Quotes of the day

With eyes increasingly on him, Jeb Bush signaled on Sunday the kind of campaign he would mount if he runs for president, one arguing against ideological purity tests while challenging party orthodoxy on issues like immigration and education…

Even as he sharply criticized President Obama for his handling of foreign affairs and health care, Mr. Bush made clear that he would run against the style of politics that has characterized recent Republican nominating contests…

“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,” Mr. Bush told an audience at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. “Campaigns ought to be about listening and learning and getting better. I do think we’ve lost our way.” He added, “I’m not being critical of my party, but campaigns themselves are reflective of this new America.”


Some say that, if Bush decides to run, the Republican establishment will put pressure on Rubio to wait his turn. “This is the one window of opportunity for Governor Bush, and Senator Rubio will have many windows of opportunity in the future,” says American Conservative Union (ACU) president Al Cardenas, who served two terms as chairman of the Florida GOP when Bush was governor and Rubio was a state representative…

Though friends and analysts disagree about how the two will approach the pending decision, nearly all agree that a Bush candidacy is more likely now than it was a year ago. “Six months ago, I would have said it’s unlikely though not impossible that Governor Bush would run for president in 2016,” ACU president Cardenas says. “If you ask me today, my answer is different, it’s 50–50. That’s a significant moving of the needle.”

“We’re getting close to having to make a decision, and he’s warming up to the idea of it,” says Cardenas, who doesn’t deny there’s a lot of interest among the party’s top-dollar donors. “Nobody is receiving as many calls as he is,” Cardenas adds. “The best gauge of the intensity of support for somebody is whether the potential candidate is making calls as opposed to receiving calls. That’s probably the most interesting indicator of the intensity of the interest out there.”


Republicans have but one savior ahead of 2016 and his name is Bush. That is the takeaway from watching much of MSNBC’s programming this Monday after former Republican Florida Gov. Jeb Bush issued the clearest signal yet this weekend that he is considering a presidential bid in 2016…

“He’s showing where people are at,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told the hosts of Morning Joe regarding Bush’s position on immigration. Schumer added that, if the party does not embrace Bush’s version of immigration reform “this year,” the 2016 cycle is “almost certainly” already lost to Republicans…

“If they’re only going to be the party of older white people, they cannot win at a national level,” she added. “And that’s why, perhaps, Jeb Bush thinking of getting into the 2016 race is giving them a glimmer of hope, because he is talking about being more compassionate toward minorities, toward immigrants.”

“Most people agree — Republican, Democrat, independent, whoever you are — Jeb Bush would be a strong general election candidate for Republicans,” The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza observed. He noted in passing, though, that the “brand problems” associated with his brother’s presidency persist though he did not seem believe that would be more of a disqualifier in a GOP primary than a general election.


Jeb’s unspoken assumption is that people in the United States who can’t lawfully feed their children can rely on welfare, rather than shoplifting and car theft. Mexico, by his telling, is such a dysfunctional hell hole that even hard-working people can’t find honest work and will go hungry as a result. Prospective illegal aliens find themselves in a “Les Miserables” situation, stealing bread — i.e., jobs in the United States — to feed starving children.

This is horse flop. Mexico is an upper-middle-income country by world standards, with a per capita GDP, in purchasing-power parity terms, greater than that of Turkey, Brazil, Romania, Iran, South Africa, or Thailand. You want real poverty, try Congo or Zimbabwe, Somalia or Afghanistan. Funny that he’s not calling for unlimited immigration from those countries instead. For someone who makes a habit of assuring Mexicans that “I understand your people,” Jeb seems to have a remarkably one-dimensional view of the place…

But putting aside all the ignorance and illogic, Jeb’s view of the issue is clear from this fragment: “The way I look at this, someone who comes into our country because they couldn’t come legally . . .” In the decision tree of immigration policy-making, the first branch is this: Can everyone in the world move to the United States, or are there going to be legal limits, limits that must be enforced even against people engaged in “an act of love”? When Jeb excuses illegal immigration “because they couldn’t come legally,” he’s betraying his view that anyone in the world who wants to come here must be permitted to do so. Stopping them is the opposite of an “act of love.”

And so, Jeb Bush’s immigration policy in a single sentence: “Any limit on immigration is an act of hate.”


Why is Bush going at his party’s base on two such hot-button issues? We have three theories.

1. He believes it. This is the line that Bush loyalists are shopping. Jeb isn’t like other politicians. He doesn’t play the D.C. game. He says what he thinks and doesn’t care about the consequences.

2. He’s throwing up trial balloons. Every time he talks about running for president — he did it again over the weekend — Jeb makes clear that he would want to do so “joyfully” and not get into a mudfight. While we tend to think that’s impossible given the modern process of running for president, it’s possible that what Jeb is doing with his statements on immigration and Common Core is seeing just how negatively those sorts of proposals are received and how much blowback he gets on them from the right. If it’s less than he expected, maybe he convinces himself he could run without having to get down and dirty with his rivals for the nomination.

3. He’s inoculating himself. Maybe Jeb has already decided he wants to run — or he’s strongly leaning that way. If he has, then making clear his support for Common Core and a more lenient national immigration policy now might well be a way to insulate himself from charges later on in the process that he is insufficiently conservative. You can imagine Bush in a primary debate sometime in late 2015 saying something like this: “My position is long held. Now, not everyone will agree with me but my thoughts on the issue are born of conviction not political positioning.” While that answer won’t convince hard core immigration opponents, it does have the potential to defuse the passion around the issue for others.


Look at it this way: The GOP establishment is desperate to suppress Tea Party conservatives and also obtain the immigration amnesty they believe will win Latinos and relieve them of the need to do too much rethinking in other areas. The problem for the establishment is lack of candidates. Rubio was a favorite, but he sabotaged himself among core Republican primary voters with his disingenuous, flip-floppy championing of the Gang of 8′s bill. That left Christie–but then Christie got caught in a traffic jam. That left Jeb, probably the establishment’s original choice–but it turns out that Jeb is still a Bush, and even the Bushes are sick of the Bushes. That leaves … well, Rubio again. Maybe he can be rehabilitated in time for the primaries! How? Hmm. Well, if Jeb takes a stand way far out in a squishy idealistic pro-amnesty direction, that creates space for his quondam protege, Rubio, to stake out a position that’s seemingly tougher–e.g. “Jeb’s off base there. Saying it’s an ‘act of love’ obscures the very real problems illegal immigration can cause, which is why I am strong on border enforcement, etc.” Of course Rubio would still be for amnesty, and the establishment would know this. But it might help smuggle him through the primaries.


It’s not a mystery why elites would totally dig a retro contest between two of the nation’s least-appealing families. It would mean that zombified pundits such as David Gergen, whose lack of cogency is directly proportional to the number of administrations in which he served, could push off retirement a few more years and writers such as Dowd, who peaked in terms of what passes for wit and originality during the Clinton era, could recycle old columns as unashamedly as Cate Blanchet recycles plastic bags at the local Safeway. GOP and Democratic apparatchiks and their big-money enablers wouldn’t have to struggle with the grim and unavoidable fact that fewer and fewer of us are willing to identify with either party – even to strangers on the phone…

We need to discuss openly and honestly the failed foreign policy of both the Bush and Obama administrations. Does anyone seriously think that the Middle East is more stable than it was pre-9/11? Or that the government under either 21st-century president is safeguarding American civil liberties in a way about which we can feel confident? Immigration and tax policy are just as beggared and threadbare and awful. In the areas in which the country is actually breaking with the dead hand of the past—when it comes to pot legalization, say, or marriage equality—the change is coming at the state level and typically from outside traditional party politics.

It’s safe to say that discussion of these and other issues will not come from well-ensconced party favorites. As Democratic consultant Joe Trippi put it, “I don’t see Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton having a big fight over the NSA.” Or much of anything else that really matters. If they were willing to stage those sorts of debates, they wouldn’t be the establishment favorites.


The notion that Jeb Bush is going to be the Republican presidential nominee is a fantasy nourished by the people who used to run the Republican Party. Bush has been out of a game that changed radically during the 12 years(!) since he last ran for office. He missed the transformation of his brother from Republican savior to squish; the rise of the tea party; the molding of his peer Mitt Romney into a movement conservative; and the ascendancy of a new generation of politicians — Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, among them — who have been fully shaped by and trained in that new dynamic. Those men occasionally, carefully, respectfully break with the movement. Scorning today’s Republican Party is, by contrast, the core of Jeb’s political identity.

In that, Jeb is like ex-Republican Mike Bloomberg and like the failed GOP apostate Jon Huntsman: He’s deeply committed to centrist causes — federalized education, legal status for undocumented immigrants — that alienate key Republican groups; and he’s vaguely willing to go along with vestigial conservative issues that Republicans don’t care as much about, like standing up for Wall Street (Jeb was on a Lehman Brothers advisory board before that bank’s collapse, and now sits on a Barclay’s board) and opposing marriage equality, a stance he’s sought to downplay by focusing on states’ rights…

This is not to say Jeb doesn’t have assets. The Bush name is no longer toxic; indeed, his brother is now remembered fondly by most Republicans. He was a successful governor of a big key state, with a reputation for moderation, even if it’s been a while. And he can surely raise money. When I tweeted some skepticism about Jeb on Monday morning, two progressive journalists, Chris Hayes and Judd Legum, immediately responded with the conventional wisdom: Republicans “tend to go with moderates and known quantities,” as Legum said.

So that’s the best case: Mitt Romney. The worst case? Mitt with a dollop of Fred Thompson, the halfhearted victim of a halfhearted draft.


“He’s the smartest guy I know on education,” McCain said in a brief interview in the U.S. Capitol. Asked if Bush’s support for Common Core was an issue, McCain deflected. “What he did for education in Florida … that’s a clear record of success.”

Is he a viable candidate for president, there’s a lot of question about the fact that …? “That his name is Bush?” McCain said, finishing the question. “Somebody else’s name is Clinton.”