Jeb Bush: I’m as conservative as any governor of past 20 years – USA TODAY
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Do not call Jeb Bush a moderate Republican.
“Why? Why? Why, pray tell?” Bush asked when a questioner characterized him as such Friday. On his way out of a news conference, Bush stopped and turned back. “I have a conservative record, probably the most effective conservative governor,” he said. “I would match my record with anybody that’s thinking about running or any governor of the last 20 years. It’s an I’m-not-kidding conservative record, it’s one of results.”
It wasn’t quite Mitt Romney’s “severely conservative” comment, but perhaps other Republican governors, including Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and New Jersey’s Chris Christie, should consider themselves on notice.
Bush contrasted his style rather than his policies. “Perhaps moderate in tone is misinterpreted to moderate in terms of core beliefs.”
For Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who announced his candidacy Monday, Bush had only conciliatory comments. “He is a good, close friend,” Bush said. “We’ll sort it out. I’m not a candidate, and if I am a candidate this is a long journey, and one of my objectives would be to maintain the friendships I have with people who are maybe aspiring to the same thing.’’
Bush spoke Friday morning at a “Politics and Eggs” breakfast at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm’s College, part of his two-day trip to the state that is awash in Republicans. A GOP “summit” to be held today and Saturday will feature more than a dozen potential presidential aspirants.
The former Florida governor stressed his record of cutting taxes, shrinking the state government, and maintaining the state’s bond rating — popular topics in fiscally conservative New Hampshire. Though he is known for his interest in improving public education — his support of Common Core educational standards is one reason why he gets labeled a moderate — Bush said he opposes President Obama’s proposal to make community college tuition free.
“The idea of giving something free – it’s political. It’s poll driven. Someone did a focus group. Free stuff. Free community colleges, it’s a great sound bite,’’ Bush said. He criticized Obama’s now-scrapped plan to end tax deductibility of contributions to 529 college savings programs. Obama’s approach says ”you are bad because you’re saving your family, and I’m going to give free stuff for everybody else,” Bush said. “This is the wrong approach.’’
Instead, Bush said after his talk, the cost of college would be brought down by getting more students to graduate on time, and requiring more credits per semester. “That might mean that students have to go to class on Fridays,” he said. “There should be a comprehensive reform on this.” Getting a degree in a faster time period leads to better economic success, he said.
Bush called for raising the retirement age for Social Security as a necessary step in extending the life of government entitlement programs. And he suggested that people who receive Medicare should have to fill out advance medical directives — something he said he wished had been in place in the case of Terri Schiavo, a comatose woman who was removed from life support despite attempts to intervene by Bush and Congress, “If we’re going to mandate anything from government, it might be that if you take Medicare, you sign up for an advance directive.’’