Michael Gerson: Jeb Bush's heresies of the obvious

BY MICHAEL GERSON Published: June 16, 2012
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Bush has naturally gotten more attention for his departures from Republican orthodoxy. Most are heresies of the obvious. Bush would accept a theoretical deficit reduction package including $1 in tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts. So would any responsible public official, no matter what they feel compelled to say in a primary debate.

An existential threat

Bush has been weakest in his political analysis — contending in a recent interview that even Ronald Reagan would have a “hard time” in the modern Republican Party, struggling against “an orthodoxy that doesn't allow for disagreement.” This orthodoxy is strong — certainly stronger than when Reagan ran in 1980 on a gubernatorial record that included increases in corporate, income and inheritance taxes. But not strong enough to propel Ron Paul or Michele Bachmann to the GOP nomination. The two most recent Republican presidential nominees are John McCain and Mitt Romney. Republicans in Congress are led by Speaker John Boehner — who attempted a budget deal including tax increases — and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. These are hardly the four horsemen of the tea party apocalypse.

But Jeb Bush is correct in the outline of his main argument. The debt crisis is an existential threat to the American way of life. Addressing this vast structural problem will require a grand bargain including entitlement reform and higher revenue. Those who rule out the possibility of compromise as a matter of ideology are undermining the public interest. And if the outcome of this debate is determined by figures such as Norquist and Wasserman Schultz, all hope is lost.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP