Jeb Bush: the perfect conservative

Apart from boasting the personality of a shoe tree and the mien of an Ocean Bank district manager, Jeb Bush isn’t conservative at all, which makes him a perfect conservative avatar in 2014. And 2004. If conservatism means anything besides a pathology bred on the suspicion that someone browner, poorer, straighter, and less masculine might be the beneficiary of state or federal redress after years of writing him or her out of the Constitution, it means abusing liberalism for the sake of doing what conservatives in power accuse liberals of: manipulating the courts and legislators to fatten bank accounts.

I don’t think Jeb Bush stands a chance in hell of becoming president. He might explain how the levers of government work better than Rick Perry (who’s taken to wearing glasses, causing a segment of conservative intelligentsia to reach for starbursts of joy again), but his so-called intellect amounts to the heaving of a mountebank; he wants power because a Bush is supposed to seize power. He won’t win because he can’t explain why the poor earn less than they did thirty years ago. He won’t win because part of the reason they earn less is thanks to policies enacted by his father’s running mate, his father, brother, and the governor of Arkansas who’s an honorary member of his family.

He also won’t win if Democrats are smart enough to repeat two words: Terri Schiavo. Over and over. Maybe it’s a rune — it’ll work its power if we believe in it. The Tampa Bay Times, committing a public service, reminded its readers of how that farrago unfolded:

When [Florida circuit court judge George] Greer ruled in October 2003 that Michael Schiavo could remove his wife’s feeding tube, Bush pressed the Florida Legislature to pass Terri’s Law. In an emergency session, lawmakers sidestepped the court and allowed the governor to order the feeding to resume. State troopers were on hand when Schiavo was transferred to a Clearwater hospital. She had gone six days without nourishment.

Again, Bush and his allies were on dubious legal footing. Many constitutional lawyers and bioethicists were certain that the law would be tossed. As governor, though, Bush showed little patience for anyone questioning his judgment, and often complained of judicial activism.

To defend Terri’s Law, Bush brought in trial lawyer Ken Connor, a prominent Christian conservative activist who had run against Bush for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1994.

“He authorized us to advocate with vigor and aggressiveness,” Connor said in an interview. “Some people in a situation like that will want to do something just for show. He made no attempt to check or put a harness or a bridle on his lawyers.”

“He staked out a position rooted in principle and he never wavered — even though he came under intense criticism from the media and several other quarters,” Connor added, recounting Bush as “fully engaged” and understanding the facts of the case far better than most others in the debate.

Connor, who later became president of the Family Research Council, jokes that he never would have spent the time and money to run against Bush in 1994 had he known how conservatively he would govern. That’s something many Republicans outside Florida fail to understand about John Ellis Bush.

“He is not George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush. Jeb is a solid, convicted conservative, and I think he has the record to prove it,” Connor said.

Terri’s Law, as predicted, was overturned in court in May 2004. Bush appealed, but the Florida Supreme Court, which included three of his own appointees, issued a unanimous ruling that the law was unconstitutional, violating “a cornerstone of American democracy” that is the separation of powers. The U.S. Supreme Court declined a review.

For those too young to remember what March 2005 was like, the story will educate them on what this party does freed of legislative restraints and sanity. Read the whole thing.

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