HUDSON — Any question about whether the first-in-the-nation primary campaign is underway was put to rest on Friday afternoon when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush rolled into New Hampshire, where he was immediately put to the test on domestic and foreign issues by a group of Nashua area business and education leaders.
Bush told the group his “journey” is “only now in the consideration phase, but I do believe that we’re on the verge of greatness for our country again.”
Followed by a large group of national and local media, Bush signed into Integra Biosciences in Hudson with a polite “glad to be here,” and took a tour of a prime example of the southern tier’s thriving high-tech industry before sitting down at a business roundtable with Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce members, where he promoted comprehensive immigration reform.
Jeb Bush signs in at Integra Biosciences in Hudson
“What do you do with the 11 million” illegal immigrants “who are here?” Bush said. “It’s easy to say that anything you propose is amnesty, and that’s not a plan. I think the best plan, the most realistic plan, the grown up plan, is that once you control the border and you are confident that you’re not going to be another magnet, is to say, ‘Let’s let these folks achieve earned legal status where they work.’
“If we just keep them in the shadows we’re not going to solve our immigration problems, and this political logjam makes it more difficult for us to compete with the rest of the world, which should be our prime objective.”
Defending his support for national Common Core education standards, Bush said “it was “wrong” for the federal government to withhold federal funding unless the standards are implement, but he said, “That doesn’t mean the standards are bad.”
He said that if states create their own standards, “I would suggest that they be high, they be as high as Common Core or higher because that’s the world we’re moving toward. Why would we fool ourselves into thinking that if we dumb all this down there is going to be a good result.”
“Yes, it controversial,” he said. “But I’ve learned though that because something is controversial…you don’t’ abandon your core beliefs.
“I think you need to be genuine,” Bush said. “I think you need to have backbone. I think you need to be able to persuade people that this is a national crisis, this is a national priority. Our country will not be as vibrant, as dynamic as it needs to be unless we improve education in this country.”
On foreign policy, Bush said he would support a small U.S. military force in Iraq to advise the Iraqi military in the battle against ISIS.
He said President Obama “has pulled back because he thinks our engagement in the world has created far more difficulties than any benefits and that’s wrong. It’s created voids that are now being filled.
“There is no way that we will deal with ISIS unless America leads,” Bsh said. “It doesn’t have to lead with boots on the ground.”
He said the “best idea” he has heard is to “create a protective zone in northeast Syria where you could allow for an army to be built – a Syrian free army and international soldiers. with air power from the United States and intelligence capability and training.”
In Iraq, he said, “We need to re-engage with some small force level to continue to train the Iraqi army and create some stability.”
The bigger threat, he said, is Iran.
Later, at a press conference, Bush said that while he did not add his signature to the Senate GOP leader to Iranian leaders warning that any nuclear deal must be approved by Congress, he understood that the senators sent the letter out of frustration because “there has been no dialogue, no conversation, there has been stifling of debate about the properness so this negotiation.”
He noted that something similar occurred “on my brother’s watch. Nancy Pelosi went to Syria at a time when Hezbollah and Syria had major influence in Lebanon and there was a very sensitive time to try to kick them out of the country and allow Lebanon to be freer.”
Bush refused to comment on how he believes Hillary Clinton’s email issues will affect her candidacy and brushed aside suggestions by Democrats that he had similar issues in Florida. He said that while governor, he complied with his state’s disclosure laws. “Long before Mrs. Clinton’s emails came up, we made all of my emails public for you to see. It’s totally different.”
Asked to reminisce about his father and brother’s campaigns in New Hampshire, Bush recalled bringing 250 people from Florida to the state to campaign for his George W. Bush in 2000.
“We had to learn to talk on ice. We handed out organs and it was a blast,” he said. “It turns out that my brother and Dad won Florida and didn’t win New Hampshire.” He refused to venture a guess as to why his father and brother each lost a New Hampshire Primary.