Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is attempting to reboot his campaign after a rough debate and a slide in the polls. Among the initiatives Bush is pushing in order to get a second look from Republican voters — a commission on religious liberty:
The committee was highlighted as a key voter engagement effort in a campaign strategy presentation given over the weekend attempting to quell a potential stampede of campaign money to Marco Rubio, who is rapidly gaining steam as the consensus electable GOP candidate. According to the campaign, the commission “will help Jeb identify threats to the First Amendment and assist in crafting strategies to protect our first freedom.”
To Bush’s credit, the commission appears to be more than just a headline grabbing gimmick. His campaign is recruiting some real social conservative heavy hitters to aid in the effort, including veterans from his brother’s administration:
Bush’s commission includes a number of prominent conservatives, including Jane Abraham, chair of the board of the Susan B. Anthony List, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Catholic University’s Robert Destro, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and Harvard University professor Mary Ann Glendon, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and former U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Nicholson, Rev. Robert Schenck, a prominent evangelical and president of the National Clergy Council, and Jim Towey, the former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
Many of the most high-profile figures on the commission actually date back to the administration of he-who-shall-not-be named: George W. Bush. Glendon, Nicholson, and Francis Rooney, were all ambassadors to the Holy See during the Bush administration, while Towey was the head of Bush’s faith-based office. Jane Abraham’s husband Spencer Abraham was Bush’s Secretary of Energy. And it was Nicholson who as head of the RNC during the 2000 election cycle spearheaded W’s then-groundbreaking, highly orchestrated outreach to conservative Catholics on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
But one question Bush has yet to answer: would he pass the First Amendment Defense Act?
Nick Arnold is a researcher for the American Principles Project.