By Bill Hoffmann
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, sounding more and more like a presidential candidate in 2016, tore into President Barack Obama, calling his administration “an utter and complete failure.”
Bush was the keynote speaker Tuesday night at the Conservative Party of New York State’s 51st Annual Dinner in New York City, where he received the Charles M. Edison Memorial Award, named after inventor Thomas Edison’s son, a former New Jersey governor and secretary of the Navy.
Also receiving the Charles M. Edison Award Tuesday night was Christopher Ruddy, the founder and CEO of Newsmax Media Inc. Ruddy called the award “an incredible honor” and also praised Bush for his leadership on a host of issues important for conservatives.
The influential third party founded by the late William F. Buckley Jr., and headed by its current Chairman Michael Long, is considered a major stop for presidential candidates, with every Republican candidate seeking its endorsement. The honoring of Bush will continue to fuel speculation the former Florida governor is running in 2016.
During this remarks, Bush didn’t hint at his presidential plans, but he wasted no time jumping into the political fray, chastising the Republican Party for its lackluster performance in last November’s elections and slamming Obama for what he called the poor economic state of the nation.
“President Obama has many gifts, but one thing he doesn’t seem to understand is basic economics. He has this almost naive view that America’s economy is so strong he can do anything to it and nothing bad will happen,” Bush said. “You can nationalize healthcare . . . raise taxes and fees, regulate with abandon . . . $1 trillion deficits annually, demonize small-business owners and successful investors — and in Barack Obama’s world, it doesn’t even leave a mark.”
But Bush said those policies had very definitely left their mark, damaging the financial health and the workforce of the United States.
“More than four years after the end of the 2008 recession we’re still several million jobs short of where we were. We are more than $6 trillion further in debt. We have 8 million Americans who have given up looking for work,” Bush said. “We’ve had more than four years to see what Barack Obama knows about economics, and the truth is, with all due respect, he is an utter and complete failure.”
Bush blamed the GOP for its disastrous results at the polls last fall, with Obama soundly trouncing Mitt Romney.
“We got beat because our brand is tarnished with an ever-changing America. We may believe in our hearts that we represent the best hope for America, and I believe that in my heart, but unfortunately for us, that’s not how most Americans saw it,” Bush said. “Now you’re thinking, How could somebody convince a majority of 125 million voters that they are better off having their own economic decisions and healthcare and religious freedoms and financial choices and everything else in their lives managed by a faraway bureaucracy?
“The answer is simple: We didn’t make our case all that well, and they did. This is important because the path we’re on today is simply a path of decline . . . It’s not that we’re seeing the decline of the American dream, we’re seeing the decline of American dreamers.”
Bush said the next presidential election will determine America’s future.
“Will America continue to be the best hope for freedom and opportunity on the face of the earth? Or will it go down the path of diminished expectations?” he asked. “Let’s be really blunt. President Obama isn’t making good choices. On energy, he waffles. On immigration, he hasn’t led. On foreign policy, he doesn’t lead, even from behind. On the family, he is captive to the special interests of the left.
“Thankfully, we can reverse the bad choices . . . as easily as the good ones. That’s the work of the Conservative Party.”
Bush also called for increased focus on helping immigrants. “Immigration is part of our heritage . . . Immigrants are an economic engine of vitality for our country. They make things happen,” he said. “We have to accept the fact that our immigration system is completely broke. It does not work . . . We’re not enforcing the laws, we’re creating distrust.
“Comprehensive reform should treat immigration as essential for our success as a nation and that immigration policy must be grounded in the rule of law.”
Bush spoke of the importance of New York conservatives in the liberal Empire State. “You’ve proven that even in a state that doesn’t often support conservative candidates, your presence, your involvement, your activity, really makes a difference,” Bush said.
Then, in a nod to New York City mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, who was sitting nearby at the gala at the Sheraton in midtown Manhattan, Bush quipped, “Mayor, it’s great being with you, too!”
Bush also gave an update on his father, former President George H.W. Bush, who has faced serious health issues and hospitalization.
“My dad has recovered from a really bad illness. He was in the ICU . . . I love my dad. He’s the greatest man I’ve ever met. We’re incredibly happy he’s out of the hospital and doing better each and every day,” Bush said. “That’s the good news. The bad news is he doesn’t have the fawning caregivers of Memorial hospital in Houston, all those beautiful nurses taking care of him. He’s got a new caregiver. Her name is Barbara Bush, and she’s a lot tougher.”
Bush, also the brother of President George W. Bush, was twice elected the governor of Florida, serving from 1999 to 2007. He heads Jeb Bush and Associates, a consulting firm; chairs the Foundation for Excellence in Education and the National Constitution Center; and co-chairs the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.
Although he has made no commitment to seeking the Republican Party’s nomination, many political observers see it as his for the asking.
Ruddy also noted in his brief remarks accepting the Edison Award that Bush needs to be considered as the GOP’s choice in 2016 because of his strong, conservative record when he served as Florida’s governor.
“When I think about the Conservative Party, I think about a party that stands for values, and we need more of that, not less of it,” Ruddy said.
Ruddy’s Newsmax Media is one of the nation’s leading online news media companies and has consistently ranked as one of the country’s most trafficked news websites.
The Conservative Party of New York State said in a statement that Bush and Ruddy “are fighting for what’s right in the media and in politics and public policy.” It added: “Right now liberty is under attack in New York like never before.”