May 12, 2015

Jeb Bush tries to clarify position on Iraq war

@PatriciaMazzei

Jeb Bush said Tuesday he misunderstood the question when he told Fox News he would have authorized the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 based on "faulty" intelligence.

"I interpreted the question wrong, I guess," Bush told conservative talk-radio host Sean Hannity on Tuesday afternoon, a day after the Fox interview aired. "I was talking about, given what people knew then, would you have done it, rather than knowing what we know now."

Bush faced with criticism over his answer to Fox's Megyn Kelly since the network posted a clip online Sunday. Bush allies -- and Kelly herself -- suggested Bush misheard the question, and he used the Hannity appearance to try to clarify his answer.

But when Hannity asked him Kelly's question again -- "So in 20/20 hindsight, you would make a different decision?" -- Bush wouldn't say.

"I don't know what that decision would have been, that's a hypothetical," Bush said. "But the simple fact is mistakes were made, as they always are in life, in life, in foreign policy."

Perhaps Bush, a known policy wonk unafraid to give his opinions on a wide range of issues in frequent interviews, was being candid instead of delivering a prepared talking point. But an "I don't know" response 12 years after the Iraq invasion that so plagued his brother's presidency may do little to quell critics eager to pounce on the Republican presidential field's presumed fund-raising front-runner.

"He's joking, right?" Democratic National Committee Communications Director Mo Elleithee said in a statement. "Yesterday the answer was yes, and now he doesn't know? Leave it to Jeb Bush to make George W. Bush look ready for primetime."

Jeb Bush to skip Iowa straw poll

@PatriciaMazzei

Jeb Bush won't take part this summer in the Iowa straw poll, according to The Des Moines Register. He has instead agreed to participate in a competing conservative gathering, RedState, on Aug. 8 in Atlanta.

The Iowa straw poll has been criticized as a pay-to-play event that strains candidates financially and acts as a poor predictor of the winner of the state's caucuses. Mitt Romney won the poll in 2007, only to lose the caucuses to Mike Huckabee. Michele Bachmann won in 2011, to lose to Rick Santorum. Romney skipped it that year.

The Iowa GOP has been trying to attract contenders to the event, and party chairman Jeff Kaufmann did not take Bush's planned absence well.

Early public-opinion polls show Bush trailing in socially conservative Iowa. His camp appears to have recognized that the state has also not been kind to past Republican front-runners: Huckabee won the 2008 caucuses but lost the nomination to John McCain. Santorum won in 2012 and lost to Romney.

Jeb Bush leases Miami office for likely presidential campaign

@PatriciaMazzei @NickNehamas

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There’s no “Jeb Bush for President” sign — at least, not yet — outside the sturdy, six-story office building on West Flagler Street. But inside, the former Florida governor’s political team has begun to organize his likely 2016 Republican presidential bid.

Bush’s political action committee, Right to Rise, recently leased space on two floors of the Flagler Corporate Center at 9250 W. Flagler St. in West Miami-Dade County. For now, they remain a campaign headquarters in need of a campaign, since Bush has yet to formalize his candidacy.

“Welcome,” reads a placard with Right to Rise’s logo on it inside the building’s lobby, past a security desk that asks visitors to sign in and provide identification before they walk in. Two more Right to Rise signs point to the PAC’s offices on the fifth and sixth floors.

As an unofficial candidate, Bush has been raising big money at events hosted by his PAC and super PAC, both named Right to Rise. Once he launches his campaign, Bush will be limited in his ability to coordinate with the deep-pocketed super PAC, which is nevertheless expected to take an unprecedented role in the race, though it won’t be physically housed with Bush’s operation.

Bush’s communications staff and some of his finance team have already moved into the newly leased Miami headquarters. Team Jeb has only leased a small portion of the building. But it seems ready to house a large operation: It has ample parking and an atrium cafeteria. A large American flag hangs over the fifth-floor balcony.

More here.

This post has been updated.

 

May 11, 2015

WaPo: Jeb Bush leans on nonprofit group as he preps for likely presidential run

From the Washington Post:

WASHINGTON -- A nonprofit group allied with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is playing a more expansive role in his current political operation than previously known, housing several top policy advisers expected to join his eventual campaign, according to people familiar with the structure.

At least four people with expertise on energy issues, foreign affairs and communications are working with Right to Rise Policy Solutions, a nonprofit advocacy group that can accept secret, unlimited donations from individuals and corporations.

More here.

Jeb Bush, like Marco Rubio, wouldn't undo Obama immigration order right away

@PatriciaMazzei

Jeb Bush indicated in an interview to air Monday that he would wait until Congress pass an immigration overhaul before repealing President Obama's executive orders temporarily allowing some people in the country illegally to stay.

Bush reiterated to Fox News' Megyn Kelly that he would undo Obama's orders known as DACA and DAPA. DAPA isn't in place yet because it's been challenged in court, but DACA is. When Kelly asked Bush how he would undo that order, according to a transcript of the recorded interview, he said: "Passing meaningful reform of immigration and make it part of it."

The former Florida governor, a still-undeclared 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, had said in a Seattle radio interview last month that he would repeal both orders, noting that DAPA has yet to be implemented. "The better answer is to fix the immigration problem," Bush said at the time.

Bush's position sounds a lot like Marco Rubio's. The Florida senator, who is already a formal presidential candidate, has said he would do away with DAPA right away if it doesn't die in court first but leave DACA in place at first while pushing Congress to pass immigration legislation.

"At some point, it's going to have to end -- that can't become the permanent policy of the United States -- but on the short term I've said I won't remove it," Rubio told CNN en Español last month. "I would eliminate DAPA, the new measure, and I would use the position of president to advance a responsible immigration-reform process."

Bloomberg/Saint Anselm poll: Marco Rubio doing better, Jeb Bush doing worse in New Hampshire

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who announced his 2016 presidential bid last month, has more than doubled his popularity among New Hampshire Republican voters since February -- while Jeb Bush, whose candidacy is still unofficial, has lost some traction, according to a new poll.

The public-opinion survey by Bloomberg Politics and Saint Anselm College found Bush and Rubio tied with 11 percent. That represents a six-percentage point increase for Rubio and a five-point loss for Bush compared to the February poll. When matched up against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, Bush and Rubio fare exactly the same: Clinton leads against both Republicans, 44-42 percent.

The two Floridians trail Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who are tied with 12 percent. Walker, like Bush, is not yet a formal candidate. The survey's error margin is 4.4 percentage points.

Our usual disclaimer: It's way too early to read too much into polls, so consider this just an interesting snapshot of the early presidential race.

May 10, 2015

Jeb Bush to Fox News: I would have authorized Iraq invasion

@PatriciaMazzei

Jeb Bush would have given the go-ahead to the U.S. military invasion of Iraq, though intelligence leading up to the war was "faulty," the former Florida governor told Fox News.

"I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody," said Bush, a probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate. "And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got."

Clinton, who's running for the Democratic nomination, has said her vote in the Senate authorizing the war was "wrong."

In a taped interview to air Monday night, Bush told Megyn Kelly that the mistake came when the U.S. failed to focus on "security" after the invasion.

He added that Iraq is not an area of foreign policy where there is a "big space" between himself and his brother, former President George W. Bush, whose authorized the Iraq invasion in 2003. Jeb Bush told political donors last week that his brother is one of his top advisers on U.S.-Israel policy.

Separately in the Fox interview, Bush defended his views on immigration, which some conservatives have criticized as too permissive. He supports a path to legal status for many people in the country illegally.

Bush seemed to poke at likely rival Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor, who has backed away from a similar position.

"Here's the deal, Megyn: If I go beyond the consideration of running to be an actual candidate, do you want people to just bend with the wind, to mirror people's sentiment whoever is in front of you?" Bush said. "'Oh, yes, I used to be for that but now, I'm for this.' Is that the way we want to elect presidents?"

UPDATE: On Monday, the Democratic National Committee released a web video slamming Bush over his Iraq comment:

 

Los Angeles Times: When Jeb Bush fought high-speed rail in Florida

From the Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON -- When Jeb Bush was governor of Florida, he said his constituents didn't fully understand what they were doing when they amended their constitution in 2000 to build a high-speed rail line connecting the state's five largest cities.

"People thought it was 'cool' to have a really fast train running from Miami to Tampa," Bush wrote to a constituent at the time. "No costs were discussed. The higher taxes that are necessary will dramatically change the dynamic."

After slashing funding for the project, Bush campaigned in favor of a second voter referendum, to kill the project. It took him four years, but he won.

Bush's war against high-speed rail offers one of the clearest examples of his governing philosophy and style. It mixes a willingness to go against both the desires of voters and an influential political ally — and an unromantic fiscal conservatism that has endeared him to some Republicans.

More here.

May 09, 2015

Jeb Bush courts evangelical Christians in faith speech

via @lesleyclark

LYNCHBURG, Va. -- Looking to win over skeptical evangelical voters, Jeb Bush pushed back Saturday against what he said are modern intrusions on religion as he lauded graduates and their families at Liberty University, a Christian college popular on the path to the Republican presidential nomination.

“Fashionable ideas and opinions — which these days can be a religion all by itself — have got a problem with Christians and their right of conscience,” Bush told an audience of 34,000 in the school’s football stadium.

“That makes it our problem, and the proper response is a forthright defense of the first freedom in our Constitution.”

Some evangelicals view Bush warily, questioning whether the former Florida governor and likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination would provide a suitable bulwark against gay marriage, illegal immigration and other issues key to conservatives.

Bush did not mention gay marriage, but got some of his loudest applause when he said “wherever there is a child waiting to be born, we say choose life, and we say it with love.”

And the convert to Catholicism pledged that he would not apologize for allowing faith to influence his decision making.

“The simple and safe reply is, `No. Never. Of course not,' “ Bush said. “If the game is political correctness, that’s the answer that moves you to the next round.”

More here.

May 08, 2015

Jeb Bush's planned commencement speech will hit Obama on religious freedom

via @lesleyclark

LYNCHBURG, VA — Jeb Bush will deliver the commencement address Saturday at Liberty University, criticizing the Obama administration for being “small minded and intolerant” of religious freedom.

The address comes as the presumed presidential contender seeks to boost up his standing among conservatives and religious evangelicals and excerpts released ahead of the speech by his campaign committee show he will deliver a defense of religion, saying that “whatever the need, the affliction, or the injustice, there is no more powerful or liberating influence on this earth than the Christian conscience in action.”

He will tout Christian charity at the school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, saying that “every day in the life of this nation, uncounted people are comforting the lonely, aiding the ill and discouraged, serving the weak and innocent, giving hope to the prisoner, and in every way they know, loving mercy and living with integrity.”

The former Florida governor who converted to Catholicism, also proclaimed he is pro-life in the excerpts, noting that “wherever there is a child waiting to be born, we say choose life, and we say it with love.”

His remarks are also critical of the Obama administration, accusing it of “supporting the use of coercive federal power. What should be easy calls, in favor of religious freedom, have instead become an aggressive stance against it.”

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