Jeb Bush. Not conservative enough. Try as I might, it remains impossible to see these two concepts as even remotely related. John Ellis Bush, the second son of George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush, who during his first run for Florida governor in 1994 cheerfully called himself a head-banging conservative, a hang-’em-by-the-neck conservative … who during his second run for Florida governor in 1998 had to craft for himself a more compassionate persona so as not to scare off independent voters … that Jeb Bush has come to be viewed with suspicion by the uber-conservative, Tea Party wing of his Republican Party?
They did it to former Virginia Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling who was considered by some to be too conservative when he ran for lieutenant governor in 2005 only to turn around a few years later and be labeled not conservative enough by the newly-arrived “uber-conservative, Tea Party wing” of the Republican Party, as Politico calls it. Reinventing, that is (see Reinventing Jeb Bush: How America misremembers the family’s true conservative).
For those of us who covered Jeb’s two terms in Tallahassee, this is beyond mind-boggling. On issue after issue, Jeb’s track record in Florida pushed conservatism’s envelope to the breaking point.For anti-tax conservatives, Jeb slashed the state’s collections by a cumulative $14 billion over his eight years. For the devoted sub-set of supply-siders: The bulk of these cuts came via the complete repeal of Florida’s decades-old wealth tax on financial instruments. It pretty much had been the only progressive tax the state had, since Florida’s constitution forbids an income tax.
For anti-spending conservatives, Jeb line-item vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars in hometown projects from the state budget year after year.
For small-government conservatives, Jeb eliminated thousands of jobs by outsourcing huge swaths of state duties, including the massive human resources function and the state purchasing office.
For law-and-order conservatives, Jeb championed tough-on-crime bills like “10-20-life” for gun offenders and three-strikes legislation for repeat offenders. He jammed through the legislature a death-penalty overhaul drastically limiting appeals for condemned inmates (it was soon afterward struck down, however, by the Florida Supreme Court).
For pro-gun conservatives, Jeb approved an enhanced concealed carry law and, infamously, the NRA-written “Stand Your Ground” law. (After Trayvon Martin, Jeb said he did not believe it should have been applied in that instance.)
For religious conservatives, Jeb rammed through education bills that created the first statewide school voucher programs in the nation, and then spent years defending them against oversight attempts. He approved the “Choose Life” license plate, and sent state money to groups that counseled women against having abortions. And, famously, he pushed through legislation allowing him as governor to intervene in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case—and at the very end nearly triggered a showdown with a local judge by sending state police officers to seize her from a Tampa Bay area hospice.
With all this on his resume, Jeb Bush is now considered a moderate? A RINO? What more can conservatives want?