Jeb Bush to Republican Candidates: ‘You Can’t Just Be Against the President’

BY Terence Burlij  August 24, 2011 at 8:22 AM EDT

President Obama and Jeb Bush; photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush listens to the president speak about education at a Miami high school in March. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Democrats may have used the strategy to win elections in 2006 and 2008, but Jeb Bush has a stern message for those seeking the GOP nomination in 2012: “You can’t just be against the president.”

The former two-term Florida governor warned the field of Republican presidential hopefuls that they risked alienating moderate voters with a campaign based solely on criticism of President Obama.

“I think the president means well, but his policies have failed, and to point that out — nothing wrong with that. That’s politics,” Bush told Fox News host Neil Cavuto in an interview Tuesday. “But just to stop there and say I’m going to win because I’m against what’s going on is not enough. You have to win with purpose if you really want to make these big changes.”

Cavuto asked Bush if he thought some Republican contenders had gone too far in their criticism of the president. “I do,” Bush responded. “I think when you start ascribing bad motives to the guy, that’s wrong. It turns off people who want solutions.”

Bush’s message seemed to be aimed at those candidates campaigning to the right, and who are doing so by frequently serving up large portions of partisan red meat to audiences (such as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry), than, say, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, whose take on President Obama is more, “He’s a good man…but he has failed us on the most important issue of our day.”

With the latest Gallup tracking poll showing the president’s approval rating at 38 percent, Bush also offered his own evaluation of President Obama’s job performance.

“I think the president was dealt a tough hand. He didn’t have the experience on how to deal with it. He made a mistake of outsourcing big policy decisions to Congress, to Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and her leadership team, and that was a disaster. He’s made a situation that was bad, worse. He is deserving of criticism for that,” Bush said. “He’s not deserving of criticism of everything, the common cold all the way up the chain.”

In addition to dispensing advice to GOP contenders, Bush offered a bit of praise for one in particular, whom he sees as taking the lead on the jobs issue.

“I am neutral in the presidential race, but I am an admirer of Gov. [Mitt] Romney’s and I’m excited that he’s laying out a jobs agenda to set the agenda a little bit, because the conversation needs to get to how do we grow so we can create jobs over a long period of time, not just short term,” Bush said.

Bush also sought to dispel rumors that there is bad blood between the Bush family and Gov. Perry. “I’ve never heard anyone in my family say anything but good things about Rick Perry,” Bush said. “Not with my brother, my dad, not with me at all. I admire him and I think Texas has got a great story and he can legitimately talk about that story as a candidate for president.”

Bush also reaffirmed his stance that he would not run for president in 2012, but he did suggest that he might endorse a candidate before the race was settled. Given the significant role Florida will likely play in the nominating process (not to mention the general election), and the fact that Bush left office with an approval rating near 60 percent, it will be interesting to see how the hopefuls take his advice.

TRIP TROUBLES

The highlight of Vice President Joe Biden’s tour of Asia has, so far, been seeing him shooting a bow and arrow and goofing around with a Mongolian wrestler.

But the vice president has also come under attack from some Republicans for comments he made at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, which they say expressed support of China’s one-child policy.

China uses fines, and in some cases sterilization and forced abortion, to encourage couples to raise only one child. See this TIME magazine piece from 2009 for some background.

Vice President Biden, discussing the debt ceiling deal with his audience at the university, said:

“What we ended up doing is setting up a system whereby we did cut by $1.2 trillion upfront, the deficit over the next 10 years. And we set up a group of senators that have to come up with another $1.2 to $1.7 trillion in savings or automatically there will be cuts that go into effect in January to get those savings. So the savings will be accomplished. But as I was talking to some of your leaders, you share a similar concern here in China. You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand — I’m not second-guessing — of one child per family. The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.”

The section where Biden says he does not second-guess the policy garned strong condemnation from top Republicans.

Romney accused Biden of condoning the policy.

“China’s one-child policy is gruesome and barbaric. Vice President Biden’s acquiescence to such a policy should shock the conscience of every American,” Romney said in a statement. “There can be no defense of a government that engages in compulsory sterilization and forced abortions in the name of population control.”

Perry offered a similar, pro-life themed message.

“China’s one-child policy has led to the great human tragedy of forced abortions throughout China, and Vice President Biden’s refusal to ‘second-guess’ this horrendous policy demonstrates great moral indifference on the part of the Obama administration. Americans value life, and we deserve leaders who will stand up against such inhumanity, not cast a blind eye,” Perry’s statement read.

It is unclear exactly what Vice President Biden meant. While he said he did not “second guess” the policy, he also clearly meant to criticize it by saying it left an unsustainable social safety-net system for older citizens.

After the condemnation from Republicans, the vice president’s office issued a statement saying that Biden does not support the one-child policy.

From the Washington Post’s Jason Ukman:

“On Tuesday, the vice president’s office responded by saying the Obama administration ‘strongly opposes all aspects of China’s coercive birth limitation policies, including forced abortion and sterilization.’

“‘The vice president believes such practices are repugnant,’ said Kendra Barkoff, Biden’s press secretary. ‘He also pointed out, in China, that the policy is, as a practical matter, unsustainable. He was arguing against the One Child Policy to a Chinese audience.’

“Any support for China’s one-child policy would be at odds with the official view of the U.S. government. In its 2010 Human Rights Report on China, the State Department described China’s policy as being among the ‘principal human rights problems’ in the country.”

EMERGENCY SESSION

The U.S. Senate, which was literally rattled by Tuesday’s earthquake, entered into a rare session outside of the senate chamber after the Capitol building was evacuated.
Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post reports:

“One member who was present, however, was Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who had been scheduled to preside over a brief ‘pro forma’ Senate session, during which no legislative business is conducted. Both chambers have been holding such sessions throughout the August break, a move that effectively blocks President Obama from making any recess appointments while Congress is out of town.

Coons gaveled the Senate into a pro forma session that began just after 3:30 p.m. and lasted 22 seconds, according to a pool report of the session by Roll Call’s Jessica Brady. The session took place in a conference room in the basement of the Postal Square building next to Union Station, with 50 or 60 Capitol Police officers, Senate floor staffers and others present in the improvised chamber. As in most pro forma sessions, there was no prayer and no pledge of allegiance, according to the pool report.”

The Capitol and other federal buildings were evacuated after the 5.8 magnitude earthquake, which was felt up and down the East coast, but so far no serious damage to those buildings has been reported. Most federal buildings have re-opened, and the Post has a list of those remaining closed.

The Washington Monument remained closed Wednesday, NBC News reports, after the National Park Service found cracks at the top of the structure.

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