BY SALENA ZITO firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeb Bush brings his presidential campaign to Western Pennsylvania Tuesday afternoon where he will lay out his energy policy at Rice Energy.
“The underlying premise is that the energy sector is extraordinarily important for high growth and high income for all Americans,” Bush said in an exclusive interview with the Trib.
The former Florida Governor is running for the Republican nomination for president. He is the third presidential candidate to visit Pittsburgh this cycle; Democrats Hillary Clinton and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley held fundraisers this summer but held no public events.
Bush said his expansive energy plan goes hand in hand with both his proposal to reduce taxes by $3.4 trillion in the next decade and his pledge for 4 percent economic growth, a rate the country has not achieved in almost 20 years. He said they are all part of a campaign that is designed to go the distance during the current upheaval in American politics.
“A lot of the energy driven by the current populist sentiments in this election cycle is that people feel as though Washington is managing our decline, and it leaves people feeling angry and uncertain about the state of the country and its future,” Bush said.
“There is great frustration and anger that the system is not working for anybody, and then there is the particular problem of Washington dysfunction,” he said.
“Rather than appeal to people’s angst and anger, what I am doing is offering up a set of proposals that has outlined the most dramatic reforms of any campaign,” Bush said, listing his cyber security, ISIS, tax reform and upcoming healthcare and higher education reforms, as well as his thoughts on how to “transform the welfare system into a system where the dignity of work is given far great value.”
He said, “The net effect – what I want people to know – is help is on the way.”
Bush said he designed his campaign to go the distance, not only with fundraising and endorsements in states beyond the traditional first two bouts in Iowa and New Hampshire, but also with a full range of polices for people to consider as they weigh their options.
“At the end of this process, people start migrating towards who can lead and who has the experience to be able to solve problems,” he said, adding that people are looking for which candidate has their heart, understands their plight and has the ideas to lift them up.
“That is just the natural tendency of American politics,” Bush said. “Every presidential race is different, but as you get closer to decision day, that is what is going to matter.”
Bush said the horse race that the media love because of the tension it creates does not appeal to regular people, who are watching only with peripheral vision. “They care about making ends meet and their families,” he said. “They care about why decision makers can’t solve problems.”
Bush said he was stunned when he read the news Monday morning that Iraq said it has reached a deal to share intelligence with Russia, Iran and Syria in the fight against ISIS militants, something he said would not happen under his presidency.
“My God, it is the policy of appeasement and weakness that has put us in a posture that is embarrassing for our country and even more important than that – dangerous,” he said.
“The leading indicator of this was Soleimani going to Russia in violation of the sanctions a couple of days after this agreement was announced, dealing with the Russians,” Bush said of the chief commander for Iranian foreign forces outside of Iran going to Moscow.
“Shortly thereafter, the Russians and the Iranians are doubling down on the support of Assad and now this effort… this is horrific,” he said.
“We are sitting back, and now my guess is we will count on the Russians to be part of the efforts to negotiate something. But basically we will perpetuate the Assad regime, and I don’t think it will do much to deal with ISIS, but it will certainly ruin our reputation as a willing partner,” he said.
That, he said, is exactly what they want: “They want to kick the United States out of the Middle East, and that would be quite dangerous for us and our national security.”
Pennsylvania and the long game
Bush said while he has a six-month ground game in place that will take his campaign well into the eight southern states that are slated to cast ballots on March 1, a day now called the “SEC Primary” after the iconic college football conference voters in those states religiously support, he’s not quite set up in Pennsylvania, yet.
Nevertheless, he chose Pennsylvania to talk about energy.
“The reason we are unveiling this in Pennsylvania – outside of this is where the energy economy is coming from – is because this is an important state in the general election, but also could be in the April primary,” Bush said.
In 1980 his father, George H.W. Bush, beat Ronald Reagan in a contentious primary in Pennsylvania. Bush ultimately lost to Reagan in that election. He was the last Republican to win Pennsylvania in a presidential general election – in 1988 against Democrat Massachusetts governor Mike Dukakis.
On Monday, Jeb said: “In order to win you need to get a majority of the delegates; that is kind of the point. Sometimes campaigns don’t have the resources to do that, but we are looking at the long game.”
Exporting natural gas, creating jobs
Bush said on Tuesday he will propose something that he has been advocating for a long while: lifting the restrictions on exports of oil and facilitating the exports of natural gas, which he says the law does not prohibit but which the government makes very difficult.
Streamlining the federal natural gas export permitting process – which has broad bipartisan support in Congress – would, according to supporters, encourage more shale development domestically, and thus more job creation along the industry’s supply chain, as well as added local, state and federal tax revenues.
Under Bush’s proposal, more natural gas exports – including to non-Free Trade Agreement allies around the world, particularly in Eastern Europe where countries are deeply and sometimes exclusively, dependent on Russia to meet their energy demands – would help further reduce the nation’s trade deficit, and would not lead to significant price increases domestically, according to a U.S. Department of Energy-commissioned study.
Bush said too many families are having trouble making ends meet, and his energy plan is designed to create millions of jobs, increase wages, and lower energy costs.
“There are four components outside of lifting the export ban, which include more deference to states that want to drill, approving the Keystone XL pipeline, reduce overregulation and more affordable energy will help everyone rise up,” he said.
“All of the these policies together will roll out domestic energy production and create jobs, increase wages, make gas and electricity cheaper and help us achieve, and sustain, 4 percent economic growth,” Bush said.