DERRY, N.H. — Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush gave some compassionate conservatism to New Hampshire voters Tuesday and covered issues that included shrinking government, religious freedoms, ISIS, Iran, and the developmentally disabled.
When asked about the Indiana Religious Freedom Law and other laws similar to it, Bush responded, “The answer to this is if someone walks into a flower shop and says I’d like to buy a flower you shouldn’t be able to discriminate against them because they are gay.”
He added, “But if you’re asking someone to participate in a religious ceremony or a marriage they should have the right of conscious to be able to say I love you but I can’t do it because it goes against my religious teachings.”
Bush was also asked about the shrinking economy and growing government several times by voters.
“We’ve got an incredibly talented workforce. We are the most innovative country in the world. We are by leap years ahead of everybody else in terms of our creativity — our ability to collaborate together,” Bush told his supporters.
“Most of the great inventions at least come from the United States. We have these things going for us. We don’t have borders that threaten our national security. We have the Pacific Ocean — the Atlantic Ocean,” he added. “We have problems on the southern border for sure but nothing compared to many other places. We have abundant resources in every other way.”
This is Bush’s first trip to the Granite State as a declared candidate, but he is familiar with certain faces. One is an individual he called out for who attends such town hall type events frequently.
“I’m looking for the guy that had the immigration question every time I come. Where is he? He’s not here today?” the former governor asked.
Another attendee, a military veteran, asked if Bush ever served in the armed forces. Bush explained he never served, but that his son, George Prescott Bush, served in the Naval Reserve as an intelligence officer and his father George H.W. Bush was a WWII fighter pilot. Bush then went on to discuss how he would reform the current Veterans Administration.
Lorraine Butler, a 59-year old special needs advocate has been brain damaged most of her life, expressed to the town hall crowd, “Years ago doctors told my mother to put me away, but she said no. Today, I am a resident of New Hampshire. I like to help people who are special needs children. If they go to school they should be able to hold jobs.”
The crowd clapped loudly as Bush smiled and walked over to Butler and hugged her.
Bush responded to Butler’s brief story with a story of his own.
“I got elected in 1998 as governor. My first week in office in January of 1999 I had to go to a federal court,” he said.
He went further, “I was summoned to a judge because the programs for the developmentally disabled in the state of Florida was going to be taken over by this judge. It was my first week and I was saying, ‘Give me a break man I haven’t even gotten here and you’re already doing this.’”
Bush eventually convinced the judge to allow him to urge the state legislature to fund the what he described as the “broken” to help them lead more independent lives.
“We were institutionalizing people rather than empowering them to be able to live lives of dignity and purpose. And my moral code suggests that the most vulnerable in our society — to start with the unborn but it doesn’t just stop there. It goes all the way to the end of life. We should be respectful of life. Life is a gift from God. Defining who’s better and who’s worse it’s not part of my architecture. And I think it’s important for conservatives to have this belief.”
Bush then said, “It’s not correct for a federal judge to take over anything, but he was right about how broken it was. We needed to fund this program. And we took one of the worst programs for the developmentally disabled and made it a model for the country. We deinstitutionalized care. We created possibilities for people to have a major contribution to make in society.”
Bush was in the Florida governor’s mansion during the Terri Schiavo controversy. Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state and became the center of a family dispute as to whether her feeding tube should be removed. Bush signed a law, known as Terri’s Law, that would allow him to intervene to keep her alive. The law was later found unconstitutional by the court system.