Jeb Bush came to the St. Ambrose University Student Union in Davenport, Iowa (“the Beehive”), to speak at something billed as APPS: Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security. Attending the campaign event was encouraged by the head of the Arsenal Island munitions command located in Rock Island, Illinois, in our local newspapers, and, therefore, it was assumed (by me, at least) that most of the discussion would be about national security and keeping America safe. [I could say something unkind about how much less safe Jeb’s brother made us with his decisions to invade a variety of countries that were not involved with 9/11 and were not buying yellow cake uranium from Niger, but I’ll leave that to history, for now, and soldier on summarizing Jeb Bush’s remarks—those I heard, anyway, after becoming hopelessly lost on campus trying to find “the Beehive” for the first 15 minutes or so of his remarks].[One student we asked for directions actually said: Turn left, then right, then left, then right, then go down an alley.” ]O…………..K…………
Finding “the Beehive” on the campus of St. Ambrose University is akin to finding your way into or out of an Iowa corn maze. My assumption is that it is called “the Beehive” because the sports teams are the St. Ambrose Bees. I once taught Advanced Composition there, but it was a long time ago, and buildings have changed and been built since the Challenger blew up. Plus, I don’t think the exterior of the building actually says “The Beehive,” nor does it resemble a beehive, in case you wondered.
I assumed Jeb’s remarks would be carried on the nightly news channels, but I did not see a single television tripod, [which is usually a bad sign]. However, it’s early in the campaign season, and I wanted to hear what GeorgeW. Bush’s brother (and George Herbert Bush’s son) had to say. He seemed like a nice guy, just as voters said they’d like to have a beer with his brother, George W, when he was running for president.
First, let it be known that Jeb admitted publicly that his brother George’s disbanding of the Iraqi military was a mistake. (You think?) That disclaimer led, quickly, to a mention of the 19 beheadings on the shores of Libya,as a lead-in to comments on the growing threat in the world of ISIS/ISIL, terrorist organizations.
Jeb kept repeating that, “You’ve got to have a plan over the long haul.” I seriously doubt that this administration (and the last one, and the ones before that) didn’t have “a plan.” The probem has been whether the plan(s) were any good. [Obviously, the last Bush governor we elected (twice) had plans. They just happen to have been horrible plans, concocted by the likes of Rumsfeld and Cheney].
Jeb feels that we have sent a signal to Russia and the rest of the world that America is not serious (about maintaining our national security). He mentioned the damage that leaks of the Manning/Snowden variety have done to us and to our allies. He began talking about “rebuilding our defenses.” This is a direct quote: “When an attack happens, we need a strategy with the private sector to defend and we need to fund it.” (*My mind interpreted that as “more defense spending,” while our nation’s infrastructure, schools and other institutions crumble and decay.)
At that point, my attention wandered to a woman sitting in the 4th row, whom I recognized as former Iowa State Senator Maggie Tinsman. When I covered the 2008 campaign, Maggie Tinsman was often the person introducing the Big Names. She served as a State Senator in Iowa from 1989 until 2007 (18 years) and was a Scott County Supervisor for 10 years before that. The 79-year-old Tinsman has been an outstanding advocate for early childhood education, serves on many boards, has won many awards, and is a graduate of both the University of Colorado and the University of Iowa. She formed Maggie Tinsman, LLC, a group lobbying for early childhood education. Now, she was sitting quietly about 4 rows back from the front of the room. (Usually, Republicans of this stature are onstage behind the candidates). I was not surprised to see her at the rally; I was just surprised that she was merely a spectator there.
I was also very surprised that there wasn’t much security getting in to this speech. No metal detectors. Few men who looked like they were security. Nobody even took our tickets, (which we had gotten online). I was also surprised at the (small) size of the room, which was not much bigger than my kitchen and living room, combined, and did not hold more than 200 people, total. (*I’ve read that Bernie Saunders, whom I hope to hear on Sunday at a picnic, drew a crowd estimated at 28,000).
Did the organizers want a small room to make it look crowded (which it was)? Did someone screw up in booking “the Beehive” for the event? (They did as far as ease of finding it, as I practically needed bread crumbs to find my way back to my car.)
There were 4 rows of chairs with 22 chairs in each row, and, after that, rows of 4 chairs and many people standing in the entryway, which I have pictured (below). Still, the total number of people listening to the man who may well end up being the standard bearer for the Republican Party was small.
Other topics: Cyber-attacks from China. Jeb responded that he was more concerned that China is building a base in the middle of the South China Sea. He repeated that we need to “send a signal that we’re in it for the long haul” in talking about the pivot to Asia. While saying that, 20 years from now, the most significant relationship this country will have will be with China, he mentioned that we should “re-engage in Asia and pass the Trans-Pac Trade Agreement. It would send a signal that we are not abandoning the area.” Bush added, “This is a relationship that you could see get out of control very quickly.”
Jeb mentioned a visit to China made by the current occupant of the White House where Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, did not accompany him, and commented: “That was a huge insult to China.” I wondered about Laura Bush’s travel itineraries while she was First Lady. Did she accompany George W. to every far-flung country on the planet? I wondered if throwing up in the lap of the Japanese head of state (George Herbert Bush) was a worse faux pas than simply staying home to take care of two school-age children in the United States?
When asked by an audience member: “What steps to deter China should we be taking?” Jeb answered, “I think we’re on the right track,” mentioning specifically how Obama has prosecuted cyber terrorists. Added Jeb: “China watches everything that happens. We will not tolerate cyber espionage…They see us as weak and in decline. We need to send a message that that is not true.” I wondered if by “sending a message” about how strong we are, militarily, he meant rattling more sabers, because it seems that the United State of America is pretty war-weary right about now. (I know I am). He also mentioned “devaluing their currency” (China’s), which totally confused those of us who didn’t know whether he meant that this action was going to happen here or there. (Not a Chinese scholar here; please leave your comments on the Chinese currency situation so we can bring everyone up to speed.)
Questioner (from the audience) Molly O’Toole wanted to know how Jeb’s policies would be different than Obama’s? That set off comments about counter-terrorism being part of Homeland Security (which, I thought, it already was). Quote: “I believe it was a mistake to repeal the meta-data part of the Patriot Act.” (*This references the taking of your cell phone and e-mail records without warrants).
Asked to comment on Obama’s having made the statement, “We tortured some folks,” Jeb was extremely cautious, actually living up to Trump’s criticisms of Jeb’s tentativeness onstage and his lack of “energy” and “enthusiasm” [which, to Trump, seems to mean extreme self-confidence that you (and you alone) are right.]
Quote: “I’m cautious about making statements when I’m running for president…I’m cautious about making blanket statements. Everything is digitalized. My every word is dissected.” So, we have established that Jeb is cautious. That’s not a bad thing, after George W. It almost sounded like the candidate was paranoid, to a degree, about saying anything substantive, for fear he’d have to backtrack later (as with some comments about his brother’s Iraq War made right out of the box.)
To provoke polite applause, Jeb threw this out there: “I’m proud of what he (“W”) did to secure a safe environment for this country after 9/11.” (Who isn’t going to approve of that comment? It’s like asking if you like kitties and puppies.)
Another safe quote: “One of—-if not THE—most important duty of a President is to keep us safe.” Again: not a controversial statement. He then did make a slightly sarcastic statement about how “enhanced interrogation isn’t okay, but it’s okay to kill them (with drones)”, re terrorists, and added, in an incredulous tone, “Really?”
When asked where we should put all the terrorists that need to be locked up, Jeb responded (Q: “Where do you put them?): “You keep ’em there in Guantanamo. There is no other option that I can see. 90% of those in Congress agree with my position.” He denied that bringing them back to maximum security prisons in the U.S. was a viable option.
Jeb was hugely critical of the Iranian Nuclear deal. He didn’t seem to give much credence to the fact that it was quite difficult to even get the Iranians to the table at all, and that that table contained representatives from many other allied nations and the participants negotiated for weeks, if not months, (even after Secretary of State John Kerry broke his leg)
Exact quote: “This is a bad deal. The verification part is too weak. This is really trouble. We’re not sending the right signal to the rest of the world. They’ve violated almost every agreement, so far…It is very naive to think that Mullahs go quietly into the night.” He added some comments about how the World’s Biggest Economy ($13 trillion), the U.S., should be able to do better, rather than “betting on the come.” He felt that: “We should not take those options off the table.”
I’ve heard it said that this Iran Deal is, indeed, NOT the Best Deal Ever, but, without it, the world has NO deal, whatsoever, and that could mean war between Israel and Iran, a war into which we would be dragged. Again: not an expert on the Iran Deal, but a lot of time has been spent trying to hammer something out and our allies are onboard. Isn’t “something better than nothing?” Don’t know. Can’t tell you. Please ask the guy(s) denouncing it.
Overall, Jeb Bush was not hugely critical of Barack Obama, even saying, at one point, “I applaud President Obama for doing it” (i.e., mobilizing against terrorists.) His talk of “a plan” was all well and good, but we didn’t hear much about HIS plan (i.e., no specifics), and we certainly are not going to hear much about anybody’s plans during debates that feature Donald Trump.
Jeb came off as a gentleman, a tad cautious and timid, much more knowledgeable than he appeared onstage during the first Republican debate, and I’m betting that, when this is all over and the dust clears, it will be Jeb and somebody like John Kasich (Ohio) or Marco Rubio (Florida) who team up against the Democratic candidates in 2016. The evening news with Dan Rather, however, was headlined, “Is Jeb Bush in Trouble?”