Bushleaguer II

And they call Mitt Romney a flip-flopper?

Jeb Bush once called for building prisons and emphasizing “punishment over therapy” for juvenile offenders. Today, he supports reforming the criminal justice system, arguing that incarceration can harden low-level lawbreakers into career criminals.

In the past, he stressed using deportation to rid the United States of unauthorized immigrants. These days, he describes crossing the border illegally as “an act of love” by migrant parents and supports a path to citizenship for those who have done so.

He used to emphasize the rights of big landowners who felt cheated by environmental programs. Now, he is a champion of state-sponsored conservation, celebrated for his $2 billion program to restore the Everglades.

Mr. Bush, 61, the former governor of Florida, insists that he will not contort himself to satisfy the ideologues of the Republican Party as he lays the groundwork for a possible presidential run in 2016. But as he pledges to stay true to his beliefs, an examination of Mr. Bush’s record reveals ways in which those views have already changed since his first run for elected office — in presentation, in tone, in language and, at times, in substance.

The long trail of Mr. Bush’s pronouncements — from his days as a candidate for governor of Florida in 1994 to today in his role as a public policy expert bent on recasting the Republican brand — will inevitability invite suspicion from within his party that he lacks genuine conservative conviction, a wariness that he needs to overcome to win the Republican nomination. But the journey may give Mr. Bush the broader, cross-party appeal necessary to compete in a presidential general election.

Jeb Bush does believe in a few things besides the idea that all of the climate scientists are wrong on global warming. He certainly believes that he is entitled to be president, that members of the Bush family should occupy the White House by divine right. He certainly believes that his brother never made any mistakes in the 2000s. He certainly believes that there are enough gullible voters out there for him to become the 45th President of the United States.

Other than that, the man has no real convictions–and not that much sense, either, as Brad Friedman notes:

When asked over the weekend, after a round of golf, to comment on court rulings that will lead to same-sex marriage becoming legal across the Sunshine State on Tuesday (and already today in Miami-Dade County), Bush muttered to the Miami Herald:

“It ought be a local decision. I mean, a state decision,” the former governor said Sunday in a brief interview. “The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess.”

After the comment was met with criticism from advocates of the Constitution as well as Miami-Dade’s Republican mayor who said he “believes adults should be free to marry whomever they desire” and that he “respects anyone’s right to marry, gay or straight,” Jeb attempted a mulligan and offered the following, almost impossibly non-committal, have-it-all-ways official statement:

“We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law. I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue – including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”

You’ve got to think that Romney is only considering a third run for president because he looks at Jeb, with his pudgy face, odd voice and history of obnoxious statements and sees a man that would be politically bludgeoned by Hillary Clinton. If Mitt and Jeb both battle it out for the GOP nomination, I’d put Jeb’s chances for victory at about 47 percent.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.