In the Shadow of Conservative Celebrities, Jeb Bush Doubles Down on Policy

Shadow of Conservative Celebrities
Shadow of Conservative Celebrities

Jeb Bush talks policy, while Trump picks up Tea Party backing.

Jeb Bush today doggedly continued pushing his policy-centric campaign to Republican primary voters, providing a sharp counterpoint on a day that Donald Trump accepted endorsements from John Wayne’s daughter and Sarah Palin.

Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, spent Tuesday afternoon talking about plans to boost economic growth and bolster the nation’s global presence during a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations in New York.  He was publicly thanked by multiple audience members for a “rich, substantive conversation.”

Fred Hiatt, the Washington Post editorial page editor who moderated the discussion with Bush, joked that their “substantive” conversation—live streamed on the group’s website—probably wasn’t good for ratings. Bush suggested as much at the outset of his remarks to the New York-based think tank.

 “Because people are anxious about their future, they’ve latched on to the large personality on the stage.”

“Restoring a 21st century vision of America’s leadership in the world is essential, and hopefully the campaign will be a place where this will be discussed from time to time,” Bush said, as several in the crowd laughed. “A girl can dream at least.”

Bush spoke about simplifying the tax code, “eliminating the friction” of over-regulation and allowing more immigrants into the nation for  as way to boost economic growth. He called for increasing the size of the Army troops to 490,000, reforming the Pentagon’s procurement process and the need to reinvigorate a military weakened by dysfunction in Washington with new equipment.  He spoke about policies related to China, North Korea and the Middle East and said the U.S. needed to reauthorize the U.S. Patriot Act.

In a question-and-answer session with Hiatt, Bush warned his party about Trump’s “lack of seriousness.” Trump, the former reality TV show host who has been ahead of most primary polls since July, was in Iowa today collecting the endorsement from Aissa Wayne, daughter of the deceased, Iowa-born actor, and Palin, the party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee.

Bush said Trump’s apparent confusion during a debate last month in Las Vegas over the nuclear triad—which refers how the weapons are launched: from bombers, submarines or silos on the ground—was “cause for pause.” Bush also criticized Trump’s proposal for a 45 percent tariff on China, which the New Yorker backed away from in the debate last week, calling it “advocacy of a global depression that will wipe out the middle class in this country.”

“I’m the only guy confronting this,” Bush said about Trump. “Because people are anxious about their future, they’ve latched on to the large personality on the stage. But the reality is he’s not a serious candidate. And he’ll get wiped out in a general election.”

Bush also made a verbal misstep, referring to Malia Obama, the president’s eldest daughter, as Malayla. It came during an anecdote about his business travels through China in 2013, at a time when Michelle Obama, the president’s wife, canceled a trip to California where she was to have met with with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan.

“Every meeting I had in Beijing started out for the first 10 minutes lambasting me, as an American, about why it was we insulted China,” Bush said. “Am I’m thinking, ‘You know what? It could be Mrs. Obama was worried about the science project of Malayla.’ I mean, we’re different. We don’t think the same way they do.”

“I’m sure they did not try to go out of their way to insult the country of 1.2 billion or 1.3 billion people of China or the first couple when they were trying to establish better personal relationships,” Bush said.  “But that’s how you get into trouble, by not having full engagement.”

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