Here are Jeb Bush's Stances on 5 Issues You Care About

June 15th 2015

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush officially announced his candidacy for president on Monday -- making him the eleventh major Republican candidate to jump into the presidential race. The former governor is part of a substantial political dynasty: he is President George W. Bush's brother and President George H.W. Bush's son.

As we've done for other candidates, ATTN: took a look at Bush's stance on five important issues: education, marijuana, immigration, climate change, and LGBT rights.

1. Student debt and college affordability: He seems to be a friend to for-profit colleges, yet is open to accountability standards.

In April of 2014, Jeb Bush was the keynote speaker at the annual convention for the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), the trade association for for-profit colleges. While there are reputable companies in the APSCU, there are many, such as Corinthian, Kaplan, and DeVry, that are under state or federal investigation. (Corinthian Colleges folded earlier this year, and the federal government will be forgiving the debt of some of its borrowers due to Corinthian's fraudulent business practices.)

President Obama has criticized for-profit colleges for worrying more about their bottom line and graduating students who are unable to get a job and now have massive debt. He proposed the "gainful employment" rule, which would hold institutions receiving federal dollars accountable for their students' success rate finding jobs.

At the conference, Bush denounced the "gainful employment" rule:

On the other hand, he told the Washington Post in 2012 that the federal government should use the student loan program as a tool to hold colleges accountable for the product that they are giving students:

“...your university is not qualified to receive student loans, the benefit of student loans, if they don’t have performance criteria attached to it, that your graduation rate goes up . . . [So] require productivity gains. Require professors to teach. Require completion rates. Require that there’s counseling for students so they don’t change their degrees four times. Require the process to work more productively.”

In 2014, Bush was the co-host of a higher education conference in Texas (where Hillary Clinton also spoke). Though he had no formal speech, the presidential hopeful gave a glimpse of his education policy -- emphasizing technology and exporting education as a way to make college more affordable.

"Exporting U.S. post-secondary education to global consumers at scale can help really resolve both issues simultaneously," Bush stated. "Expanding access through technology can bring down the cost of delivery at home and abroad."

In terms of student loans and the student loan debt crisis, Bush hasn't given much insight on how he stands. According to the Washington Post he stated the following in 2012:

“[W]hat we’ve done is, we’ve raised tuition. It’s been financed, by and large, by the federal government. Local government, state governments, as well, but mostly federal. And then we just put this load on unemployed graduates and those that don’t graduate. Those are the ones that Paul Ryan talked about — that are in their pajamas in their parents’ guest room looking at the faded Obama posters. So we’re financing this off the backs of people that aren’t getting a bang for their buck. And this is a place I know that Governor Romney believes there has to be change. And where the federal government can play a useful role of providing education opportunities, but not at the expense of an unreformed higher education system.”

2. He's against any type of marijuana legalization, but he seems open to states' rights to enact drug reforms.

Unlike fellow Florida Republican Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush admitted to recreational use of marijuana during his high school years at Phillips Academy in Andover. "I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover," he told the Boston Globe. “It was pretty common."

He has called this juvenile recreational use "stupid" and "wrong" and during his political career Jeb Bush has taken a hard-line against against both recreational and medical marijuana use.

In 2014, when a ballot initiative was put forth in Florida to legalize medical marijuana, Bush urged voters to not support the measure.

"Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire,” Bush said, according to the Huffington Post. "Allowing large-scale marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts."

During his two terms as governor, Bush insisted on mandatory sentencing for drug offenses and also opposed a ballot measure that would offer treatment (instead of jail-time) for nonviolent drug offenders. The measure would have given "certain first- and second-time drug offenders the right to treatment," reported the St. Petersburg Times. It would have applied to around 10,000 non-violent offenders. (Naturally, critics hit him hard over the hypocrisy of this stance considering his daughter Noelle Bush was given treatment in lieu of jail-time after she was caught smuggling crack-cocaine into a treatment facility.)

In terms of states' rights to enact their own marijuana laws, Bush is ambivalent.

"In medical marijuana states? I don’t know. I’d have to sort that out,” Bush stated in 2014, according to the Miami Herald. "I think that states ought to have a right to decide these things. I think the federal government’s role in our lives is way too-overreaching.”

"But having said that, if you’re in Colorado and you can purchase marijuana openly, should people in Wyoming not be concerned about that? And I think there, maybe, the federal law needs to be looked at — interstate commerce."

His rhetoric was similar at CPAC. "I thought [legalization] was a bad idea, but states ought to have the right to do it," Bush said.

3. On immigration, he's the most liberal Republican in the race.

Jeb Bush falls out of step with conservatives -- who take a hard line against legalizing undocumented workers -- when it comes to immigration. In April 2014, Bush called unauthorized immigration "an act of love."

"Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony," Bush said in 2014. "It's an act of love, it's an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that is a different kind of crime, that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn't rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families."

He has also supported DREAMers (undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children) and called for an "accelerated path" to citizenship.

"I've never felt like the sins of the parents should be ascribed to the children, you know," he stated back in 2013. "If your children always have to pay the price for adults decisions they make — how fair is that? For people who have no country to go back to — which are many of the DREAMers — it's ridiculous to think that there shouldn't be some accelerated path to citizenship."

In early 2015, Bush also suggested opening up Detroit to immigrants:

"It just seems to me that maybe if you open up our doors in a fair way and unleashed the spirit of peoples' hard work, Detroit could become in really short order, one of the great American cities again. Now it would look different, it wouldn't be Polish...But it would be just as powerful, just as exciting, just as dynamic. And that's what immigration does and to be fearful of this, it just seems bizarre to me."

Despite his progressive stance on immigration, Bush criticized President Obama's executive order on immigration, which if it goes into effect, would setup protections for DREAMers and other undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Bush's problem with the president is that he thinks Congress should have approved these changes and that the president should not have gone around them.

4. He's skeptical of man-made climate change.

In terms of climate change, Jeb Bush is a "skeptic." In 2009, he stated that he was "not a scientist," a line that has now been adopted by many in his party to deflect discussion on climate change.

In a 2011 interview with Fox News, Bush said that he thinks “global warming may be real," but that "it is not unanimous among scientists that it is disproportionately manmade."

"What I get a little tired of on the left is this idea that somehow science has decided all this so you can’t have a view,” he continued.

(Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists -- an overwhelming majority -- agree that climate change is in fact real and "very likely" man-made.)

In May of 2015, he doubled down on this rhetoric (captured in the video made by Climate Desk below).

"I don't think the science is clear of what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural," Bush said, later stating that it was "arrogant" to suggest the "science is decided" on climate change.

In terms of actual policy during his two terms as governor, his environmental record is mixed. He signed legislation to restore the Everglades and endorsed the goal of having 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. Bush, however, supported the elimination of automobile emissions testing in 2000.

5. He's against same-sex marriage, and he supports state religious freedom laws that don't discriminate against the LGBT community.

In February 2015, BuzzFeed wrote a piece titled "Jeb Bush, 2016's Gay-Friendly Republican." The piece mentioned that Bush appears to have hired a series of pro-same-sex marriage Republicans. BuzzFeed writes:

"When Bush officially launches his presidential bid later this year, he will likely do so with a campaign manager who has urged the Republican Party to adopt a pro-gay agenda; a chief strategist who signed a Supreme Court amicus brief arguing for marriage equality in California; a longtime adviser who once encouraged her minister to stick to his guns in preaching equality for same-sex couples; and a communications director who is openly gay."

The big question is whether the team's view will influence Bush. As recently as March of 2015 -- this year -- Bush initially supported Indiana's controversial "religious freedom" law, which would have allowed anti-gay discrimination, although he's backtracked a bit on this position.

"I don’t know about the law, but religious freedom is a serious issue, and it’s increasingly so, and I think people that act on their conscience shouldn’t be discriminated against, for sure," the former Florida governor stated. "There should be protections, and so, as it relates to marriage equality — and that may change, the Supreme Court may change that. That automatically then shifts the focus to people of conscience, and, I don’t know, have their faith make — they want to act on their faith, and may not be able to be employed for example."

Following the tech industry's overwhelming rejection of the Indiana law, Bush changed his tone a few days later at a private event in Silicon Valley.

"By the end of the week, I think Indiana will be in the right place, which is to say that we need in a big diverse country like America, we need to have space for people to act on their conscience, that it is a constitutional right that religious freedom is a core value of our country," Bush said at the Palo Alto event, according to the New York Times.

He also stated that "we shouldn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation."

Here's what he said later in May 2015 on "The Brody File":

During remarks at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Bush also reiterated that he believes in traditional marriage:

His CPAC speech was in a similar vein as remarks he made to Fox News' Sean Hannity in January after the courts upheld same-sex marriages in Florida.

"No. I believe in traditional marriage," Bush said.

"It ought be a local decision. I mean, a state decision," he continued. "The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess."

Digging even further into the past, in 1994, Bush infamously wrote an op-ed in the Miami Herald, which argued against elevating people practicing "sodomy" to a protected class.

"We have enough special categories, enough victims, without creating even more…," Bush wrote. "[Should] sodomy be elevated to the same constitutional status as race and religion? My answer is No."

He took a similar tone in 1995, according to On the Issues, calling the gay-rights movement "a modern victim movement."

It is noted that he -- like other politicians -- has evolved from this hard-line early '90s stance. After sorting through Jeb Bush's gubernatorial emails, which were made public, the Daily Beast noticed a slow evolution in his thinking on gay marriage. Yet, he is still not openly an advocate.

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