Political Animal


March 06, 2013 5:11 PM Jeb Misses Mount Everest

By Ed Kilgore

Sure has been a bad week for Jeb Bush. He’s getting pounded from the left and center for releasing a book (apparently written back during the Nativist-Fest of the 2012 GOP presidential nominating contest) on immigration policy that undercuts his supposed protege Marco Rubio, not to mention the efforts of his very own brother. He’s getting pounded from the right for the heretical suggestion that maybe Republicans could support new revenues as part of a budgetary Grand Bargain.

And now he deserves a pounding from every direction for exhibiting ignorance about the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, per this CNN report (via TPM):

Florida’s former governor Jeb Bush isn’t in alignment with the Sunshine State’s current Republican executive on the issue of accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid coverage to more lower income residents.

Asked by CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper about Rick Scott’s recent decision to accept the funds, which are included as part of President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care law, Bush said he had reservations about the Medicaid expansion, which will be totally funded by the federal government for the first three years. After that, federal funding will be phased down.
“I have doubts because I think if three years from now, as I understand it, three or four years from now, the deal is that the fed match goes from 95 back to what it is now, which is about 55 in Florida,” Bush said.

Whoever wrote this anonymous piece must have savored a brief pause before dropping the hammer:

While Bush is correct that federal financing for Medicaid expansion phases down, the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates the federal matching level would remain at 90% for “2020 and beyond.”

So is this just one of those little math glitches that even smart pols commit, for which only his blood enemies could possibly hold him accountable?

I don’t think so. Jeb Bush was a two-term governor of a large state with a large Medicaid population. Medicaid represented the second-largest item in the state budget (after education) then as now, and far and away the largest federal program directly affecting Florida’s budget (the late, great National Governors’ Association lobbyist Jim Martin used to say often: “The governors have three priorities in this year’s federal budget debate: Medicaid, Medicaid, and Medicaid.”).

Beyond that, the Medicaid expansion has been far and away the hottest political issue in Florida this year, and a subset of what has been the hottest political issue for Republicans everywhere—Obamacare—since the moment it was created in 2010.

So no, I don’t think Jeb Bush deserves to be cut any slack for so fundamentally misunderstanding the financial terms of the Medicaid expansion. It’s like a Nepalese mountain-climber missing Mount Everest. Maybe it was just a senior moment—Lord knows I have them—but certainly a poorly timed one for a guy who seems determined all of a sudden to remind us all of why two Bush presidencies might have been more than enough.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • bh on March 06, 2013 5:48 PM:

    Ah, Republican governors. Serious Pragmatic Moderates Who Just Get the Job Done... until they open their mouths on a national stage. Say 'hi' to Mitt, Tommy Thompson, Christie Todd Wittman, Bobby Jindal and oh so many others on your way out, Jeb.

  • Peter C on March 06, 2013 5:59 PM:

    "why two Bush presidencies might have been more than enough"

    *Might* have been??? There's not much doubt in my mind.

  • c u n d gulag on March 06, 2013 6:00 PM:

    From what I've been told since Daddy was President, Jeb was supposed to be the SMART one!

    So, now, is it Neil?

    Or, did Bush Sr. knock-up Consuela, Barb's maid, or Irina, Barb's other maid?

    We need a "No More Bush's" Constitutional Amendment. At least, not for the next century or two.

  • Rich on March 06, 2013 10:18 PM:

    Poor analogy. On the Nepal side, Everest barely stands out from it's very high neighbors.

  • exlibra on March 07, 2013 12:08 AM:

    [...] the deal is that the fed match goes from 95 back to what it is now, which is about 55 in Florida, Bush said.

    The poor dimwitted slob is wrong at *both ends*. To start with, the fed covers 100%, cuts down to 95% after 3 yrs and keeps scaling down until it reaches (IIRC) 80 (or 85?), after which it stays level (unless everything had gone bust by then)

    "UNATOur successful", says Craptcha. Apparently, unlike the White House, UN did not have to cancel their tours. No sequester cuts for UN, eh?

  • Keith M Ellis on March 07, 2013 12:58 AM:

    "Poor analogy. On the Nepal side, Everest barely stands out from it's very high neighbors."

    Yeah. I sort of think that if one decides to make such an analogy and include details such as "Nepalese mountain-climber" that give the appearance of veracity, one ought to ensure that it's valid.

    Everest's history as "the tallest mountain in the world" is both recent and interesting. As I recall, until the advent of satellite-facilitated surveying, that it was actually the highest peak was in question. One of its neighbors (K2?) was possibly higher.

    All in all, it's a poor choice for this analogy. Everest sits along the spine of the highest portion of the Himalayas and is just the tallest among a bunch of nearly-as-tall neighbors. It's not anything like a solitary behemoth that dominates everything around it. And there are quite a few mountains like that, some of them well-known — onw of them would have made a good choice. Just a little googling required.

    But I'm in a persnickety mood tonight. A book I'm reading has had numerous such little errors or questionable decisions that have bugged me. In one sentence the author compared puberty to something rapidly coming up from behind, viewable in one's rear-view mirror, and overtaking one; and then in the next sentence referred to it as a "milestone" — amazingly managing to somehow both mix a metaphor and contradict itself on its own terms simultaneously. Then she off-hand referred to dotcom workers in the "early nineties". And then said that something "obligingly failed" to do something — which forced me to consider if that choice could ever truly make sense. Perhaps if there was an obligation to attempt something but fail at it? Maybe so; but I don't think he was being that subtle.

    Anyway, as a writer myself, and I make no claims of any great talent or discipline, I am sympathetic to the necessity to ensure that one's writing is colorful by including metaphor and analogy and such. No one expects everything to make perfect sense when carefully considered. But I do sort of think that if one wants to use Mt. Everest as an example of something that it really is such an example.