What Kind of President Might Jeb Bush Be?

I am very pleased by reports that Jeb Bush is about to toss his hat into the presidential ring. I certainly count myself as a big-time Jeb Bush fan; he is hyper-smart, hyper-serious and conscientious, very interested in policy, determined and proven to be a very good manager and leader who is not afraid to drill down into the details of a problem while at the same time maintaining a big-picture perspective, and someone who is in politics for all the right reasons–to do right by the people who elected him, and might elect him again. When it comes to Bush’s political appeal, he is able to draw moderates, independents, conservatives and libertarians into his political camp. He knows how to win elections, and he was a very popular governor of Florida. He can revive the national Republican brand if he makes it to the 2016 general election. Frankly, there is quite little not to like.

Oh, and the ideological concerns about Bush that stem from the right? They are bogus:

Some conservatives say Jeb Bush isn’t one of them, citing a handful of positions that cut against Republican orthodoxy. A look at his record as governor of Florida suggests that’s not quite accurate.

Mr. Bush championed tax cuts, privatized state jobs, fought for school vouchers, won power over the judiciary and labored to prolong the life of a brain-damaged woman, Terry Schiavo.

Well before earmarks became a dirty word in Washington, he campaigned against such pet projects in Tallahassee, promising to veto spending items not approved by his administration. He wound up vetoing some $2 billion in spending over eight years.

If Mr. Bush runs for president, his two terms as governor between 1999 and 2007, and the related question about his conservatism would likely be an issue.

“Honestly I don’t think I ever came across one person who told me he wasn’t being conservative enough,” said Al Cardenas, who was chairman of the Florida Republican Party during the Bush gubernatorial years

Over his tenure, Mr. Bush cut taxes by some $19 billion, much of it benefiting businesses and investors, such as the repeal of a tax on investments. He created the first school-voucher program in the country, allowing students in failing schools to use public money for private-school tuition, a program later struck down by the state Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Another program, also being challenged in court, gives companies a tax credit if they donate for private school scholarships.

Mr. Bush also sparked protests with his One Florida program, which aimed to end affirmative action preferences for minorities in universities and state contracting.

How much more conservative is any politician supposed to be before the right accepts that politician as one of their own? I disagree with the stance that Bush took during the Terri Schiavo case, but the stance that he took certainly shouldn’t cause conservatives to have doubts about Bush’s philosophical bona fides.

To be sure, Bush has offended some people on the right by taking a sensible position on immigration policy, but I happen to see that as a feature for his candidacy, not a bug. Maybe that’s just because I care about solving the immigration conundrum–like Bush, coincidentally!–instead of constantly trying to use immigration as a political weapon on behalf of Republicans, only to have that weapon turned against the Republican party when presidential elections roll around. I don’t apologize for this position; I happen to think that from time to time, politicians ought to try to govern, instead of waving bloody shirts. I recognize that for some, this is an antiquated notion, but I happen to think that it might still have some currency, and I hope that it gains currency with a Bush presidential run.

I am not yet going to issue an endorsement of Jeb Bush; it is not yet 2015, let alone 2016, and I do want to see if there are other candidates who step forward to be considered by the Republican party once primary and caucus season roll around. But I am at the very least 95% sure that I will support Bush for president. He knows how to win elections and he knows how to govern successfully. The past two Republican presidential nominees showed that they knew nothing about the former, and the incumbent president of the United States has shown that he knows rather little about the latter. To say the least, it’s time for a change.