Some political pundits have said that if it were not for his last name, he might have been the Republican nominee for president this year. But former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tells me he is happy to support the McCain-Palin ticket, which he predicts, perhaps predictably, will win. Of Gov. Sarah Palin, he says, "She has generated so much enthusiasm, which was the one element of the campaign that was completely missing."
I ask him what he thinks Republicans must do - regardless of the election outcome - to win back a congressional majority and the trust of the public. Noting that House Minority Leader John Boehner has confessed to "mistakes" by Republicans when they held the majority, Bush says, "I guess admitting you're a sinner is the first step on the road to redemption." He still believes too many of the party leaders are "in denial" about why they lost their majority. So what must the Republican Party do now?
"I think the Republican Party needs to stand for reform," he says, "within the context of our ideology, which is limited government." Bush thinks too many institutions are stuck in "the '50s, '60s, or maybe '70s. They're not relevant in 2008." He mentions job training. "We have billions of dollars of job training programs, but world and corporate structures have been radically altered. Š If you walked into a job training center now, it may not have Formica, or a '70s look, but it would have a '70s feel in terms of the services being provided Š same thing with education and health care, entitlement programs, common sense environmental policy. There should be a zeal for reform. And I'd look outside Washington for those models, typically led by governors."
Bush wants to revive the model of the Grace Commission used by Ronald Reagan to eliminate wasteful and unnecessary government programs. "Some states - and Florida is one of them - have sunset reviews. Why can't every (federal) government agency be sun-setted?" This, he says, would allow people to ask if the program or agency is necessary and "I think it would generate enormous enthusiasm outside of Washington."
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