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Jeb Bush arguably enters the 2016 Republican primary with the greatest name recognition and strong connections to the Party apparatus. A popular two-term governor of a major state in his own right, he’s also the brother and son of the last two Republican presidents.
It was once thought that Jeb was the most likely of the Bush siblings to follow his father to the presidency, but a narrow loss in his first run for the Florida governorship in 1994 set him back, while his older brother George W. Bush – who was not always expected to enter politics – won his race for governor of Texas a year later, and the rest was history.
Below are some of his policy positions on key issues.
On Foreign Policy and Security
Jeb’s known foreign policy team consists of mostly familiar faces involved in the administrations of his brother and father, and he has experienced some difficulty trying to explain his foreign policy positions without appearing to step on the toes of his brother, whose presidency was dominated by foreign policy issues thanks to the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After first saying that he would have supported the invasion of Iraq even if he knew that Saddam Hussein did not have chemical or biological weapons, Jeb reversed days later and said he “would not have gone into Iraq” absent disputed intelligence indicating the presence of weapons of mass destruction.
Bush has nevertheless accused the Obama administration of abandoning Iraq, for which he has attributed the rise of ISIS. He’s also opposed to its recent moves to normalize relations with Cuba, and criticized nuclear negotiations with Iran. He accused the President of creating chaos in the world, swiping at his reliance on “big syllable words and lots of fancy conferences” instead of leading.
On the other hand, Jeb has praised the administration’s continuation and expansion of the NSA’s bulk phone record surveillance program, which began under his brother, as “the best part of the Obama administration.” He also defended the PATRIOT Act as “a device, along with other strategies, that have kept us safe. There is not a single shred of evidence that anyone’s civil liberties have been violated. Why would we change something that has been working?”
Bush didn’t list repealing Obamacare among his “top five agenda items,” but he has criticized the law as “flawed to the core.” He’s also cautioned against certain political attacks on the law, and said of Ted Cruz‘s opposition that some blame for a government shutdown, “Tactically, it was a mistake to focus on something that couldn’t be achieved.”
Instead, he would let the law fail on its own, arguing, “it would be so dysfunctional, if it were implemented faithfully, that it would be clear for more people. Or, it couldn’t be implemented because the government is not capable of doing it. …But that was all crowded out by a miscalculation of using something that shouldn’t be use: the debt ceiling limit and the continuation of the budget.”
He wants to replace Obamacare “with a model that is consumer directed, where consumers, where patients, have more choices, where they have more of a direct relationship; where the subsidies, if there were to be subsidies, are state administered; and if there are to be exchanges, they aren’t coercive exchanges; where there’s no employer mandate, employee mandate or requirements of services provided that are extraordinary; where people have more customized types of insurance based on their needs; and it’s more consumer-directed so that they’re more engaged in the decision-making, and they have more choices than what they have today.”
Jeb describes his views on immigration as a “core belief,” and supports comprehensive reform. He says current law is broken, “because we don’t enforce the law. It’s broken because we have a president that uses authority he doesn’t have to pick and choose who gets to stay and who doesn’t. It’s broken because 40 percent of the illegal immigrants in our country came here legally and overstayed their time. It’s broken because businesses sometimes hire illegal immigrants and they shouldn’t do that and there should be true enforcement so that people know that that’s the wrong thing.”
He says, “My belief is we need to give people a path to legal status.” Of prospective immigrants, he notes, “You pay your fines, you get provisional work permits, where you come out of the shadows, you pay taxes, you pay fines, you don’t receive government assistance, you learn English, you don’t commit crimes. Any of those things that you do would be a deportable offense.”
He opposes the President’s executive actions, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiatives, which he says undermine the rule of law. But he also notes that illegal immigration is often an “act of love for their families,” and points to the economic benefits of legal, high-skilled immigration, calling it a “huge opportunity, not a problem.”
Jeb Bush has long pushed education reform efforts, including school choice and expanded use of digital learning. As Governor he signed the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program to provide school choice for low-income students in the state. It has survived several legal assaults from teachers’ unions and other anti-reform interests.
After he left office, Jeb founded the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a think tank based in Tallahassee, Florida, aimed at continuing efforts at education reform begun as governor. Breaking from most of his Republican rivals, Bush has defended President Obama’s development of the Common Core standards.