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Opinion: Columnists

Common Core is the dynamite that could blow up Jeb Bush's presidential ambitions

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Opinion,Education,Hugh Hewitt,Columnists,2016 Elections,Rand Paul,Ted Cruz,Jeb Bush,Common Core,Magazine

The Conservative Political Action Conference has come and gone for 2014, and Sen. Rand Paul won the straw ballot which is held every time the party gets started.

Paul, R-Ky., racked up 31 percent support among the partiers, and the CPAC gang is indeed prone to party.

Sen. Ted Cruz , R-Texas, came in second with 11 percent of the CPAC thumbs-ups, and he will now head west to woo the very serious folks of the Claremont Institute's Churchill Dinner on Saturday night in Beverly Hills.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is headed to Cedar Rapids on April 11 for Iowa's annual Lincoln Dinner, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is fresh from a star turn on the realities of life in Cuba -- a tutorial for tottering Tom Harkin, Iowa's ancient senator who still nurses a flame for Castro's remade society -- and Ukraine-congress-action/">an op-ed co-authored with Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., on Ukraine, which paired two of the GOP's most serious voices.

Everyone is busy, busy, busy, laying groundwork. Except Jeb Bush, Florida's former governor and first brother.

Where in the world is Jeb? Figuring out, I think, what to do about Common Core.

Last week I interviewed George Will about many things, but specifically about Jeb and Common Core. It is worth reproducing the entire exchange with one of the country's most respected commentators:

HH: Do you look at Jeb Bush and see someone who can carry that banner, or someone who’s crippled by the name?

GW: Both. I think he has admitted that the name is a handicap because the Bush brand has been damaged. On the other hand, he's a terrifically talented man who was a governor of a very complicated state, and who as governor devoted a disproportionate share of his time to an extremely important matter, and that is education, grades K-12, which if it fails, everything fails in this country. So he certainly ought to be in the mix.

HH: Have you paid much attention to the Common Core controversy which has got him by the ankles?

GW: I have paid attention to it. I think he’s mistaken. I understand the Common Core people. I know it’s worrying them. They’re right to be worried about the mediocrity of our education. I happen to think, however, that it’s just the thin end of an enormous federal wedge and a terrible mistake.

HH: So what’s your advice to Jeb about that?

GW: Tiptoe away from it. Scott Walker improvidently and early sort-of embraced it, and I think he's tiptoeing at the moment. You know, when Ronald Reagan convened in 1983 the famous study [A] Nation At Risk

HH: Yes.

GW: ... it contained a wonderful sentence that’s worth recalling. He said if any foreign power imposed upon us the educational mediocrity we have imposed on ourselves, we would consider it an act of war. So the advocates of the Common Core and we who oppose it are united in understanding we’ve got a problem.

HH: If it is understood as a floor and not a ceiling, and power over it is genuinely local as opposed to federalized, does it then, can it be rebranded and retooled?

GW: I’m skeptical, because I don’t think it can be kept local. And I don’t think it can be kept minimal for two reasons. They say it’s not a curriculum. Well, standards breed the alignment of tests with it, and the alignment of the SAT and the ACT tests. And that in turn requires curricula to be aligned. So you add that to the simple metabolic urge of the Washington bureaucracy to extend its control, and you have dynamite.

The dynamite that is under the presidential ambitions of Jeb Bush. He needs to defuse it, or declare he won't be running. And soon.

Hugh Hewitt is a nationally syndicated talk radio host, law professor at Chapman University's Fowler School of Law, and author, most recently of The Happiest Life. He posts daily at HughHewitt.com and is on Twitter @hughhewitt.
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