Conservatives who might have thought that after Mitt Romney’s failed campaign the Republican establishment was going to throw in the towel and hand the next Republican presidential nomination to a small government constitutional conservative had better wake-up and recognize that the establishment is not going to let go of power without a fight.
Exhibit A for this proposition is a small article in today’s National Review Online noting that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (pictured) was in Washington, meeting with his “alumni group” -- including Romney’s pollster Neil Newhouse.
When asked by NRO what he was doing in Washington, Bush said, “I’m here to focus on educational reform, and that’s what I’m going to tell people.”
“…what I’m going to tell people,” and the truth are generally strangers in this context, so conservatives should assume that Jeb Bush is at least exploring the possibility of running for President.
A Jeb Bush run for the White House, accompanied by the kind of establishment Republican highhandedness that forced through the nomination of Mitt Romney, would be a disaster of the first order for the Republican Party and could very well be all the push libertarian-minded voters and small government constitutional conservatives need to take a permanent hike from the GOP.
Yes, social conservatives are inclined to think well of Jeb Bush because he signed the law to keep Terry Schiavo from being taken off life support. However, those who see in Jeb Bush a “more conservative” Bush should take off the blinders and look at his overall record as Governor of Florida, which reveals him to be the same kind of big government Republican that brought the Party to grief in 2006.
Bush’s “education reform,” like many of his other policies that sounded good in a speech, actually ended-up taking away power from parents and locally elected school boards and centralizing power in the hands of bureaucrats in the state capitol.
That’s not the kind of small government constitutional conservatism that elected thousands of Republican candidates in the Tea Party wave of 2010.
Jeb Bush also has an interesting penchant for revising Reaganism and Ronald Reagan’s record to comport with his own big government instincts -- particularly when it comes to matters of taxes and the growth of spending.
“Back to my dad’s time and Ronald Reagan’s time – they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support,” he said. Reagan “would be criticized for doing the things that he did.”
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 and the Republican Party; breaking his pledge against tax increases and infuriating conservatives. It was, Jeb Bush said, “helpful in creating a climate of more sustained economic growth.”
Bush conveniently forgets that both his father and President Reagan got snookered in those “bipartisan” deals with Democrats because, while the tax increases are still with us, the spending cuts never materialized – a fact that President Reagan had both the grace and honesty to admit in his biography.
Jeb Bush, like Mitt Romney, may have some personal instincts of a conservative nature, but there’s nothing “small government” about Jeb Bush or his two terms as Governor of Florida. As Republicans weigh the prospects for 2016, they should choose from among the many fresh faces in the small government constitutional conservatives rising in the Party today and say “No Thanks" to Jeb Bush and the tired big government Republicanism of the past.