As some 8,000 conservatives gathered outside Washington, D.C., on Thursday for the first of a three-day confab about where the party is headed, Jeb Bush – the former Florida governor frequently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016 – signed copies of his new book and talked about how the GOP needs to “regain” its “reformist zeal.”
“We have to have a positive proposal,” he told a crowd in northern Kentucky Thursday afternoon. They came to hear him discuss Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, written with Clint Bolick, a conservative attorney.
“Republican principals applied in a 21st century way is the path to high-sustained economic growth,” said Bush, 60. “The focus should be on that. We’re on the verge of an incredible period of growth and prosperity if we get our policies right, and we should describe what those are. Over time, we’ve lost our reformist zeal and we need to regain it.”
Bush also gave kudos on Thursday to Senator Rand Paul – the Tea Party darling who last week took to the floor of the Senate to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director, and who this afternoon at CPAC warned that “the GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered.”
Bush, who some analysts consider one of the most effective communicators in the Republican Party today, will be the featured speaker at CPAC Friday night during the Ronald Reagan Dinner. In the meantime, The Fiscal Times has gathered together a string of facts and figures about the former governor, son of a former president and brother of another one:
- Jeb Bush applauded President Obama for his recent outreach to Republican lawmakers in an attempt to resolve the current deficit crisis. “It’s important to build trust if you’re trying to deal with the big things,” he toldCNN’s “State of the Union” last week. “Big issues require everybody to get outside their comfort zone… And the only way you can do that is to engage them on a personal level. I think it’s important and I applaud the president for doing it… I’m not a cynic about this. And I think Republicans appreciate it.”
- In his new book on immigration, Bush says that when “immigration policy is working right, it is like a hydroelectric dam: a sturdy wall whose valves allow torrents of water to pour through, creating massive amounts of dynamic energy… But today that dam is decrepit and crudely cemented over, with constant leaks that have to be patched… We need to replace that dam.” Last week he seemed to shift his long-standing support for a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants to a legal standing just short of citizenship. “The basic premise needs to be that coming to the country legally should be easier, with less cost, than coming to the country illegally.”
- Jeb Bush says he’s not carrying baggage from the Bush name and his brother’s presidency. “I love my brother,” he told Chris Wallace of Fox News last Sunday. “I’m proud of his accomplishments. I love my dad. I am proud to be a Bush. And if I run for president, it’s not because of something in my DNA that compels me to do it – it would be that it’s the right thing to do for my family, that the conditions are right and that I have something to offer.” He added, “If I don’t run, I have a blessed life.”
- Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, considers Jeb Bush a mentor. Rubio joked to a journalist about 10 years ago, “He’s practically Cuban, just taller. He speaks Spanish better than most of us.” Jeb Bush, 60, has been married to a Mexican American, Columba Bush, since 1974, and the couple has three children: George P. Bush, Noelle Bush, and Jeb Bush, Jr.
- Bush “understands the Republican Hispanic dynamic better than most people do,” according to a friend of Jeb’s, Ana Navarro, who was quoted in The New York Times last summer. “He speaks the language, he reads and listens to the news coverage, and he lives in the community.” Around that same time, Jeb Bush advised his party: “Don’t just talk about Hispanics and say immediately we must have controlled borders. Change the tone would be the first thing.”
• Jeb grew up in Houston, graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in Latin American affairs from the University of Texas at Austin, and eventually moved to Florida. He became Florida’s Secretary of Commerce and later worked on his father’s presidential campaigns. He once said of his father: “My dad’s the greatest man I’ve ever met or will meet.”
- At age 17, he taught English as a second language in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, during a student exchange program.
- Jeb is the second son of George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush – the younger brother to George W. Bush and the older brother of Neil Bush, Marvin Bush and Dorothy Bush Koch. He’s the first and only member of the GOP to serve two full four-terms as Florida governor.
- He’s has worked for a number of non-profit and charitable organizations throughout his life, including The Foundation for Florida’s Future (a think tank), the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, and the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
- He has over 77,000 followers on Twitter right now.