Jeb Bush, Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida governor, engaged in a one-on-one session with Fox television personality Sean Hannity at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference held in Maryland. On February 27, the former governor took a series of questions from the television host that ranged from his difference with President Barack Obama to foreign policy to economic development. In his remarks, Bush said that under his leadership, Florida was left with a $7 billion surplus at the end of his term, while he also described its advances in job promotion and education reform.
Just as Bush was beginning to speak, dozens of attendees began to walk out of the conference room. This induced others to applaud. After exiting the main auditorium at CPAC, some of those departing the room chanted "USA, USA" and "Stand with Rand." The apparent organizers of the walkout had warned of their demonstration in the hours before Bush's appearance.
Bush spoke of the need for sustained “earned economic success. More and more people think that system doesn’t work for them anymore. And for conservatives to win, we have to give them hope that if we create the field of dreams that people can rise up again.” Bush said that instead of being mischaracterized as being “against everything,” conservatives must be in favor of a “strong national defense, where we are committed each and every day to protect the homeland, with these new asymmetric threats that are real, it’s not a joke, these are threats that have an effect not just in the neighborhood of Israel and the Middle East, it has an impact on us as well."
Bush continued, "So we need to stand for a strong national defense and defense of the homeland and we need to give people a sense that if we started growing our economy again, the middle would have rising income again. What we would do to do that is to offer compelling alternatives to the failed tax policies, the failed regulation policies, a broken education system, and making sure that people know that we on their side to rise up. So, it’s good to be opposed to the bad things, but we have to be for the good things.” He called on conservatives to reach out to those who he said are conservatives “but don’t know they are,” while citing votes from Latinos and young people as necessary for winning elections.
Hannity said that there is an apparent “divide” between Bush and conservatives over the former governor’s positions on immigration and the Common Core curriculum. Catcalls and boos resounded from the crowd when Hannity mentioned Bush’s support as governor for in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants and drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.
Bush referred the audience to his book “The Immigration Wars,” but added, “A great country needs to enforce borders for national security purposes, public health purposes, and the rule of law. He also called for reform of immigration regulations so as to more narrowly define the relatives of legal immigrants who are eligible for derivative immigrant status. He said that the current regulations crowd out immigrants who come to the US to work and invest.
To a mixed response from the audience, Bush called for a legal pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants since, he claimed, there is no current plan to deport them. This would mean a status in which they would learn English, not receive benefits nor break the law, he said. Moreover, he said that there is nothing to prevent Republicans from putting into place a plan to control US borders so as to avoid politicking over immigration. Economic growth, said Bush, will create jobs for both Americans and immigrants.
As for Common Core, Hannity noted that Bush was the first governor to advocate school vouchers. In response, Bush lauded the reforms undertaken by Florida’s education system. As to whether Common Core is a federal takeover of education, Bush answered “Conservatives, and myself, with this president we are deeply concerned and with this Department of Education that there is a risk that that they will intrude. And they have as it relates to race to the top. What we should say quite clearly in the re-authorization of the K-12 law … is that the federal government has no role in the creation of standards whether directly or indirectly, the federal government has no role in the creation of curriculum or content, the federal government should have no access to student I.D. or student information. That the role of the federal government if there is any is to provide incentives for more school choice.”
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