Opinion

Jeb Bush, A Formidable Candidate For President

Photo of Lanny Davis
Lanny Davis
Former Special Counsel to President Clinton
  • See All Articles
  • Subscribe to RSS
  • Bio

      Lanny Davis

      Lanny J. Davis counsels individuals, corporations and government contractors, and those under congressional scrutiny, on crisis management and legal issues by developing legal, media and legislative strategies that are designed to best produce a successful result for the client. He has experience in securities fraud and SEC investigations as well, and has found that utilizing such an integrated legal/media/lobbying approach can lead to quicker and less expensive settlements or even successfully litigated outcomes. Senior officials of public companies have also hired Lanny and his crisis group to defend themselves successfully against "short and distort" attacks and other market manipulations. For 25 years prior to 1996, before his tenure as special counsel to President Clinton, Lanny was a commercial, antitrust, government contracts and False Claims Act litigator (both in defense as well as plaintiff). He has argued numerous appellate cases in the U.S. courts of appeals.

      In June 2005, President Bush appointed Lanny to serve on the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 2005 Intelligence Reform Act. In that capacity, he received the highest level security clearances so that he could be fully briefed and "read in" to the various anti-terrorist surveillance and financial tracking programs at the highest classified level. From 1996 to 1998, Lanny served as special counsel to the president in the White House and was a spokesperson for the president and the White House on matters concerning campaign finance investigations and other legal issues. Lanny has participated in national, state and local politics for almost 30 years. He has served three terms (1980 to 1992) on the Democratic National Committee representing the state of Maryland, and during that period he served on the DNC Executive Committee and as chairman of the Eastern Region Caucus. In Montgomery County, Maryland, he served as chairman of the Washington Suburban Transit Commission.

      Lanny has authored several books and lectured throughout the United States and Europe on various political issues. Between 1990 and 1996, Lanny was a bimonthly commentator on Maryland politics for WAMU-88.5/FM, a Washington, D.C. local affiliate of National Public Radio. He has been a regular television commentator and has been a political and legal analyst for MSNBC, CNN, Fox Cable, CNBC and network TV news programs. He has published numerous op-ed/analysis pieces in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, he Washington Post and other national publications.

      Lanny graduated from Yale Law School, where he won the prestigious Thurman Arnold Moot Court prize and served on the Yale Law Journal. A graduate of Yale University, Lanny served as chairman of the Yale Daily News.

      Lanny is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Connecticut and before the Supreme Court of the United States and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

OK, OK. To the Bush family, and particularly to former two-term Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: don’t worry. Let me start, up front, by saying: I would never vote for Jeb Bush for president. He is way too conservative for me.

Now that that’s over with, I think Bush is a really good guy — a good person, good father, good husband, good brother (to my Yale College friend, two-term President George W. Bush) and good son to his great, great dad, former President George H.W. Bush.

Jeb Bush’s positions on two issues, in my view, make him formidable against a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016: education reform and immigration policy.

On education, Bush has become authentically one of the leading education reformers in the nation today, a source of new ideas about improving public schools that he largely implemented as Florida governor and would be expected to fight for as president.

I like, especially, his Florida program of grading schools A-F, based on student test scores, creating incentives for schools receiving higher grades (more state aid, higher teacher salaries) and the reverse for lower grades. (I do worry about “teaching for testing” though.)

Bush has also shown courage on the immigration reform issue. He has made himself a target of the far-right fringe of the Republican Party base that, at least to date, has disproportionately influenced the Republican presidential nomination process.

Of course he supports increased border enforcement, like most Americans. But he also allows for a pathway to legal residence and perhaps citizenship (he has been ambiguous about the latter), but only if the illegal resident earns the right to such status over a period of years, such as by paying back taxes, satisfying work requirements, achieving English literacy and maybe completing a public service requirement.

Those who describe such a program as “amnesty,” defined as an automatic grant of legal citizenship without any burdens or requirements to earn that status, are flat-out wrong.

Also, Bush was attacked by the far right when this past spring he said that some immigrants come to the United States illegally, suffering great risks and hardships, out of an “act of love” to help their families.

Arizona’s conservative junior senator, Jeff Flake, who hails from a state that has been more adversely affected by its porous border with Mexico than most other states, defended Bush’s expression: “Truth is, I agree with Jeb and I applaud him for having the guts to say it. … Sure, some come with the intent to do harm or simply to take advantage of our generosity, but many come to find work to feed their families.”

In 1998 and 2002, Bush was elected and re-elected as governor of Florida carrying about 60 percent of the Latino vote. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who lost by a substantial margin to President Obama, said he believed in “self-deportation” as his main approach to immigration reform. Romney carried less than one-fourth of the Latino vote nationally vs. Obama’s 75 percent; in the swing states, such as Colorado and New Mexico, the gap made up the margin of difference.

Those who care about enacting the conservative agenda know they can’t do so without winning the presidency and that won’t happen without a more moderate GOP national platform on immigration reform to cut into this Latino vote gap significantly.