Was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush off message for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, or was he indicating he knows he will never get the nomination so he let it all hang out — or was the laying the groundwork for picking up the pieces if Romney loses and the Tea Party movement and the party’s talk radio political culture are blamed for chasing away independent voters, or Republicans who feel drummed out of today’s GOP? Use your own political bias to pick an answer. But what is a certainty is: Jeb Bush, who seemingly takes after his father more than his brother, made some big political waves today — waves that could impact some voters in 2012 and beyond:
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said today that both Ronald Reagan and his father George H. W. Bush would have had a difficult time getting nominated by today’s ultra-conservative Republican Party.
Note that this is NOT something others have not said. Many moderates have noted the same thing.
“Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad — they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground,” Bush said, adding that he views the hyper-partisan moment as “temporary.”
“Back to my dad’s time and Ronald Reagan’s time – they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan suport,” he said. Reagan “would be criticized for doing the things that he did.”
Again: this is generating discussion..but it it true. MORE:
Bush cited, in particular, “the budget deal my dad did, with bipartisan support — at least for a while — that created the spending restraint of the ‘90s,” a reference to a move widely viewed now as a political disaster for Bush, breaking a pledge against tax increases and infuriating conservatives. It was, Bush said, “helpful in creating a climate of more sustainted economic growth.”
His defense of his father’s tax compromise means he’ll have some enemies in the GOP if he seeks the nomination at a later date.
“Politically it clearly didn’t work out — he was a one term president,” his son said.
Bush called the present partisan climate “disturbing.”
“It’s just a different environment left and right,” he said of “this dysfunction.”
And Bush also blamed President Obama for much of the conflict.
“His first year could have been a year of enormous accomplishment had he focused on things where there was more common ground,” he said, arguing that Obama had made a “purely political calculation” to run a sharply partisan administration.
His remarks to a group of reporters and editors at the headquarters of Bloomberg LP in Manhattan were the latest in a series of concerns Bush, one of the best-respected figures in his party, has raised about its current direction. Other Republicans, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, have suggested that this GOP wouldn’t nominate Reagan, who raised taxes and made grand bargains with Democrats on immigration and fiscal issues. Bush also repeated criticism of the “tone” of the discussion of immigration issues.
Bush got a lot of publicity on talk shows today due to what he said about Romney and immigration — but, again, it’s not totally new:
Bush said that Mitt Romney’s move to channel Republicans’ anger over immigration in the primary has put him “in somewhat of a box” in the general election. He advised Romney to offer a “broader and more intense” approach to the issue. He suggested Romney continue to campaign in Hispanic communities, that he recast immigration as an economic issue, and that he focus on the question of education.
“I do feel a little out of step with my party on this,” he said.
Bush also had praise for Rep. Paul Ryan for proposing a budget and disdain for Democrats for refusing to engage it.
“It’s all about talking points rather than engagement,” he said of Congressional hearings on the Ryan budget…..
Bush did offer Obama one point of agreement: That the economic “headwinds” the president has been mocked for citing are real.
“We’ve got major headwinds with Europe and the slowdown in Asia as well,” Bush said, predicting weak economic growth in the short term.
But Bush sounded a remarkably gloomy note about the present moment: “We’re in very difficul times,” he said. “We’re in decline.”
1. Jeb Bush remains the kind of Republican who could have a lot of cross-party appeal, and get serious consideration from independent voters and moderates (realizing moderates and independents are not monolithic).
2. Much of what he said here is not new but it generated lots of discussions on cable, talk radio, and the Internet. Why? Because this is an election campaign and he is not sticking to the party line and is criticizing his own party.
3. It could be argued that he now feels he should have run (and it is argued) and these comments reflect his frustration.
4. It could be argued that he feels he will not get the nomination in coming years (and it is argued) so he is letting loose with his thoughts.
5. It could be argued by some — including me — that he is laying the ground work for an “I told you so” if Mitt Romney loses, by whatever margin. Bush (and some others) will then argue that the party’s non-compromise, sometimes over the top rhetoric and purging of moderates chased away voters that need to be and could be brought back into the party. Why? Because he most has his eyes set on 2016.
6. It could be argued (also be me) that Bush truly believes this — that he’s walking the walk and talking the talk of the kind of Republican he is: a Republican more in the style of his father than his brother. I made many trips to Florida when Bush was Governor and he enjoyed widespread support from people of both parties.
Meanwhile, here’s some reaction:
Jeb Bush’s remark that Ronald Reagan would be too moderate for today’s Republican Party earned an aggressive rebuke from the gatekeeper of the anti-tax orthodoxy that permeates the modern GOP.
“That’s foolish,” Grover Norquist, the architect of the bedrock never-raise-taxes pledge that nearly every Republican has signed, told TPM in an interview. “It’s stup—it’s bizarre.”
“There’s a guy who watched his father throw away his presidency on a 2:1 [ratio of spending cuts to tax increases] promise,” Norquist said of Bush. “And he thinks he’s sophisticated by saying that he’d take a 10:1 promise. He doesn’t understand — he’s just agreed to walk down the same alley his dad did with the same gang. And he thinks he’s smart. You walk down that alley, you don’t come out. You certainly don’t come out with 2:1 or 10:1.”
But after this on-point criticism of the obstructionist loons who’ve taken over the Republican Party, Jeb decided he had to throw a bone to them and blame the whole thing on guess who…Right. Why do those nasty liberals keep forcing Republicans to behave badly?
If Reagan were running today instead of 1980, it’s a safe bet he’d occupy the same slot — the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. He may have found it harder than in the past to claim that mantle, considering how many others were competing for it. And his record on taxes and spending in California would probably have come under more scrutiny. Yet it’s hard to believe that today’s GOP has moved so far to the right that it wouldn’t embrace the guy who spent so much of his career pushing it in that direction.
The more interesting question is whether a contemporary President Reagan, faced with the current budget mess, would have sought a deal with Democrats that Norquist or the party’s conservative wing would decry. Reagan’s record as governor and president suggests a strong streak of pragmatism on fiscal issues. Although his tenure was marked by large deficits (by the standards back then), he was concerned enough about them to accept several tax hikes in the aftermath of the big tax cut he pushed through in 1981.
Jeb Bush apparently believes that Reagan would be similarly pragmatic in response to today’s giant federal deficit; Norquist takes the other side. Either way, my guess is that the situation would be little different than it is today. That’s because this Congress is built for impasse on fiscal issues. There simply aren’t enough votes for a major deficit-reduction deal that either raises taxes or doesn’t raise them. There are still some lawmakers willing to compromise on a centrist plan to close the budget gap, but there don’t appear to be enough of them to get one done.
Bush is hardly the first — or the last — Republican to voice sentiments like these. But it seems strange to keep beating this drum when Republicans just nominated Mitt Romney, who was not exactly considered the conservative stalwart among the 2012 GOP candidates this cycle.
Sorry, Jeb. If you believe Barack Obama is to blame for the Republican Party’s lurch to the right, then you’re not exposing the problem … you are the problem.
Whatever its source, the notion that Reagan would have difficulty being nominated today is laughable. The Republican party is about to nominate Mitt Romney, whose offenses against conservative orthodoxy outweigh any that Reagan had committed when he won the nomination in 1980, and any that he committed thereafter judged even by today’s standards. Romney’s opponents plausibly called him a Massachusetts moderate. Anyone who called Reagan a California moderate would have been laughed out of the campaign, and not just for a poor sense of alliteration.
Bush says that Reagan’s “record of finding accommodation” and “some degree of common ground” with Democrats would have made his nomination difficult. Presumably, he’s referring to what Reagan did as president, and to the likelihood that, today, he would be renominated.
We don’t know what the current Republican climate means for renomination. At last check, in 2004, the orthodoxy bar wasn’t high. And since that bar also wasn’t high for nomination in 2008 or 2012, there’s little reason to fear that Reagan would struggle to be renominated these days. In all likelihood, the standard for renomination in the Republican party today is the same as it’s always been — a first term that’s perceived as successful enough to make re-election likely.
Reagan passed that test as easily as any president in our history. We need not worry about how he would fare in today’s Republican party.
Jebby, your analysis is about as cogent as Ronald Reagan JUNIOR’S.
Go away now. You talked too much and now people know you’re a moron. You should have stayed silent and rode that myth that you’re a rising star in the GOP. You’re rising like Meghan McCain.
Bush is clearly engaged in an effort to position himself as the next leader of the Republican Party…
To understand what Bush is saying, you need to anticipate how the party might diagnose the causes of a loss in 2012, and then you can see how he is setting himself as the cure. Bush has been publicly urging Republicans to moderate their tone toward Latinos and to embrace immigration reform. Here is the one issue where Republicans, should they lose, will almost surely conclude that they need to moderate their party stance. The Latino vote is both growing in size and seems to be tilting ever more strongly toward the Democrats, a combination that will rapidly make the electoral map virtually unwinnable. Indeed, the body language of the Romney campaign suggests it already regrets the hard-line stances on immigration it adopted during the primary.
Containing illegal immigration is a passion among the Republican voting base, but the party elite is generally either indifferent to or actively supportive of illegal immigration. (It’s a good source of cheap labor for business.) Bush, of course, speaks fluent Spanish and has a Mexican-American wife.
Other than that, Bush has largely followed the example of his brother’s 2000 campaign, offering a great deal of moderation in tone and very little in substance. This morning he spoke fulsomely on the merits of bipartisanship without committing himself to support a generalized move toward the center on anything other than immigration. In customary party fashion, he lashed President Obama for failing to fully endorse the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan, but subsequently admitted he would have opposed it as well due to its higher tax revenues.
Jeb Bush’s comments today at a meeting at the Bloomberg HQs in New York are interesting and aimed at the day when the GOP has de-fevered itself….
…Bush is the best-known non-retired Republican to invoke Reagan in this way and say that the great man could not be accommodated in today’s GOP. So he deserves a point for saying that.
But just one point, no more. Bush doesn’t yet have the courage to say all the things that need to be said. Jacob Weisberg, who was there in the room, tweeted: “Jeb excoriates Obama for not backing Simpson-Bowles, then admits he would have been against it because of tax increases.”
All this raises the question of whether we’re going to have to endure yet another Bush. I suppose this will never end. Romneys too. Five sons after all. Surely a couple of them are going to go into the family business. There will never be any reprieve from these people. Even so, a Jeb-Hillary match up in 2016 could be spicy.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.