This story is slightly funny, a bit creepy and rather puzzling from the standpoint of a sitting president who seems interested in being re-elected in 2012.
First up, the oddly funny/creepy part, which these reporters gleefully scribbled into their notepads, in which an ostensibly Democratic POTUS seems to be kissing the ring of his seeming successor:
MIAMI – In his first year as Florida governor, Jeb Bush was vilified by Democrats as a “radical” for an education agenda they argued would undermine public schools. So it was a striking moment when, 12 years later, a Democratic president came here Friday to hail the Republican as a “champion of education reform.”
It was even more striking to consider that President Obama, introduced by Bush for a speech at a Miami high school, was teaming up with the younger brother of the man he replaced in the White House – a predecessor he has been quick to blame for many of America’s troubles. And even more intriguing to think that, if only his last name were not Bush, Jeb would probably be the Republican Party’s best hope of beating Obama next year.
Yet there they were, warmly shaking hands, exchanging laughs and declaring themselves brothers in arms when it comes to fixing the country’s schools.
“I’ve gotten to know Jeb because his family exemplifies public service,” Obama said, declaring he was “grateful to him for the work that he’s doing.”
Bush was more muted, withholding direct praise for Obama but adding: “Mr. President, as you have said, educational achievement is not a Republican or Democrat issue.”
The exchange served as a reminder that the president and the former Florida governor are two of the more pragmatic figures in American politics, and both no doubt saw much to be gained politically from at least the appearance of harmony.
(Emphasis mine, of course)
I like how these reporters manage to contextualize this as either a meeting between two equals or a slightly subservient Obama gushing praise on his erstwhile competition in the spirit of “pragmatism.” Of course, the creepy part is the mere fact this also appears rather incestuous on a certain level. Almost as if Obama is somehow endorsing him for 2016. Or at least that’s the way Henderson and Wallsten seem to see it. It’s just so pragmatic!
Obama, after all, is looking to soak up all the bipartisan bona fides he can in advance of a reelection campaign next year. Florida is a key state for him, and Bush remains popular here. Bush also is well-liked by Hispanic voters across the country – as a fluent speaker of Spanish and the husband of a Mexican American – and Obama seeks the support of that bloc.
Bush, 58, has repeatedly said he would not seek the White House next year despite his status as perhaps the one Republican equally admired by the business, tea-party and evangelical wings of the party. Those close to him say he would look seriously at a run in 2016 – and teaming up with the president shows Bush’s relevance in a key national policy debate.
So this is really about Bush helping Obama get re-elected and Obama helping Bush succeed him in 2016? Say it ain’t so! But here’s the puzzlement part. If a certain sitting POTUS of the Democratic variety wants to win a state, he should be bolstering his support within that state party apparat, right? Well, apparently not in this case:
The naysayers, however, came mostly from Obama’s own party.
One of them was .Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, whose district includes Miami. As a state legislator she battled Bush’s education plans. She rode with the president aboard Air Force One and was described by a pool reporter to have “bowed her head with great drama and shook it, as if in despair,” over Obama teaming up with Bush.
Reporters asked her whether Congress should reauthorize the No Child Left Behind law – the accountability plan, enacted by George W. Bush, that Obama is trying to recraft. Wilson answered, “We have to be careful about what it is we’re doing. You can’t assume that all children are cookie cutters.”
Florida Democrats signaled their feelings later Friday about Obama’s outreach to Jeb Bush – booing and hissing at a party fundraiser when the president mentioned that he had spent time with the former governor.
Dan Gelber, another former Democratic legislator who jousted with Bush over education, said he disagreed with the president’s embrace of Bush’s legacy. He said Obama may be correct to admire Florida’s “system of weights and measures,” but he added that inadequate funding, high dropout rates and low scores on college readiness suggest efficient testing does not mean better schools.
Just imagine what people were saying to each other as they left that fundraiser. Jeb Bush is a bitter enemy of the Florida Democratic Party, so hearing POTUS chat them up about how great this likely future preznit is could not have sent a worse message. That’s really not a good way to conduct one’s self at a fund raiser, right?
Does this guy even care if his own party supports him in a crucial state? What’s his angle on all this? Is busting teachers unions somehow pragmatic? Am I begging the question?