I’ve known Jeb Bush since the day he first arrived in Florida. It was 1980 and I was invited to a suite at the swanky Omni Hotel on Biscayne Boulevard. There he was—George H.W. Bush’s son—tall, handsome and bilingual. He was coming to South Florida to play for keeps and would go on to become state chairman of the GOP and, eventually, governor.
About 20 of us were invited to meet him. We were community leaders, a few journalists and businessmen and women. We crammed into the room to hear and meet the prodigal son and he delivered, impressively and compassionately.
Of course, any politician can say what he thinks a crowd wants to hear in that moment. But Jeb Bush continued his commitment to much of what he promised back then in 1980. And last night, he remained true to it.
It would have been so easy for Bush to turn his back on my ideals as a Hispanic American, or even those of his wife and his children, but he didn’t. In Des Moines last night, he remained the same Jeb I first met at the Omni Hotel, a building that isn’t even there anymore, but Jeb still is. No one would have remembered whatever promises he’d made, but Bush remembered.
So last night, the two Hispanic surnamed senators were in a verbal fistfight over which of them will treat Hispanic immigrants worse. These two guys named Rubio and Cruz were solidifying their bona fides as anti-Mexican, and promising the white, non-Hispanic people of Iowa that they would deport 5 percent of the U.S. workforce, Jeb Bush never looked so tall in his defense of Hispanics.
“So weird to listen to two Hispanic senators fighting with each other over who will treat Hispanic immigrants worse? Gracias guys.” That is what I wrote on Mosh.us and Twitter last night. It was just a normal reaction to what I was watching that happened to hit a nerve with thousands like me.
“I can’t believe I’m watching a guy named Rubio and a guy named Cruz argue with each other about who will promise to treat Hispanic immigrants worse. And this is how two Hispanic candidates for president talk about their brethren... this is just crazy!”
Those are the words I spoke into my Mosh vlog last night which got a lot of people talking about these two men who seem so willing to quite literally sellout their own families for political power. What else will they compromise on?
It’s both shameful and disappointing to think that the two men—two senators no less—who could help the GOP reach the White House by attracting the ever important Latino vote and thereby create a more inclusive party refuse to do so. Why? It’s more important for them to win the white-non-Hispanic Iowa voters, and if it means the GOP loses the general again, so be it.
It’s not smart, it’s not compassionate and it certainly isn’t forward thinking—because it’s rhetoric that will be played back again and again assuring that neither Cruz nor Rubio can win a general election.
It’s math—math that Jeb Bush understands about the new American mainstream that includes a whole lot of different races, ethnicities and nationalities of people who likely don’t live in Iowa. It took intestinal fortitude for Bush stand up last night—look at Cruz and Rubio and then turn to the audience and say, “I believe we need to create a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.”
It was one of the few non-political moments in last night’s debate and it reminded many of us watching in Miami of that tall, young Texan we met in a Hotel three decades earlier who made a promise—one that last night in Des Moines—he kept.