I met Jeb Bush only once, to shake his hand at a dinner for the Nicaraguan contras in Miami years ago when the war against the communist Sandinistas was at its height. I was a third-tour officer of the diplomatic service, Desk Officer for Nicaragua, and I was pro-Contra all the way. Bush was rumpled and genial and had given a lot of help to the Nicaraguan opposition, and I was very happy to meet him. Over the years his political star rose and he went on to become one of Florida’s most able and popular governors. I liked him then and like him still.
So why would I not support him as our next president? Or perhaps more to the point, why not support him as presidential candidate of the only party I ever voted for, the GOP?
First, there is still lingering resentment on a couple of points. He should have run against Democrat Senator Bill Nelson (FL) at some point since leaving the governorship. He would have won. I have a friend who insisted that JEB would never run because of “family scandals.” She was referring to his wife not declaring expensive purchases made in Europe on her US customs forms and his kids who were (gasp) using drugs and having sex and were sometimes troubled, unlike the rest of America. As far as I’m concerned, none of that is an obstacle to his success. My opposition isn’t based on his personal likes and dislikes as much as on the policy ramifications of his compassionate views, as I note below.
I also resent that J. E. Bush refused to run in the last national election as a presidential candidate. It was a long shot no matter who ran, but we needed someone who was capable of facing down Obama’s hauteur, misdirection, and refusal to answer direct questions. Mitt Romney had one good night out of an entire campaign, but then ceded to the president rather than continue the crusade. I will forever judge those who did not get in the race (such as Bush or Christie) because they didn’t want to risk a loss. If anybody had had the courage, Obama might have been out of office now, instead of trying to firm up his socialist legacy. This time around the reluctant aspirants like the odds a lot better and every possible candidate is running or planning to run. Well, nerts to that. The elephant has a long memory – remember?
I think one political problem JEB has is his over-identification with the Latino community. His fondness for these people is a fine thing and why wouldn’t he like them: he married a Mexican, his kids are half Mexican, he majored in Latin American studies, speaks the language fluently, and was raised in Texas. I also love Latinos, my mother was Puerto Rican and the soul of generosity to all. In her I saw everything good in Latin America. But I know that a country that doesn’t have a border it is willing to protect is not a sovereign country and open to every threat with the resources to cross a non-existent line. And my mother would not have approved of letting just anybody cross into America. She loved America far more than she had ever loved Puerto Rico. She taught me patriotism.
JEB hasn’t convinced me that his heart is in border enforcement. He wants to amnesty every illegal alien here, whom he sees as one great good and decent group of people who just want to work. He doesn’t have a big problem with their crossing illegally into the US to find their callings. (I’m sure he’s not including the ones whose work is drug dealing, or prostitution, or human smuggling, or just plain armed robbery; or the ones raising whole families on US welfare.) He thinks Americans are mean-spirited for opposing this humane measure. The thought crosses my mind that he has been a bit too thick with Catholic Church liberation theologians out of Latin America, whose chief spokesman now sits in his ostentatiously humble residence in Vatican City. Quite frankly, Bush shares a lot of their views.
I don’t care for Bush’s stance on Common Core, either. He supports it, I oppose it. Why he would want to impose a State-devised, centrally-mandated curriculum on all of America is beyond me. This is more of his “fairness” principle that seems to drive him in everything: it isn’t fair if a child doesn’t get sufficient math just because he was born in Missouri. It puts him at a disadvantage. It isn’t moral or sensible.
And maybe this “fairness” thing is at bottom what I most distrust about Bush. He thinks in a very different way than I do, or most of those I know do. He thinks like a wealthy upper-crust white man who feels he has boundless obligations to the poor and needy to atone for his good fortune. And charity is good. But he plans to “be fair” on the taxpayer’s dime and at the expense of America’s very character. Bush more and more strikes me as a Republican gone socialist and one-world. He shares the same left-wing views that motivate the Vatican these days, and the White House and New York City, not to mention Boulder. Bush would always strive to be fair, even if it means a greater and greater burden is imposed on the workers as the ranks of the non-workers grows.
It probably will surprise some people to learn that JEB is a real intellectual, a completely different type than either his father or brother George. He tends to philosophize, and that’s not what I want in a president. He never showed the willingness to take the big step that might put him in hot water, as when he allowed Terry Schiavo to be killed by the State at the demand of her ex-husband for the crime of being insufficiently responsive. I want a smart man with executive skills and the wisdom to put his compassion to one side except where compassion is demanded, and then to act on that compassion. I want someone who shares my values and in general my views on major issues like the border, and immigration law, and national healthcare systems, on taxes and education. On those matters, I am inclined to view JEB as altogether too left of center. He would have been a great professor, or ambassador, or even a great priest, and he was a great governor. But a great president? I have serious doubts.
But I’d still vote for him for senator of Florida.