Here’s the latest example of Jeb Bush employing that strategy: He audaciously suggested that as a general matter, GOP primary voters are hostile to compromise. The New York Times reports on a Bush appearance in Orlando, Florida:
“We need men and women of good will forging consensus, starting to solve problems, kind of building back the muscles of consensus, compromise and solution-finding to fix these things,” Mr. Bush told a group of businesspeople here, lamenting what he called a paralyzed democracy.“Apparently that is dangerous in a Republican primary,” he added, “but it’s what I believe.”The overriding issue facing the next president, Mr. Bush argued, is finding “a way to reweave the web of civility” before progress on substantive issues can be made. “That is going to be first, second, third, fourth priority because everything falls into place once you get that done,” he said at a pastors’ luncheon.
It’s not clear whether this politically perilous advocacy in favor of compromise was intended as a joke. But either way, the polling actually lends some support to this idea. A Pew survey late last year found that two-thirds of Republicans want GOP leaders to stand up to Obama even if less gets done, while a majority of Democrats wants Obama to work with Republicans. And an NBC/WSJ poll from last January found that a plurality of Republicans think the Congressional GOP has been too willing to compromise with Obama.
Joke or not, Bush actually raised an important issue here. As Jonathan Bernstein recently argued, the current gridlock and dysfunction in Washington can indeed be blamed on the fact that there’s “something particularly wrong with the Republican Party, which has become increasingly hostile to the very notion of compromise.” This is not something many pundits are willing to acknowledge. So it’s good to hear something approaching it from the man who may very well be the GOP presidential nominee.
It’ll be interesting to see how the other GOP candidates react to this. You could easily see Ted Cruz argue that Bush’s diagnosis is exactly wrong, that only an unabashedly uncompromising conservatism can prevail in a general election and set the country on the right course. And this could form the basis of a genuine difference with Scott Walker, who is holding aloft his ability to vanquish his foes as one of his chief qualifications for president.
By contrast, in his Florida appearance, Bush argued for a more inclusive approach: “we shouldn’t say outrageous things that turn people off to the conservative message. Our message is the one of hope and opportunity for everybody.” We shouldn’t overstate this — the actual dimensions of Bush’s inclusiveness will be revealed in his policy proposals. But he does seem to be trying to tell GOP primary voters what they don’t want to hear, at least on some occasions.
By the way, this poses a challenge for Hillary Clinton, too. Clinton has vowed to bring the parties together to get Washington working again. Even if you accept that the primary obstacle to this is the Republican Party — there are many reasons this may be the case, from the demographically insular makeup of House GOP districts, to the incentives the Conservative Entertainment Complex showers on the most intransigent GOP politicians — it will still be incumbent on Clinton to explain how she intends to do this where Obama failed.
* CONSERVATIVES LOSE A ROUND ON OBAMACARE: The Post reports that conservative Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee failed in their effort to attach an Obamacare repeal amendment to the highway bill, after many other Republican Senators balked at the procedural tactic it entailed. The bigger picture:
The Cruz and Lee efforts have highlighted tension within Senate GOP ranks over when they should pick fights with the Obama administration and when they should hold their fire and move bipartisan legislation.
Don’t worry, though: All signs are that the Senate will still hold an Obamacare repeal vote again before long.
* SENTENCING REFORM GAINS MOMENTUM: The New York Times reports that Republican and Dem Senators are preparing to introduce a bill that would reform decades of sentencing policy that have resulted in an explosion of incarceration. Among the changes: giving judges more discretion to sentence low-level drug offenders to shorter terms, and allowing lower-risk prisoners to enter into recidivism programs to reduce their own sentences.
Sentencing reform has long seemed like an area ripe for an alliance between libertarian conservatives concerned about government overreach and swelling prison costs, and civil liberties progressives concerned about the human toll of the war on drugs. So it’s good to see movement.
* MAJORITY WANTS IRAN DEAL REJECTED, POLL FINDS: A new CNN poll asks:
As you may know, the U.S. Congress must approve the agreement the United States and five other countries reached with Iran that is aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons before it can take effect. Do you think Congress should approve or reject the deal with Iran?
Americans want it rejected by 52-44. But a recent Post/ABC News poll found 56 percent approve of it. The difference is in the wording: the Post poll went further in describing the deal than the CNN poll did.
* ATTACK ON McCAIN DOESN’T SLOW TRUMP-MENTUM: A new Monmouth University poll finds Donald Trump holds a two-to-one lead among New Hampshire Republicans over his nearest rival Jeb Bush, 24-12. The other Republican candidates are in single digits.
Early polling means little, but this, from the pollster, is amusing: “The controversy over comments about John McCain’s war service do not appear to have slowed the Trump steamroller.” No kidding!
* AND CONDEMNATION OF HUCKABEE’S ‘OVEN’ COMMENT CONTINUES: Now the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dremer, is condemning Mike Huckabee’s suggestion that the Iran deal will march Israelis “to the door of the oven.” Said Dremer: “These are not words that I would use or that I think are appropriate.”
All of this media attention is just the thing to persuade Huckabee to stop the hyperbole, of course.