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Obama to appear with Jeb Bush at Miami education event

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 2, 2011; 9:40 AM

The man President Obama will join on stage Friday has compared him to a "a kid coming to school saying, 'The dog ate my homework,' " and likened him to "Hubert Humphrey on steroids."

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) will appear at a Miami high school to tout education reform with Obama, putting aside concerns he told the New York Times last year about the president's frequent shifts of blame for national problems to Jeb's brother George W. (the dog line) and his liberalism (Humphrey).

The joint appearance is mainly one of political convenience. Obama, whose staff invited Bush, is constantly looking to suggest his ideas are bipartisan. And Bush is no moderate Republican, but a favorite of the party's base who likely would be considering a presidential run in 2012 if he had a different last name.

Obama wants to increase overall education spending, improve standardized testing, evaluate and reward schools based on student achievement, and link additional federal funding to districts that implement innovative reforms such as rewarding teachers based on student improvement on standardized tests.

Bush tried many of these ideas in Florida, as did his brother at the federal level through the No Child Left Behind law. Obama will cast Bush's appearance as a sign the goals of his education policy are broadly shared, even as some Republicans are wary of an increased federal role in education.

For the ex-Florida governor, who left office in 2006, the appearance with Obama gives him another opportunity to establish himself as a national leader on policy issues, particularly on education. Aware that he cannot run for president anytime soon, Bush has instead created an education nonprofit and become more broadly an idea generator for the GOP, advising congressional leaders such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and potential 2012 candidates.

"Because of high expectations for students, hard-edge policies that focus schools on learning and an array of choices for families, the Sunshine State is leading the nation in rising student achievement," Bush said in a statement about the event, as reported by the Miami Herald. "I look forward to sharing Florida's model for student success with President Obama and Secretary Duncan."

The event also suggests feelings between the Bush family and Obama might not be as raw as they once were. After drawing the ire of Jeb Bush and other allies of the ex-president over the past two years with his constant references to what he "inherited," Obama has largely dropped the approach of blaming his predecessor.

And although Obama isn't yet praising George W. Bush, he lauded George H.W Bush's foreign policy accomplishments when presenting him a Presidential Medal of Freedom last month.

Obama today

The president will present awards in the arts and humanities to a group that includes Quincy Jones and Wendell Berry. Here's the full list of winners.


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