitment” of forces is, however, unnecessary). Like opponents Rubio and Carly Fiorina, Bush further urged the United States to support and engage with Sunni and Shiite allies, including Iraqi Kurds currently being trained by the Pentagon.
At the Reagan Library event, Bush further faulted the Obama administration for “pulling back” from Russia. President Bush (the younger) once remarked that he “got a sense of [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] soul,” but his brother holds another view: “He’s a bully,” Bush (the youngest) said of the increasingly authoritarian president. “How to deal with him is to confront him on his terms,” he told Reuters several weeks ago. Under a third Bush administration, NATO allies such as Ukraine would receive “more robust” support from the U.S., although Bush has yet to lay out a specific plan.
In the wake of recent Israeli stabbings committed by Palestinian extremists, Bush drew a correlation between our leniency in aiding the Palestinian Authority and the PA’s acts of terror towards Israel. “[T]he next president of the United States ought to be getting Israel's back,” Bush told Fox’s Sean Hannity. A March op-ed published in National Review further took the Obama administration to task for its “diplomatic scolding” of Israel during Palestinian peace negotiations. “Israel and America must work together to build a more prosperous and hopeful future for the region,” Bush wrote.
Like his mentee, Bush toes the Republican party line on immigration. A harsh critic of Donald Trump’s proposed wall, Bush embraces what he calls a “dignified, American way” of dealing with the 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country. This “practical” solution would offer legal status to undocumented workers after they meet certain criteria like learning English and paying back taxes. Bush, who is fluent in spanish and whose wife is an immigrant herself, also favors allowing children brought to the country illegally to earn citizenship.
Just last week, Bush unveiled his healthcare plan. The proposal, meant as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, would (among other tenets) give the 17 million participants a “transition plan” and tax credits for catastrophic plans, replace the “Cadillac Tax” with another high tax on expensive plans, and cap federal health spending to states. “The effort by the state, by the government, ought to be to try to create catastrophic coverage, where there is relief for families in our country, where if you have a hardship that goes way beyond your means of paying for it, the government is there or an entity is there to help you deal with that,” Bush said as he introduced the policy. “The rest of it ought to be shifted back where individuals are empowered to make more decisions themselves.”
Bush’s tax plan, disclosed in September, would consolidate the federal tax code into three brackets (28%, 25%, and 10%), cut the federal corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, and terminate certain loopholes and “special breaks.” His campaign estimates such a system would grow the economy by 4% annually and create 19 million new jobs over eight years. As he seeks to strengthen the middle class, Bush also supports the elimination of the federal minimum wage; “[w]e’re moving to a world that is sticky in the ends, where it’s harder for people in poverty to move up and where the rich are doing really well and the middle is getting squeezed,” he told a crowd in South Carolina last May. “And any idea that makes, that perpetuates that is one that I would oppose, and I think this minimum wage idea is exactly one of those things.”
Bush has drawn controversy through his support for Common Core, and specifically for universal standards in Florida. “Common Core means a lot of things to different people, so they could be right based on what’s in front of them,” Bush told Fox’s Megyn Kelly. At the same time, Bush also believes that the federal government ought not to have a role in developing the standards: “They need to be state driven. The federal government should play no role in this, either in the creation of standards, content or curriculum.” Aside from the public education system, Bush supports many different facets of school choice, including charter schools, private options, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and education savings accounts.
A June headline in the Washington Examiner asked, “is Jeb Bush the most pro-life 2016 candidate?” The article details Bush’s record of supporting pro-life legislation during his term as governor of Florida, including bills preventing partial birth abortions and requiring minors’ parents to be notified before the minor undergoes the procedure. He also promoted “Choose Life” license plates (the sales from which went directly to pro-life pregnancy centers and personally intervened in several situations to prevent abortions from occurring. He currently backs a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy (which many conservatives view as a door to overturning Roe v. Wade).
Bush delivered the commencement address at Liberty University this year, a speech National Review celebrated as a vision of a nation where “the freedom to live integrated lives of faith is once again not merely tolerated but valued and celebrated.” He told the graduates, “So it is not only untrue, but also a little ungrateful, to dismiss the Christian faith as some obstacle to enlightened thought, some ancient, irrelevant creed wearing out its welcome in the modern world. Whether or not we acknowledge the source, Hebrew Scripture and the New Testament still provide the moral vocabulary we all use in America.” He acknowledged the plight of Little Sisters of the Poor during his speech, and also opposes government coercion of business owners who refuse to participate in same-sex weddings.
In July, Bush told Bloomberg that climate change is at least partially man-made and that government ought to “invest in the proper research to find solutions over the long haul but not be alarmists about it.” Less than two months later, however, Bush issued a response to President Obama’s Clean Power Plan in which he claimed that regulation is not the answer to carbon emissions. “A chief reason for [the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions] is the energy revolution which was created by American ingenuity — not federal regulations,” he wrote.
Is he a controversial figure? Why?
Many far-right Republicans view Bush as a conservative outlier. Former Congressional candidate and Tea Party activist Matthew J. Burke published an article titled, “Top Ten Reasons Jeb Bush is NOT a Conservative,” and Senator Rand Paul (also a candidate) told Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough that Bush isn’t conservative enough to garner the GOP nomination. Some also think that three is not the magic number and would prefer to keep the amount of Bush presidencies at two, a view shared by Trump, who remarked, “the last thing we need is another Bush.”
What’s one humorous or summarizing quote from this presidential hopeful?
"But without a caring society, without each citizen voluntarily accepting the weight of responsibility, government is destined to grow even larger, taking more of your money, burrowing deeper into your lives." (2003 inaugural address)