Jeb Bush: “I used to be a conservative”

posted at 1:55 pm on February 24, 2012 by Tina Korbe

Jeb Bush isn’t sure where he fits in the panoply of Republican Party leaders anymore. During a Q&A session after a speech in Dallas yesterday, the former Florida governor confessed that he doesn’t know what to make of the direction the current GOP candidates have taken Republican rhetoric:

“I used to be a conservative and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective and that’s kind of where we are,” said the former Florida Governor. “I think it changes when we get to the general election. I hope.” …

Maybe Jeb is just perplexed he isn’t Republicans’ first choice for a White Knight to ride in and save the Republican Party at a brokered convention. Or maybe he genuinely thinks negativity has subsumed the positive message Republicans have to offer:

The younger brother of former president George W. Bush also weighed in on the debate Republicans and Democrats are having over the national economy.

“If you want to narrow the income gap, there are two ways to do it. One, you punish people that are successful and try to narrow it that way and that’s the president’s approach. Or you equip people that aspire for a better life to give them the tools and then you don’t try to manage that, you allow them to pursue those dreams as they see fit. That to me is the better approach and it requires a celebration of success.”

Bush both misses and has a point.

First, the point he misses: The current GOP candidates — for all of the flaws they have in their pasts — consistently deliver conservative rhetoric. Their talk is tough on everything from entitlement reform to tax reform to immigration reform. They’re all anchored in the idea that rights are inalienable, unable to be granted nor revoked by government. They primarily respect the moral order, the idea that decisions have consequences and that individuals should have to take responsibility for the decisions they make. In many instances, their tone has been a triumph of conservatism, a signal that the candidates recognize that GOP voters want a conservative nominee. Sometimes, I think we don’t give the candidates enough credit for this truth.

Next, the point he makes: The candidates have frequently proved themselves to be poor politicians, succumbing to the temptations pitched to them by debate moderators and MSM interviewers. Journalists and observers alike are fascinated and interested in the horserace; they want to hear the candidates attack each other and pick apart each other’s past records. The candidates could certainly be better at not taking the bait and at pivoting from pointed-but-irrelevant questions to the broad, positive themes of conservatism.

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