I’ve been a skeptic about the Jeb Bush candidacy, but he did himself a lot of good today with a very strong announcement speech. Unlike Mrs. Clinton’s (second) announcement, it was uplifting and unifying rather than divisive and bitter. Conservatives who doubt his bona fides will find much to like. He hit a few big themes that resonate with the right, including the cronyism that characterizes government, the arrogance of the leviathan state (“It’s the Little Sisters versus Big Brother”), and the scary decline of the U.S. military (the “greatest risk of all,” he said, is “military inferiority”).
Bush was one of the most successful conservative governors in U.S. history. He speaks fluent Spanish. He’s a very smart and capable leader and I, for one, am proud that the country produced the likes of him. That said, there are still a couple of things that one wonders about. In his discussion of foreign policy, he didn’t mention Iran — a big omission. Touching on education, he said “Every school should have high standards, and the federal government should have nothing to do with setting them.” Was that a retreat from Common Core? Unclear. Also, one applause line struck me as odd, considering that the Republicans are in control of both houses of Congress: “I also used my veto power to protect our taxpayers from needless spending. And if I am elected president, I’ll show Congress how that’s done.”
Bush aides have hinted that the candidate plans to get tough on fellow Republicans (and Rich Lowry had some wise words about that), was this part of it? The Republicans in Congress now are post–Tea Party. This is not the 2000/2006 Republican Congress. They’ve voted for Paul Ryan budgets. They’ve taken relatively brave stands on cutting spending. They’ve managed, since getting the House in 2010, to reduce the deficits. So it was an odd line in an otherwise excellent speech.