All-Star Panel: Bush lays out thoughts on economy, immigration in Detroit

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 4, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


FORMER GOV. JEB BUSH, R - FL: Instead of a safety net to cushion our occasional falls, they have built a spider web that traps people in perpetual dependence.

Rising student achievement should be the highest calling for all of us, and we should be outraged that it is not happening to the degree that it should.

Parents ought to make sure their children are vaccinated.

I love my brother and I think he's been a great president. It doesn't bother me a bit to be proud of them love them. But I know for a fact that if I'm going to be successful going after the consideration then I'm going to have to do it on my own.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Just a flavor of some of the topics in former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's speech at the Detroit Economic Club, clearly took some questions on a whole bunch of issues. We're back with the panel. Charles, your thoughts?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, at times it seems as if he is trying to max Obama in lassitude and lethargy. It was not the most energetic, rousing speech ever given. It would be unusual if he started a campaign with that. It was a run of the mill and it was the usual conservative idea. We want opportunity. We don't want handouts. As we saw, we want a safety net and not a spider's web.

He said details will follow, and I have heard some of them in previous speeches. He's solid. He is unremarkable but solid with conservative answers on education, on the economy, on energy, which are all unobjectionable. I don't see the fire in the belly, but, perhaps, you know, it will come.

BAIER: Alright, here is he on immigration, obviously a controversial issue in some of the early states.


BUSH: We shouldn't be fearful of this. We should say what an incredible opportunity. And so, I would hope that that mentality of shifting to an economic issue rather than a political issue will be helpful. And it starts with regaining confidence that the federal government can enforce the border. They need to secure the border first and foremost. There is no denying that. And that ought to be the highest priority. I don't think the president should use his executive authority where he has gone beyond his constitutional powers. That creates greater doubt as well.


BAIER: A.B., will that fly in Iowa?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Obviously, his greatest liability is his position on immigration, which is actually sort of been softened in different ways over time. He also, obviously, has a problem with Common Core education standards. But the immigration issue is what talk radio is fired up about now and is already bashing him over.

It's a long way to Iowa. He doesn't really know today's Republican Party. He has to get to know them. Saying border security first is the right thing to do, but he's trying to open up this argument that he can win the general because he's he going to secure the border, but then he has this rational path. It's not popular with the conservative wing of the party. Conservatives had a problem with immigration reform before the border crisis last summer, and now moderate Republicans have a problem with comprehensive immigration reform because they don't trust this president to execute it.

A very tough issue for Jeb Bush. I agree with Charles. I would recommend a little coffee. But I think that it's good that he is trying to be when the details come, they should be plentiful and they should come soon, there's a guy with new ideas, not just ideas that seem moderate but that seem new and seem reformist.

BAIER: Listen, this is the first big speech. We hadn't really heard from him. This is the reason we are spending this time. There are obviously a ton of candidates out there. If you look at the polls it's all over the place. We have a long way to go, we get it. Steve, thoughts on this speech?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, I think on the one hand you can look at the speech itself. On the one hand you can look at the reporting that surrounded the speech. The speech itself was a safe, solid speech from a guy who clearly isn't accustomed to giving fiery stump speeches or at least hasn't given many lately.

But apart from the speech is the reporting that some people have done about what the speech was meant to do. And in particular, Ron Fournier very a very good piece at National Journal and Jonathan Martin at the New York Times talking to people around Jeb Bush that this was meant to send a signal that he is going to run in a different way. He is going to run a general election campaign to win in the primaries, that he is deliberately trying to position himself as a centrist, that he is not going to be someone who veers to the right to try to win over conservatives. It's an interesting approach to running in a Republican primary. I think it will be very hard for him to pull it off, but if this is the first step, you know, as you said, it's a long way to go.

BAIER: The flavor of the moment?

KRAUTHAMMER: I would say lay off of the decaf.


KRAUTHAMMER: The flavor of the moment is Scott Walker. He gave a great speech in Iowa. His numbers are up. He's the new face. Remember in 2012 we had a new one every week. So who knows? But for now he is the one who is on the rise. And we will see how long he can sustain that.

BAIER: We have a presidential prospective – a presidential profile of Scott Walker this week as well a special this weekend that will include him and others.  That is it for the panel, but stay tuned to see a new spin on interactive reporting.

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