In what could be a trial balloon for the strategy Jeb Bush could deploy if he runs for president, conservative warhorse and former Education Secretary Bill Bennett penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed defending Common Core education standards despite the terrible, terrible damage the Obama administration did to them by encouraging states to implement them in a timely manner.

Bennett reminds readers that Common Core was a voluntary and cooperative state initiative–indeed, its whole genesis was as a way to get around conservative paranoia about the kind of federal involvement in education policy that every other advanced country on the planet takes for granted. And he curses the grants the feds made available to support the initiative, without ever explaining why that should taint the standards themselves; I suppose that’s just taken for granted by the intended audience.

After engaging in the ritual ablutions of anti-Obama and anti-Washington dogma, Bennett does have the temerity to challenge some of the made-up stuff about Common Core that’s circulating in all those viral emails. Note the passive verb construction, though:

[A] myth persists that Common Core involves a required reading list. Not so. Other than four seminal historical documents—the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address—there is no required reading list. Textbook companies have marketed their books disingenuously, leading many parents to believe that under Common Core the government mandates particular textbooks. Also not true.

The standards are designed to invite states to take control and to build upon them further. The standards do not prescribe what is taught in our classrooms or how it’s taught.

In any event, Bennett is basically asking conservatives not to kill Common Core even as he supports killing any federal encouragement or funding to implement it. We’ll see if the argument carries enough weight to justify Jebbie’s endorsement.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.