National Harbor, MD – Let’s make one thing clear from the start, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will never be conservative enough for the majority of those attending the annual Conservative Political Action Conference meeting this week just outside Washington, D.C. For the past two years they have backed in their GOP Presidential Straw Poll Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
But Friday it was time for Bush to speak to the CPAC gang and he did not pander he came out strong with a defense of his positions on immigration, education. Those are the two areas that most of the CPAC members find unable to support him on and they did not hide their opposition.
He was at times booed and at times cheered, in one of the more interesting speeches given at CPAC.
The boos came when he spoke on immigration, Bush, said the country “first and foremost” must secure its borders. At the same time, he defended his record of supporting in-state tuition and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in Florida.
Bush maintained his support for the Common Core education standards reviled by some conservatives, but he also said the federal government shouldn’t be dictating education policy to the states.
He got cheered when he was very critical of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, accusing him of underestimating Russia, creating a void in the Middle East and failing to stand up for Israel. He called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled appearance on Capitol Hill this coming Wednesday, which Democrats have openly critical of and threaten to boycott, as “very important.”
Prior to Bush’s speech, there had been some talk of a walk-out. The National Review reported seeing “scores” of CPAC attendees leaving as soon as Bush began speaking with protesters reportedly chanting “USA, USA.”
Despite the sign of defiance, the main ballroom was as packed for Bush’s talk as it had been for any other 2016 contender, including Scott Walker and Rand Paul. Bush’s comments attracted cheers from some parts of the ballroom, which was more packed than it had been at any other point in the conference, but was also punctuated by occasional heckles, including shouts of “Open borders!”
Bush received a standing ovation before and after his address, and a walkout by conservative activists did not really hamper his speech. So, the bottom-line for Bush was he survived his appearance at CPAC and that at the end of the day was all he really wanted to do.