CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA, January 29, 2016 — For a short Frenchman named Napoleon, Waterloo was his humiliating defeat. For a proud American and son and brother of former presidents, Waterloo, Iowa was a happier scene. Tall in the saddle but with plenty of humility, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush made his case to be president.
Coming off of his best debate performance, Bush showed plenty of energy. He does not yell and scream, but he has the fire in the belly. Like his brother George W. Bush, Jeb is punctual. Lateness is rudeness, and Jeb did not keep people waiting one minute past the 4:00 p.m. start time to his event.
Governor Bush was preceded by a young wounded veteran and an older former prisoner of war. They told their compelling stories as well as the story of the man they called the best Governor Florida ever had.
The older POW told a joke about why he stopped calling his wife. “I would have called sooner but I’ve been all tied up.”
Illinois Congressman Adam Kinziger said, “I actually am old enough to vote and run for Congress.” He is an Iraq veteran as well, and took pride in saluting the two Medal of Honor recipients who had just spoken. Kinziger endorsed Jeb before he even announced his presidential run.
Beloved Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley spoke next. He has spent his entire 82 years in the same township in Iowa where he was born. He believes that “It ought to be quite an honor to have Bush as a last name.”
As for the nation’s capitol, “Washington is an island surrounded by reality.”
Grassley comes home every weekend to be around his fellow Iowans and get out of Washington.
Then came Jeb. He has 12 Medal of Honor recipients supporting his campaign. He seeks their advice.
“I know what I don’t know.”
“We’re the greatest country. Our government isn’t. Our people are.”
He praised Grassley for being in the senate 22 1/2 years and never missing a vote. “This guy is an inspiration for what public service should be about.”
Jeb then offered a stinging indictment of Obama’s foreign policy and domestic policy.
“There is no such thing as leading from behind. That’s Orwellian.”
On the Russian reset, Obama did nothing. Russia is a global power, not a regional power as Obama described.
From the red line in Syria to the pivot to Asia. Obama shows a “lack of commitment to American leadership.”
“Only the United States can lead.”
“Support the troops rather than impose legal restraints on them.”
“I won’t be an agitator in Chief, I won’t be a divider in Chief. I’ll be a Commander in Chief.”
“Only the wealthy are doing better in the age of Obama.”
Jeb then discussed his own record as Florida Governor. He turned Tallahassee upside down.
“They called me Veto Corleone.” He vetoed 2500 separate line items as Florida Governor.
He enacted civil service reform. “You can fire a government worker in Tallahassee for incompetence.”
He seeks to “reform from stem to stern the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.”
The Obama administration “reduced the waitlist without veteran’s receiving care.” Only three people were fired.
Jeb wants to create “centers of excellence to deal with PTSD.”
Governor Bush showed his sense of humor. The easiest way to win an election is to “run against a really bad candidate.”
“In 1994, I ran against a person (former Florida Governor Lawton Chiles) who never lost. I lost.”
Bush spoke about visiting hospitals where the developmentally disabled are housed. In 18 months time, 31,000 families were taken off of the waiting list. This fed into his narrative of actions as opposed to words.
“We don’t need a leader who disparages people.”
“All of us have a contribution to make in this society.”
“I hope you want a leader who has a backbone.”
“I will accept personal responsibility” for the challenges that come with the office of the presidency.
“We need a president who will solve problems rather than make things worse.”
“I have a servant’s heart.”
A medical student asked to commit to continuing George W. Bush’s legacy of PEPFAR, which is saving thousands of lives of Africans who have AIDS. Jeb said he absolutely would.
“We can’t just be concerned with military affairs.”
An atheist asked about the separation of church and state. “I’m a person of faith and I respect that you’re not.” He will not accept discrimination in housing and employment, but “religious conscience is a first freedom.”
“I worry about the loss of religious freedom more than the other side, but we should respect both.”
As for Social Security, he pointed out that his campaign website has a “fun loaf of bread.” He offers a detailed policy prescription online, which was good because he ran out of pamphlets. We must raise the retirement age. “We have to raise the minimum benefit to 120% of the poverty level. It’s now 80% of the poverty level.”
“63% of Americans cannot make a $500 car repair.”
Jeb Bush is passionate about education. We need a quality early childhood program. He created universal pre-kindergarten for 4 year olds in Florida. Hillary Clinton talks about it. He did it. It needs to be outcome based. Give block grants to the states instead of “mandating from up above, a regulatory morass.”
“Florida has 1,000 people moving to it a day. It ain’t all about beaches.” We have “low taxes, a great business climate.”
He lamented the “fracturing of our culture. Politics is a mirror of our culture.”
“Everybody has their own set of facts.”
One downside of getting our news online is that “We can customize our information” so that it fits what we believe, rather than see other points of view. “That’s what creates the divide.”
Asked about Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Jeb said, “I would love to run against a Socialist in a general election. I think we can win that one.”
He loves his brother. His father in his eyes is the greatest man alive. To plenty of laughs, Jeb insisted that “My mother thinks I’m the best son of all.”
Keeping with his desired image as an outsider, Jeb said, “I have to take Uber in Washington. I don’t know where anything is in that place.”
He the used a term that people with MBAs in business or finance would know. Jeb believes in BHAGs, which are “Big Hairy Audacious Goals.” One of his BHAGs while Florida Governor was to have “200,000 mentors in schools.”
“It was supposed to be done in five years.” Retired General Colin Powell helped out. In three years there were 206,000 mentors. This was “community engagement from the bottom up.”
The solution to the student loan program is to “stop it” and “Move to an income repayment program.” Students can be given a $50,000 line of credit when they graduate high school. He also favors Education Savings Accounts for low income kids.
In Florida, “The lottery pays for the Bright Future Scholarship Program.” It is merit based on grades and SAT scores.
As for the student loan mess, “Maybe the burden should be on the federal government for creating such a crappy program. Maybe the universities should have skin in the game.”
When somebody said something nice about Jeb, he went all the way up to the person to hug him. “I give out hugs. I’m from Miami. That’s what we do.”
On immigration, Jeb offered plenty of specifics.
“We need to control the border. We must “use every tool that we have.” Use GPS and drone technology. Build a fence. Deal with people overstaying their Visas. Obama wants to keep this as a wedge issue to win elections.
Jeb says no to sanctuary cities, yes to a guest worker program, and yes to E-Verify. We must tighten the definition of family. “Narrow that like Canada has done.” He does not favor amnesty, but “We need a path to legal status, earned legal status.” That is not citizenship.
“You do not win by insulting people.”
“I’m the most conservative governor probably in Florida’s history.” He got a larger share of the Latino vote than the white vote. “I got 60% of the Latino vote.”
“I am the guy that laid out the most detailed plans” to deal with entitlement reform. There should be block grants, “without all the federal mandates.”
There will not be a military draft, but there must be an end to the sequester.
He is open to considering allowing medicinal marijuana for PTSD.
With that issue and many other issues, Jeb comes back to the same question.
“Can it be done at the state level? Conservatives ask that.”
Jeb’s conservative critics loathe the compassionate conservatism that he and his brother espouse. They want a more hard-edged conservatism. Jeb supporters make a valid point that a way to win crossover voters is to talk about things nobody else will discuss. Job did not spend one minute talking about Iran, ISIS or radical Islam. His views are well known. On the flip side, most Democrats would be shocked to hear a Republican presidential candidate speak to a Republican audience about how to help children with disabilities.
Jeb is known for having plenty of brains. He is a true policy wonk. His “right to rise” campaign is taken straight from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the ultimate wonk. In Waterloo, Jeb showed that he also has plenty of heart, fire and passion. With the Iowa Caucus rapidly approaching, the people came to hear Jeb Bush liked what they heard. He took pictures with people before and after the event, making time for everyone. Whether one agrees or disagrees with his prescriptions, he certainly has the honor, integrity, intelligence and empathy to be the next leader of the free world.