Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush on Wednesday hailed the outcome of the Wisconsin recall election, praising Governor Scott Walker for emboldening conservatives in their drive to slash spending on a national level.
“He’s a courageous leader, and he was rewarded for courage,” Bush said on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report.”
“In a world of dysfunction, it’s really good that a guy like that, who had the courage of his convictions and acted on them, is rewarded with a victory. I don’t even know why we had the recall to begin with, but if there was to be one, better to win by a bigger margin than he won in 2010, with a higher turnout. I think it’s a leading indicator of one thing, which is the intensity of the conservative side of politics is now stronger than the liberal side.”
The prediction might be partly wishful thinking.
In an exit poll of Wisconsin voters by ABC News, a majority — 51 percent to 44 percent — said they would support President Obama over Republican challenger Mitt Romney if the election were held that day.
Voters also picked Obama over Romney, 42 percent to 38 percent, to do a better job handling the economy, as well as by 46 percent to 37 percent on “helping the middle class.”
Bush said the recall election results — which Walker won with 53 percent of the vote to Democrat Tom Barrett’s 46 percent — represented a “spanking” for unions.
“It’s a spanking because they made it that way,” he said. “They raised the stakes, they made this a national campaign. All of the leadership, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of the Democratic Party and the union leaders all said that all roads lead through Madison, basically as it relates to the national campaign. This was a national statement.”
Walker’s victory, Bush said, also meant the Tea Party movement was alive and well.
“They play a huge role in reminding people we’re on an unsustainable course when it comes to spending at every level, and Scott Walker takes the general belief and does something really novel; he acted on it,” he said.
Bush reiterated that the United States government was on an “unsustainable course.”
“The only reason we’ve been allowed to stay on the course is a monetary policy of zero percent interest rates and the fact that Europe has bigger problems than we do, so... we’re slightly larger than the next midget, basically,” he said.
Creating 40 cents of debt for every dollar of federal spending, Bush added, was “not sustainable.”
“Never in anybody’s wildest dreams could anybody say that this is sustainable, so it seems to me that if you could — if you’re in a position of leadership, you have to find creative ways to find common ground, maybe through the tax code, maybe looking at exemptions,” he said.
Bush took a shot at cutting entitlement programs — Medicare and Social Security — though not by name.
“If you could get a cap on entitlement spending in the out years, you are going to save trillions of dollars, not billions of dollars, and in order to bring people along, are you going to have to look at the tax code,” he said. “And so, dealing with exemptions in some way that might satisfy the left to deal with the unsustainable entitlement problems we face. I don’t know what the exact deal would be, but Chris Christie is right about one thing, it requires leadership.”
Bush also criticized Obama for “dividing” instead of finding “common ground,” while defending his brother, former President George W. Bush.
“You’re in the fourth year of your presidency, it becomes unbecoming to constantly be blaming the past for your failures,” he said. “And it’s just not — I don't think politically — helpful to do that. And so, yeah, I mean, I think my brother gets a bum rap, but that’s just the way it is.”