Jeb Bush is not running for president

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And maybe that’s one reason he’s talking a lot of sense. Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard talked to him about prospects for Republicans and what he thinks their approach ought to be.

For Republican candidates, “This is a good time to be a little less constrained in your thinking,” Bush says. “Candidates that win will be a little emboldened. They’re not going to take the traditional point of view that we can’t be too provocative because we’re going to upset the population. Think big and bold. Fill the space. […]

“My guess is, post-November, should things go well, you’re going to see the emerging Cantor-Ryan wing of the Republican party—the policy activists—in their ascendency,” Bush says. “They’ll be in the ascendency in the Senate as well. And you’ll have activist conservative governors. In 2011, I think you’re going to see all sorts of efforts to act on the belief in entrepreneurial capitalism and limited government.”

He’s read Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap” for reform, “all 95 pages of it. It’s fantastic. Paul Ryan is the only elected official that’s actually laid out a plan.”


Bush’s answer is to reject President Obama’s economic plan and adopt “sustained economic growth as a policy. Part of that would be to create a new immigration system that allowed us to have a guest worker program … and would open our country to capitalists, entrepreneurs, technologists, researchers. They would come. The only way you can grow is to have a meaningful immigration strategy that says growth is good.”

But that—and especially amnesty for illegals—can’t occur until the border with Mexico is secure. “More fence, sure,” Bush says. “It’s just no one trusts Washington until you show the good faith of protecting the border.”

Bush has done a back-of-the-envelope calculation about what an economic growth strategy could produce. Obama’s policy won’t generate more than 1.5 percent growth annually, he says. But with “lower taxes, more rational regulation, limiting the power of government in general, particularly in Washington, investing in research, innovation, education—and get out of the way, trust capitalism to work and you can achieve easily 2 percent more per year,” Bush insists. “You end up with $3.5 trillion of extra economic activity, more than the entire economy of Germany.”

As has often been observed, were his last name not Bush, the former governor of Florida would have been a great candidate for president the last time around, and would also be in 2012. That’s not, in my view, so much because George W. Bush is hated by most Americans — because he’s not — but more because it rightly creates a sense of unease to see one family being so dominant in presidential politics. The same thing worked against Hillary Clinton (and of-course a history of scandals and political cravenness didn’t help either). It’s a shame: Jeb Bush’s brand of optimistic, can-do conservatism is exactly the kind of thing needed on the national scene, and his ability to explain it and to sell it articulately is also a crucial element. It remains to be seen whether someone with similar gifts will assert him or herself after the November election.