It’s reasonably rare for potential Republican presidential candidates to compliment the Obama administration, so any time they do, it ends up being fairly revealing.
For example, when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush—who is currently in the process of “actively exploring” a presidential run—was asked yesterday for his thoughts on “the best part of the Obama administration,” he singled out the president’s continuation and enhancement of the National Security Agency’s bulk phone records surveillance program:
Jeb Bush: I would say the best part of the Obama administration would be his continuance of the protections of the homeland using the big metadata programs, the NSA being enhanced. Advancing this — even though he never defends it, even though he never openly admits it, there has been a continuation of a very important service, which is the first obligation, I think of our national government is to keep us safe. And the technologies that now can be applied to make that so, while protecting civil liberties are there. And he’s not abandoned them, even though there was some indication that he might.
Bush’s aggressive defense of the program, continued from his brother George W. Bush’s administration, stands in marked opposition to the promise made by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) during his presidential campaign announcement speech that he’d put an end to the NSA’s intrusive surveillance program on day one in the White House. Indeed, the strong statements from both Paul and Bush set up a nice contrast for the GOP as it heads into the 2016 primary season, and a kind of a test, an opportunity for the party to openly debate a major issue that divides the base.