A clear-eyed view of Jeb Bush as governorFeb 9, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 21 • By TERRY EASTLAND
Our first national government—the one established by the Articles of Confederation—was notoriously weak. Congress wasn’t much good at administering the laws it passed or at conducting foreign affairs. The government lacked what the Framers of the Constitution said it sorely needed: energy. As James Madison explained in Federalist 37, “[E]nergy in government is essential to that security against external and internal danger and to that prompt and salutary execution of the laws which enter into the very definition of good government.”
At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the Framers sought to remedy that critical defect. They did so by creating the presidency, which, because of its structure and powers, would provide the necessary energy. Thus, Alexander Hamilton’s famous pronouncement: “Energy in the executive is a leading character of good government.”
The “conservative hurricane” referred to in the title of this book is, of course, the governor who “remade Florida,” Jeb Bush. Florida, which entered the Union in 1845, has had a long tradition of weak executives; Bush, who served two terms from 1999 to 2007, was not one of them. Moreover, he is proud of his repudiation of that tradition—proud, if you will, of his energetic tenure. “I believe a weak form of governorship is not appropriate for a dynamic state like Florida,” he observed shortly before leaving office. “My gift perhaps is that with this office now, we’ve shown that governors can be activist, they can be reformers if they want to.”
Bush was elected to an office that, in the preceding decades, had been formally strengthened, with the most recent change (by constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 1998) downsizing the cabinet form of government that had been in place since the end of Reconstruction. As this treatment of Bush’s two terms shows, the governor used his structurally more powerful office in ways the Framers would have understood.
The Federalist describes the presidential office as one from which a president may undertake “extensive and arduous enterprises” for the country’s benefit, the efficacy of which (assuming their constitutionality) the people may judge at the ballot box. Likewise, a governor sufficiently empowered should be in a position to pursue such enterprises for the good of his state. In Bush’s case, the most ambitious of several major undertakings concerned education. As Matthew T. Corrigan observes, Bush sought not only to reform various policies but also to change the entire educational system, which assumed (falsely, in his view) that socioeconomic background determines school performance.
The Federalist also identifies how the energetic president should act for the sake of good government: with “dispatch,” “vigor,” “expedition,” “decision,” “promptitude of decision,” and “firmness.” Those are behavioral characteristics. It stands to reason that they would be evident in an energetic governor: From the information assembled here, Governor Bush often showed vigor, expedition, firmness, and more.
Of course, to act with vigor or firmness does not mean that a given action is correct or will succeed. Consider the heart-wrenching case of Terri Schiavo. In no matter was Bush as firm as he was in his effort to keep Schiavo alive by seeking to prevent the removal of her feeding tube. Yet with all options exhausted, not just at the state level but also the federal, Bush concluded that he could not disobey a court order permitting the removal—and thus, Terri Schiavo’s death.
As governor, Jeb Bush had a political compass, and it was definitely a conservative one, says Corrigan. That’s not surprising, given the influence of the modern conservative movement on Bush, which Corrigan chronicles in some detail. Against the perception offered by “some national commentators” (as well as some Tea Partiers) that Bush is really a “moderate,” Corrigan says that Bush’s record as governor of Florida is “a direct refutation of that description.”
It’s hard to argue with his assessment. As Corrigan shows, Bush secured record tax cuts, eliminated thousands of public-sector jobs while expanding private contracting of state services, broadened the rights of gun owners (he “methodically and completely changed gun regulation”), reduced the number of abortion “providers,” and ended racial preferences in admissions to institutions of higher education (standing firm when the liberal civil rights lobby protested). As for education reform, his most important undertaking, Bush initiated massive changes in K-12 education premised on testing and accountability.
The United States and its Constitution, one and inseparableDec 8, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 13 • By TERRY EASTLAND
This, the “concise edition” of Liberty and Union, is an abridgment of a larger, two-volume work. It contains a glossary of legal terms (“writ,” for example, is a court order), tables of cases, a list of the 118 (so far) justices of the Supreme Court, and the texts of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution.
Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By TERRY EASTLAND
During his confirmation hearing in early 2009, Eric Holder declared he would not politicize the Justice Department. Yet throughout more than five years in office, the attorney general has done just that—without objection from President Obama, who obviously paid no heed to Holder’s promise. Indeed, it is manifestly clear that Holder and Obama approach law the same way: Where necessary, it may be manipulated—or ignored—in pursuit of political ends.
Jul 14, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 41 • By TERRY EASTLAND
On a wide range of matters, including health care, energy, immigration, foreign policy, and education, says House speaker John Boehner, President Obama has ignored some statutes completely, selectively enforced others, and at times created laws of his own, thus failing to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” as Article II of the Constitution requires of a president.
In government contracting, some are more equal than others. Jun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By TERRY EASTLAND
In our episodic “national conversation about race,” perhaps it is time to take notice of Rothe Development Corporation of San Antonio, Texas, which, you could say, has been having its own conversation about race—in the federal courts. Rothe is a government contractor that has now brought two lawsuits challenging racial preferences in federal contracting, winning the first, which was filed in 1998 and decided in 2008, and hoping, of course, to win the second, which was filed in 2012 and could go to the Supreme Court while President Obama is in office.
Terry Eastland, Southern fried chicken manJun 9, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 37 • By TERRY EASTLAND
I happen to like fried chicken. I like just about everything about it. I like being in the store and looking for the right chicken. I like cutting up the chicken, and then preparing the pieces for frying, and then frying them in the big pan we use for that purpose. And I like eating my portion. I can’t say I like disposing of the grease, a messy business, but then the meal I’ve just eaten has usually been worth it.
Hosted by Michael Graham.11:00 AM, Apr 24, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD Podcast with executive editor Terry Eastland on the recent ruling by the supreme court in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.
The Senate minority leader seeks majority opinions. Apr 28, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 31 • By TERRY EASTLAND
"This is the best Supreme Court, if you’re interested in a free society and in the ability of Americans to participate in the political process with a minimum amount of government restrictions. In fact, this is a great Supreme Court.”
Of course, President Obama, this great Supreme Court’s greatest scold, didn’t say that. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell did, in an interview last week in the wake of the Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (FEC).
The B&A Podcast is hosted by Philip Terzian.4:45 PM, Mar 18, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD Books & Arts Podcast with Philip Terzian, on the March 24, 2014 issue of the magazine's B&A section. Joining him is executive editor Terry Eastland, to discuss his recent review, Ordeal by Congress, which was a memoir by Judge Leslie Southwick on his road to confirmation to the federal bench.
The human cost of advice and consent. Mar 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 27 • By TERRY EASTLAND
Leslie H. Southwick of Jackson, Mississippi, is (or rather, was) “the nominee,” and here provides an account of his quest to become a judge on a particular federal court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which sits in New Orleans. President George W. Bush nominated him to that court in January 2007.
The coming war over presidential appointmentsFeb 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 23 • By TERRY EASTLAND
President Obama and Senate Democrats have gone to great lengths to secure the appointment of executive-branch officers and judges and thus help advance his policies and programs. Obama has made recess appointments in a way no president before him did, an action now being challenged in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, which offers the Supreme Court the first occasion in its long history to opine on the until-now obscure recess appointments clause.
Jan 27, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 19 • By TERRY EASTLAND
Under our Constitution, a government agency may not act beyond the authority given it by Congress. Indeed, as the Supreme Court has said, “an agency literally has no power to act . . . unless and until Congress confers power upon it.”
The principle is basic, but in a significant matter the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama has ignored it, to say no worse. Fortunately, a lawsuit now moving forward in the nation’s capital promises to compel the agency to quit its conspicuous overreaching.
The (legal) case against Obamacare.Dec 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 15 • By TERRY EASTLAND
The biggest political story in our domestic politics since 2009 has been, as it will be for the foreseeable future, health care. One part of this story is ripe for telling now: the constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—also known as Obamacare. That effort, you’ll recall, came in a series of lawsuits that few legal experts thought had much chance of succeeding. But victories in the lower courts led to new appraisals and a growing sense that, in the Supreme Court, the challengers just might win.
Another case of federal overreach. Dec 16, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 14 • By TERRY EASTLAND
A question: Are Texas and all its agencies and local governments breaking the law? The answer is that they probably are, according to the Obama administration and its Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But the Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, isn’t waiting for the EEOC to investigate and bring charges. Last month, in a preemptive strike, he sued the commission. The case is Texas v. EEOC.