In an attempt to revitalise his floundering campaign Jeb Bush tried to continue position himself as the establishment choice for President, even though his poll ratings have shown this has not been the best strategy. Despite his continued polling failures, Bush attempted to sound more sane than the other Republicans but, although he did this, faded into the background on many occasions.
Bush was first asked about his fiscal policies and it was clearly an appeal to the rabid right-wingers in the audience. He said he would eliminate tax loopholes, cut corporate taxes to 20%, repeal “every rule Obama has implemented”. After the clapping from that last point died down, Bush continued that he would repeal the “regulation of the internet”, repeal the “Clean Power Act”, and repeal the “Waters of the United States Act”. These three things are all stupid for a variety of reasons.
The “regulation of the internet” that Bush is referring to is the decision by the FCC to categorise the internet as a public utility; this protected net neutrality, the principle that prevented large internet companies from creating a two-tier internet system that slowed down small websites that didn’t pay for premium access. The “Clean Power Act” doesn’t exist. The thing Bush is referring to is the Clean Power Plan, which is an initiative by the EPA and not an Act of Congress, which is designed to reduce carbon emissions through a number of mechanisms including state-by-state emission reduction targets. Finally the “Waters of the United States Act” is an inane way of referring to the Clean Water Act. This Act of Congress is not new, as was implied, it was passed in 1972, and became effective the following year. Admittedly then President Richard Nixon vetoed the bill originally and the majority-Democratic Senate overrode his veto, but there is no way that this is could be construed as one of the ‘job crushing regulations’ that the GOP constantly bang on about it. Bush came back to environmental regulations at the end by arguing that carbon emissions were lower due to innovation rather than government regulations.
A point to mention is that at the end of these comments Bush randomly attacked Hillary Clinton by asserting that her policies “were not the best America could do”. Obviously this is to be expected at a GOP debate but I seemed to be getting déjà vu when his next time to talk was essentially entirely devoted to attacking Clinton. Bush did reaffirm his belief that the top priority would be tax reform, but most of this time was dedicated to attacking Clinton, which was strange because if I was Bush I would have focussed on my own campaign. The Republican base already don’t like Hillary Clinton, so preaching to the converted is pointless and a waste of time, especially when there was nothing at the end of the debate that I could think of that distinguished him from the other establishment Republicans (other than his name).
Bush’s next contribution, if you can call it that, was on foreign policy. Specifically, he was asked what he believed the greatest foreign policy threat was to the US was and he answered with Islamic extremism. However at this point he again decided to criticise Obama and Clinton for their foreign policies, and asserted that “Obama doesn’t believe in American leadership”, which is a neo-conservative euphemism for ‘he doesn’t invade a country every five minutes’. He finished by advocating for the creation of safe-zones in the Middle East for refugees from the Syrian Civil War and calling for a no-fly zone over Syria.
A no-fly zone is a horrible idea as you have to police it, and Russia are currently flying missions over Syria and Iraq at the invitation of the Syrian and Iraqi governments. Shooting down a Russian plane is never a good idea, but it is especially bad when doing so against the wishes of the people on the front line of fighting ISIS. When called out on his hawkishness by Donald Trump, who is by no definition a pacifist, Bush said that “there is a difference between a policeman and a leader” but stopped short of making that distinction. He went on to argue for supporting moderates in Syria but misspoke; rather than calling them ‘moderate Muslims’, he called them ‘moderate Islamists’ which is like saying a ‘liberal Stalinist’.
Bush’s comments were regarding bank bailouts. When asked if he would bailout the banks again, he dodged the question by saying that he would “raise capital requirements so banks aren’t too big to fail”. If we accept that this would actually prevent another banking crisis, this would be a measure for banks accumulating capital in the future; if there was a banking crisis on the day on his inauguration that legislation wouldn’t be in place and so doesn’t answer the question that was asked by the moderators.
Bush also railed against Dodd-Frank, which was the legislation that was passed in the wake of the banking crisis, complaining that it disproportionate impacted smaller, community banks rather than the Wall Street behemoths that crashed the economy. This would be a valid concern if it were true, but according to many sources, including an article from October 2015 in the Wall Street Journal, Dodd-Frank’s impact on small banks is “muted”. Obviously the reason that he is complaining about this piecemeal bit of regulation is that he is courting the campaign donations of financial institutions for his presidential campaign, which is why this has become a new talking point at these debates.
These debates are a vicious cycle. If you do well in the polls you’re put at centre stage and given a lot of airtime, whereas if you’re not doing too well you’re given a little less time. Admittedly the moderators endeavoured as much as possible to be equal in their air time to each candidate but this performance is not going to improve Bush’s poll ratings, and thus his air time in future debates. As I said in the main body of the article, he said nothing new in comparison with Rubio or Trump or George W. Bush and, in a year where right-wingers and outsiders seem preferred by GOP primary voters, I’m calling this as another poor performance from the former Florida Governor. In previous election years this kind of strategy would have been passable but the paradigm has shifted to the right and he is not going to be the Republican candidate for President.