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GOP Moves Away From Bush Years

Image: George W. Bush

Former President George W. Bush gives an address during the Civil Rights Summit on Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Jack Plunkett) Jack Plunkett / AP

New Hampshire summit opens window into current GOP

Saturday’s Republican gathering in New Hampshire did little to tell us who’s up and who’s down in the GOP’s 2016 field -- remember, that election is still two years away. But it did tell us that today’s Republican Party is more distant from the Bush family (especially George W. Bush and brother Jeb) than at any point since the 43rd president left office in early 2009. At the New Hampshire Freedom Summit -- which heard from the likes of Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul -- Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) delivered one of the more well-received lines at the conference when she criticized the Common Core education standards that Jeb Bush supports. “We need to replace Common Core with some common sense!” she said. In fact, NBC’s Kasie Hunt says Common Core was the loudest applause line at the confab. The crowd also booed when another speaker, Donald Trump, mentioned Jeb Bush’s recent remark that illegal immigration is “act of love.” After the event, Rand Paul later told ABC that Jeb could have been “more artful” with his words. “I don't want to say, oh, he's terrible for saying this. If it were me, what I would have said is, people who seek the American dream are not bad people," Paul said. "However, we can't invite the whole world.

Speakers rail against Common Core, immigration reform, NSA surveillance, and the TSA

The speakers also railed against the NSA surveillance program that first began during the Bush administration. "Anybody got a cellphone? You're under surveillance," Paul said as he held one up. "Here's the thing: It's none of their damn business what you do with your cellphone." And Mike Huckabee complained about the TSA -- also created during Bush’s presidency -- as he talked about voter ID laws. “My gosh, I’m beginning to think that there’s more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States,” Huckabee said, per MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin. “When I go to the airport, I have to get in the surrender position, people put hands all over me, and I have to provide photo ID and a couple of different forms and prove that I really am not going to terrorize the airplane -- but if I want to go vote I don’t need a thing.”

If he runs in 2016, can Jeb Bush shape this party? Or will the party shape him?

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, GOP strategist Mike Murphy, who is advising Jeb Bush, commended the former Florida governor for supporting what he believes (like immigration reform and Common Core) and for making the argument to the public and his party. “We've lost sight of politicians who tell you what they think is right, they make an argument for it, and then you figure it out,” Murphy told NBC’s David Gregory. “And that's who Jeb Bush is. He's not a typical weather-vane kind of guy. So if he runs, that's what you're going to get. I think it's what the country's looking for.” The question for Bush, however, is if that’s what today’s Republican Party is looking for, too.

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Sebelius meets the press: “Meet the Press” also ran an interview that NBC’s Andrea Mitchell conducted with departing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

  • On the botched website launch: “Well, I think there's no question and I've said this many times that the launch of the website was terribly flawed and terribly difficult. The good news was that we said it would be fixed in eight weeks. It was fixed in eight weeks. And we announced last week that seven and a half million people, most of them coming through the site had enrolled… Could we have used more time and testing? You bet. I've said that from the start. But the site actually works.”
  • On her low point as HHS secretary: “Well, I would say that the eight weeks where the site was not functioning well for the vast majority of people was a pretty dismal time. And I was frankly hoping and watching and measuring the benchmarks. But having failed once -- at the front of October-- the first of December became a critical juncture… It was going to meet the expectations the second time around. I knew we didn't have a third time around. So that was a pretty scary date. And watching a lotta people come in and be able to be enrolled in December was very gratifying.”
  • On if she was pushed out or if it was her decision: “Well, actually, I made a decision at the election that I couldn't leave along with a lot of my colleagues who left at the end of the first term. That did not seem to be even a topic to consider since there was still one more chapter in this Affordable Care Act that needed to roll out… I also thought that, at the end of open enrollment was a logical time to leave. There is never a good time… But the president and I began to talk, you know, after the first of the year. And I went back to him in early March and said, ‘You know, I'm really optimistic we're gonna meet the targets and the enrollment is good. While the site is working well, I think once we finish this first chapter you really should begin to look for the next secretary who can be here through the end of your term.’ And that really wasn't a commitment I was willing to make. And he knew that.”

On Hillary and Boeing

Don’t be surprised if we see plenty more of these kind of articles between now and 2016 if Hillary Clinton runs for president. Here’s the Washington Post on then-Secretary of State Clinton getting Russia to sign a multi-billion-dollar deal with Boeing, and then Boeing later writing a checks 1) for a U.S. pavilion at the World’s Fair and 2) for the Clinton Foundation’s work to rebuild Haiti. “Clinton functioned as a powerful ally for Boeing’s business interests at home and abroad, while Boeing has invested resources in causes beneficial to Clinton’s public and political image.” More from the story: “Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said that her advocacy for Boeing’s jet deal was ‘the job that every Secretary of State is supposed to do and what the American people expect of them — especially during difficult economic times. She proudly and loudly advocated on behalf of American business and took every opportunity to promote U.S. commercial interests abroad.’ Boeing spokesman Sean McCormack said that the company sees its cooperation with the government to encourage exports and create jobs as a ‘mutual institutional interest, versus a personal one.’”

A tense situation Ukraine

Meanwhile, the situation in Ukraine is getting more and tense. The New York Times: “A deadline set by the Ukrainian government for pro-Russian militants in the country’s east to vacate occupied buildings passed on Monday without signs of an effort to enforce it. Commandos who engaged in gunfights with men who had set up roadblocks stormed a Ukrainian police station in Slovyansk on Sunday, but there were no signs after the deadline passed at 9 a.m. Monday that they had attempted to approach the city again. Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine on Monday, a pro-Russian mob broke into a police station in the city of Horlivka, near the Russian border, The Associated Press reported.” Vice President Biden will head to Ukraine later this month.

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