TIME 2016 Election

CPAC: 12 Takeaways As The GOP Presidential Race Takes Off

Rand Paul speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME Supporters watch Rand Paul speak at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.

Checking the scoreboard on day three

There’s still a straw poll winner to announce, but the biggest story lines at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference have already unfolded. Here are the 12 big takeaways from the annual gathering:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker kept the momentum alive. Riding a wave of fresh support after his Iowa debut last month, Walker was the talk of the conference and emerged even stronger despite a dust-up over comparing union protesters to ISIS fighters.

The hawkish GOP is back. The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has tempered the dovish streak percolating within the party, as speaker after speaker advocated a more muscular approach to fighting the terrorist group.

That could spell trouble for Rand Paul. The Kentucky Senator is still a CPAC favorite and a force in the party, but one of the pillars of his appeal may be eroding.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush can handle the base. In a lively question-and-answer session, Bush found his footing after an uneven start and managed to escape unscathed. “That was raucous and wild,” he told supporters after, “and I loved it.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did what he had to do: convince donors and voters alike that he’s still alive and kicking in the GOP nominating fight. No one was expecting a barn-burner from the moderate governor at CPAC, but he showed some familiar fight in a tough interview with radio host Laura Ingraham, peppering his answers with shots at the media and his 2016 opponents.

Republicans haven’t figured out how to prosecute former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s economic priorities. Speaker after speaker tied her to Obama’s foreign policy record, but mentions of her domestic agenda—and Obama’s—were rare and disjointed.

Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina had another strong performance, showcasing her willingness to forcefully criticize Clinton. Fiorina has no natural constituency or discernible path to the nomination, but her ability to play Hillary’s foil positions her for success on the debate stage and could lift her to a spot on the veep shortlist or a cabinet position if Republicans win the White House.

Moderators matter. The GOP is determined to mitigate the mainstream media’s impact on the nominating process, but CPAC showed that tapping ideologues to quiz the candidates carries its own problems. Fox News personality Sean Hannity served up softballs and cracked wise about former President Bill Clinton’s womanizing, while radio host Laura Ingraham laid bare her own biases by lambasting Bush and pushing Christie to do the same.

Sarah Palin can use her for talents for good. The former Alaska governor has long drawn eye-rolls and sighs from Republicans for her fake flirtations with the presidency and outlandish or sometimes incoherent statements. But at CPAC, Palin delivered a substantive, impassioned speech on veterans issues that called on both parties to address the needs of those returning from war.

The First Amendment only goes so far. Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson received a First Amendment Award for speaking about his faith. But the bearded reality TV personality blew through his allotted time limit, uncorking such a long, rambling speech that the CPAC organizers had to cue up music to drive him offstage.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz will run a populist, anti-Washington campaign that juxtaposes his principled stands in the Senate with the waffling of his rivals. That should make him a force in Iowa, but he still hasn’t shown how a zealous base will give him the math needed to win the nomination in this field.

Rick Santorum is the Republican Rodney Dangerfield. The former Pennsylvania senator carried 11 states in the 2012 nominating contest, finishing second to Mitt Romney. It was an impressive feat—yet he still gets no respect from the base, who filed out of the CPAC ballroom en masse during Santorum’s speech on Friday.

TIME

CPAC: Republicans Rediscover Their Old Hawkish Message On Foreign Policy

Rand Paul speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME Rand Paul speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.

The threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria looms large

Rand Paul took the stage like a conquering hero Friday, his shirtsleeves rolled, his regular laconic manner turned fiery. The audience stacked with young libertarians gave him a standing ovation. But Paul, who became the reigning prince of the Conservative Political Action Conference partly by preaching his signature brand of non-interventionist foreign policy, had a new twist in his stump speech.

Paul tamped down his famous skepticism of military adventures, and replaced it with the more conventionally muscular rhetoric of Cold War conservatism. “Without question, we must now defend ourselves and American interests,” he said, in comments about the fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). When it came to the question of federal spending, he added, “for me, the priority is always national defense.”

Paul was hardly the only presumptive presidential candidate to focus on the perils brewing abroad. The annual confab of conservative activists, held this week outside Washington, has showcased the Republican Party’s new embrace of its old hawkish foreign policy. It’s a dramatic shift from recent years, when CPAC has been a forum for the party to air its grievances about the sprawling U.S. surveillance state. But for the past two days, speaker after speaker has sought to demonstrate their steeliness, earning reliable cheers by taunting ISIS and slamming President Obama for seeking a deal with Iran while snubbing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Likely 2016 candidates, from Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to Scott Walker and Carly Fiorina, all roused the crowd by promising a tougher brand of foreign policy than the one practiced by Obama and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Former Senator Rick Santorum, the runner-up for the Republican nomination in 2012, called for 10,000 U.S. ground troops in the middle to battle ISIS and urged “bombing them back to the seventh century.”

This view is increasingly popular within the party. A mid-February poll conducted by CBS News found that 72% of Republicans favor sending U.S. ground troops into Iraq or Syria to fight ISIS militants, an increase of seven percentage points since only October. That leap comes as the issue replaces the brightening economy at the top of newscasts.

According to aides to several candidates, the increased focus on foreign policy in stump speeches reflects increasing public concern as well as the belief among several campaigns that Republicans will have an edge with voters on security issues in a race against Clinton.

“Folks are getting beheaded over there,” says an adviser to one likely candidate. “People are seeing the failure of this president’s foreign policy on TV every day.”

The shifting political winds have heartened the hawkish groups who watched the GOP’s isolationist turn—and Paul’s rise—with alarm. “Rand and his acolytes hoped that if we left the world alone, the world would leave us alone. But experience is a cruel teacher, and beheadings and Iranian nukes focus the mind,” says Noah Pollak, the executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel. “To their credit, many of the conservatives who flirted with the Rand and Obama foreign policy are changing their minds after seeing what happens when America withdraws from the world.”

The view was a popular one at an event that is a revealing—if imperfect—glimpse of the GOP’s current zeitgeist. “National security issues must be at the center of the 2016 presidential debate,” former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton declared onstage, and it seemed few of his potential rivals for the nomination disagreed.

Fiorina blistered Obama and Clinton for dithering: “While you seek moral equivalence,” she said, “the world waits for moral clarity and American leadership.” Walker, who has risen in the early primary polls by positioning himself as a conservative fighter, suggested he would take an aggressive stance on foreign policy. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” Walker said. (A spokeswoman for Walker’s political-action committee later clarified that the governor was “in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS.”)

But it was Paul, who was most notable for having freshened his message. Back in 2011, he came to CPAC to call for cuts in military spending. “If you refuse to acknowledge that there’s any waste can be culled from the military budget, you are a big-government conservative and can you not lay claim to balancing the budget,” he said. This year he claimed “a foreign policy that encourages stability, not chaos.” His many fans here say they still believe his more restrained approach will bear political fruit. Daniel Jenkins, a 28-year old Iraq veteran and Paul supporter at Charlotte School of Law, says the senator’s foreign policy will have broad appeal in the general election. “It may not be the strongest point here among these conservatives,” Jenkins says, “but I think with Independents and in the big picture, it’ll catch on.”

CPAC is still Paul’s crowd, rippling with the young libertarians who form a cornerstone of his base. And the two-time defending champ of CPAC’s symbolic straw poll is likely to make it a three-peat when the event wraps up Saturday evening. But the annual confab has also signaled the challenges that lie ahead for the Kentucky Republican.

With reporting by Sam Frizell

Read next: Jeb Bush Pitches Skeptical Conservatives at CPAC

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TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush Pitches Skeptical Conservatives at CPAC

Jeb Bush speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME Jeb Bush speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.

In the first pitch of his unofficial campaign to the GOP grassroots activists, Jeb Bush cast himself as a full-spectrum conservative who was in sync with the party’s base on economic, social and foreign-policy issues.

Describing himself as a “practicing, reform-minded conservative,” Bush made a game effort to ingratiate himself with Republicans who are leery of a third Bush presidency. Still, he encountered a raw dose of the disappointment that still lingers around the Bush brand.

Speaking on a low stage in a jam-packed ballroom split between hostile opponents and backers bused in from D.C., Bush drew a raucous mix of cheers, boos and intermittent heckling. “I’m marking them down as neutral,” Bush joked of the booers, “and I want to be your second choice.” A small number of opponents staged a walkout during the speech. Outside, costumed activists started a chant of “No More Bushes!”

The reception appeared to rattle Bush during the first minutes of his question-and-answer session with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, but the former Florida governor recovered quickly to enumerate the merits of his record.

Bush defended his support of Common Core education standards. “The federal government has no role in the creation of the standards,” Bush said. He noted that as governor, he championed school vouchers and ended affirmative action in the Sunshine State’s public universities.

Tackling the other main policy obstacles looming in the GOP primary contest, Bush blistered President Obama’s executive orders on immigration as an overreach that he would reverse as president. “The courts are going to overrule that,” he said. Asked how he would’ve handled the tide of unaccompanied minors who arrived at the southern border last summer, Bush said they should have been sent home. Defending his call for comprehensive immigration reform, he said there should be a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “The simple fact,” he said, “is there is no plan to deport 11 million people.”

Citing his record amassed as the former two-term governor of Florida, Bush sought to rebut the “moderate” tag that critics have applied. “It’s a record that may be hard for people to imagine,” he said, “because it’s a record of getting things done.”

Bush painted himself as a fiscal conservative who slashed taxes, grew the economy at a faster rate than the rest of the U.S., left his successor with a $9.5 billion rainy day fund and issued so many line-item vetoes that his opponents dubbed him “Veto Corleone.”

Like other potential presidential candidates at CPAC, Bush laid out a muscular foreign policy position that reasserted America’s place in the world. “This total misunderstanding of what this Islamic threat is is very dangerous,” he said, adding that “the American people are going to reject what President Obama is trying to do with Iran.”

Bush suggested he was in step with movement conservatives on social issues as well. Responding to a Hannity question, Bush said he had no regrets about his reaction to the Terri Schiavo controversy, and noted he was a pro-life governor who believes in “traditional marriage.”

Democrats hammered Bush for the remarks, noting he has cast himself as a rare Republican candidate capable of bridging the party’s deficit with Latino voters. “Jeb Bush isn’t a new type of Republican, and he certainly isn’t looking out for everyday people in America,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Ian Sams. “Instead, he’s the same Jeb Bush who, as governor, supported slashing funding for urban schools and higher education, while giving massive tax cuts to the wealthy and big corporations. Bush may say he can bring Latino voters into the GOP fold, but with priorities like these, that’s really hard to imagine.”

After Bush’s remarks, hundreds of supporters waited in line for a closed-press reception with the former governor. Aides handed out red “Jeb ’16” T-shirts and baseball caps. To enter the event, supporters were required to register their contact info with Bush’s Right to Rise political-action committee.

Bush took the microphone at the event to the theme song from “Rocky.” Of the question-and-answer session, he said “that was raucous and wild and I loved it.” He then argued for expanding the Republican tent: “There are a lot of conservatives out there in America who just don’t know it yet.”

TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush Reaches Out to Conservatives at CPAC

Jeb Bush will make his first overtures Friday to conservative activists, a segment of the Republican Party that remains skeptical of the presumptive presidential candidate.

The former Florida governor’s appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington marks an early test of whether he can assuage a grassroots base that rejects his support for immigration reform and Common Core education standards and is leery of his political lineage.

Given the choice by conference organizers, Bush has opted for a question-and-answer session instead of a traditional speech. Bush’s advisers believe the format plays to the strengths of the former Florida governor, who has been been deft in extemporaneous exchanges with audiences during early appearances this year but whose delivery during speeches—with and without teleprompters—has been rushed and uneven. Bush is scheduled to take questions for 20 minutes Friday afternoon from Fox commentator Sean Hannity.

Bush is hoping to use Friday’s Q&A to highlight his conservative record as governor of Florida, but that isn’t entirely up to him. If there was a lesson on Thursday, it was that the moderators matters.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also opted for the Q&A format, fended off a series of fastballs fired by radio host Laura Ingraham, who grilled him on his temperament and slide in early primary polls. Hannity, meanwhile, lobbed a series of underhand softballs to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. But there is no guarantee that Bush will receive the same friendly treatment.

To offset any simmering hostility in the room, Bush’s political-action committee is coordinating transport for supporters to the event—a tactic that Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are also using to ensure friendly crowds. His assigned slot on the conference speaking schedule—following firebreathing NRA executive Wayne LaPierre on the day when Paul supporters are expected to pack the audience—makes the alternate speaking format all the more preferable.

The Q&A format is also symbolic of the type of campaign Bush hopes to run. Earlier this month in a meeting with donors to his super PAC, Bush promised to set up a “digital media platform” to engage in a conversation with voters should he formally launch a presidential campaign.

“You can’t ignore the political process at all, but there is a better way I think of having a two-way communication with people, and to share some powerful ideas that will lift people’s spirits and make their lives better,” Bush said.

Friday’s appearance is an early test of whether Bush, who has been busy vacuuming up the support of the party’s elite financiers and operatives, can have the same success performing for an audience with a much different makeup.

The last time Bush came to CPAC, the reception was tepid. Both the substance and style of his speech were a strange fit for the young, rowdy crowd whom Bush gently admonished to stop chattering while he spoke.

“Way too many people believe Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker,” he told the audience. “We must move beyond the divisive and extraneous issues that currently define the public debate. Never again can the Republican Party simply write off entire segments of our society because we assume our principles have limited appeal.” Some conservatives felt the critical notes of Bush’s speech to the confab were off key at a conference that celebrates the party’s doctrinaire impulses.

Bush spent Thursday attending the winter meeting of the conservative Club for Growth, the latest stop on his effort to demonstrate his conservative bona fides.

Despite the grilling, Thursday’s interview was a relative victory for Christie, who could never deliver the same degree of red meat as Ted Cruz. He used the format to beat up on the press and his leading opponent: Jeb Bush.

TIME Marijuana

D.C.’s Weird New Free Weed Economy

Can a marijuana market that prohibits the sale of the drug work?

Stoners, rejoice: at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, stodgy Washington, D.C., became the latest and strangest frontier in the marijuana legalization movement. It’s now okay for adult residents of the District to possess two ounces of pot, grow up to six plants in their homes and share their bounty with others.

Here’s the wrinkle: there’s still no way to legally buy the drug.

Welcome to Washington’s weird new weed economy. A clash between the capital’s citizens and Congress has left the District without a system dictating how weed can be bought and sold, unlike the first four states that have legalized the drug. Washington has set up a marijuana marketplace without ironing out how the money part will work.

“What we have here is legalization without commercialization,” says Adam Eidinger, who ran the campaign to legalize weed in the nation’s capital. “We have more work to do.”

The missing link in the cannabis supply chain means the capital’s budding ganjapreneurs are about to get creative. Sure, smokers can take advantage of free seed giveaways and start growing at home. But in the meantime, unless you’re among the .003% of DC residents with a license to patronize one of the capital’s three medical dispensaries, there’s still no way to stroll into a shop and buy pot products. In the absence of traditional commerce, a social marijuana economy is apt to flower.

According to interviews with industry observers and participants, that may mean the formation of cannabis social clubs, where organizers charge admission to private event spaces where growers freely exchange their greenery. Corporations are discussing the viability of organizing sponsored weed swaps. Weed co-ops and farmer’s markets may sprout, just the ones where you get your monthly supply of organic kale or collards.

Entrepreneurs might skirt the sales prohibition by offering health seminars, massages or other services for a fee—and then hand out “free” greenery as a perk. If you’re a black-market pot dealer trawling for new clients, there’s nothing that prevents you from posting up at a bar or a concert and giving away gratis grams with a phone number on the back of the bag. All an enterprising businessman has to do is plausibly skirt the restriction against directly exchanging pot for money, goods or services.

“People are going to rush into the breach here and try to take advantage,” says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “And some will not do it right.”

All this haziness is partly the product of a clash between D.C. residents and their killjoy overlords. Last November, voters in the District overwhelmingly approved Initiative 71, a ballot measure that legalized pot use. But because of a rule that bars the city from spending money to implement ballot measures, it couldn’t set up a regulatory system. That was supposed to come later, and the city council was ready to proceed, says Eidinger. During the lame-duck session, however, a small cadre of Congressmen intervened, preventing the capital from establishing rules to govern the sale and taxation of the drug.

As legalization loomed this week, members of Congress appeared to dangle the threat of jail time over Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser. Republicans Jason Chaffetz and Mark Meadows of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform fired off a letter to Bowser calling D.C.’s decision to proceed with legalization in defiance of Congress a “knowing and willful violation of the law.”

Bowser dug in, announcing at a Wednesday afternoon press conference that the city would move ahead on schedule. The legislative branch’s attempt to overrule the will of the city is “offensive to the American value of self-governance and … disrespectful to the 650,000 taxpaying Americans living in the District,” says D.C. council member Brianne Nadeau. “If they lock up the mayor, they better take me too.”

Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican who helped lead the fight against the initiative, says Congress doesn’t “take lightly interfering in D.C. home rule” and did so only because the District is “making a clearly bad decision.”

Harris urged the Department of Justice to intervene to stop the law from taking effect. But he notes lawmakers have little recourse in the matter if that doesn’t happen. “I don’t know,” Harris says. “We’re unclear what the next step could be.”

Meanwhile, the green rush is on. Over the weekend, more than 1,000 people are expected to descend on a Holiday Inn near the U.S. Capitol for a cannabis convention that includes a trade show, job fair, growing seminar and marketing instruction. The event, which costs up to $149 for attendees who want to learn to grow their own bud, is being put on by ComfyTree, a business based in Benton Harbor, Mich.

“This is something that will have a dramatic impact on D.C.,” predicts Tiffany Bowden, the co-founder and chief happiness officer of ComfyTree. “It’s going to be a significant amount of money—not just in terms of your direct transfer of goods, because you’re not technically allowed to sell cannabis, but there’s also going to be a boom in the hydroponics sector because of the new inspiration for home growing. There’s going to be a boom for head shops…There’s going to be a boom in peripheral areas—bakeries, edibles, cooking classes.”

All that’s missing in the Washington pot economy are traditional stores and sellers.

With reporting by Alex Rogers

TIME 2016 Election

Four Things to Watch for at CPAC This Year

CPAC Mark Peterson Candidates
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME A reporters asks CPAC attendees to pick their favorite candidate, in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 26, 2015.

The annual confab offers a good look at the grassroots zeitgeist

The conservative grassroots will gather by the thousands just outside of Washington, D.C., on Thursday for the annual ritual known as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Part political rally, part marketing bonanza and part youth bacchanal, the event is one of the few in which the far-flung factions of the party come together for a three-day blitz of speeches, panels and policy sessions.

For movement outsiders and American voters, the conference offers a compressed glimpse of the conservative zeitgeist, and a platform for the party’s presidential candidates to rouse the faithful in the coming campaign. Here are four story lines to watch as the event kicks off:

How will Chris Christie and Jeb Bush be received?
The party’s two establishment-backed candidates have been warmly received at CPAC before, but the knives may come out now that their all-but-certain presidential campaigns have attracted the money and muscle of the Acela corridor elites that the grassroots distrusts.

Both candidates will be interviewed by conservative broadcast personalities — Bush by Fox News’ Sean Hannity, and Christie by radio host Laura Ingraham. Bush is out to show that the “moderate” moniker he’s been tagged with by opponents is inaccurate, and will try to steer the conversation to the conservative record he compiled as the two-term governor of Florida. Christie, meanwhile, will have to defuse questions over his temperament while addressing his complicated fiscal record in his state.

How has the media onslaught affected Scott Walker?
In recent weeks, the Wisconsin governor has been embroiled in a controversy over President Obama’s patriotism and faith, but the media-driven debate may only have bolstered his standing with the conservative grassroots. Walker’s well-received speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit in January propelled him to the top of the (largely meaningless) early primary polls. Can he summon the same magic far from the heartland? Another strong showing would help shore up Walker’s support as he battles establishment competitors in the race to vacuum up the party’s top bundlers and operatives. A weak showing would reinforce the emerging narrative that the Wisconsinite may not be ready for gauntlet of a national campaign.

Where is the party on foreign policy?
The GOP’s isolationist and neocon wings will share the same stage this weekend, as Congress debates a war resolution against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) as well as President Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba. A public spat between the White House and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before his visit to Capitol Hill next week is likely to be a topic that plenty of speakers touch upon.

Who will win the straw poll?
The conference is capped by a candidate straw poll, which for two years running has been captured by Kentucky Senator and presumptive presidential candidate Rand Paul, who tends to play well among younger activists. The results have never augured much, given that candidates can stack the halls with their supporters by hawking discount tickets (which are required to vote) and swag giveaways. But even if imperfect, it’s still a measure for gauging who’s rallying the right.

TIME 2016 Election

Here’s the Only Photo From Jeb Bush’s Wedding

Blame Marvin Bush

Jeb Bush and his wife Columba are celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary Monday, but they’ll have more memories than photos.

The former Florida governor and presumptive GOP presidential candidate marked the occasion on social media by posting the lone photo that survived an amateur photography error committed by the groom’s brother.

“This is the only picture from our wedding,” Bush wrote on Facebook. “The photographer, my brother Marvin, accidentally rerolled from a Frank Zappa concert. Thankfully, my mom took one photo with a Kodak.”

In a letter to his sister, Doro, published in her book My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H. W. Bush, Marvin Bush, who was in high school at the time, explained the mishap:

As the paper settled into the chemicals in the tray, I began to see the image of a guitar over a picture of my grandmother and my parents. Uh-oh! lt hit me like a ton of bricks. I had rerolled previously used film that had been taken at a Frank Zappa concert at the Mosque in Richmond. Virginia. Every single photo of the Bush and Gamica families had either a photo of Frank Zappa and/or members of his band, The Mothers of Invention, superimposed onto their own images. I remember thinking to myself that a Frank Sinatra photo may have been acceptable-not Frank Zappa!

Family matriarch Barbara Bush had the good sense to take one photo on her Kodak pocket lnstamatic, Marvin writes, and that is the only photo of the day that remains.

The epilogue to the story, never previously revealed to any family members, is that I submitted a picture of the bride and groom (yes, with Zappa) in an art show at school. I called the picture something clever like “Zappas Brideand won third prize in the photography category.

TIME justice

Criminal Justice Reform is Becoming Washington’s Bipartisan Cause

But consensus may not beget success in Congress.

The need to reform the broken U.S. criminal-justice system is fast becoming the rare cause for which Washington’s warring factions will lay down their weapons and work together.

Normally fierce adversaries, a wide-ranging coalition of advocacy groups on both sides of the political spectrum announced Thursday that they are joining forces in a bid to fix the flaws of the U.S. justice system. The new group, dubbed the Coalition for Public Safety, bills itself as the nation’s largest partnership dedicated to reducing the prison population and reforming its iniquities.

The group includes some of the powerhouses in the conservative world, including Koch Industries and Americans for Tax Reform, as well as major advocacy groups on the left like the Center for American Progress and the American Civil Liberties Union. Among the groups underwriting the roughly $5 million effort are nonpartisan think tanks like the Ford Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Christine Leonard, a former associate director of legislative affairs in the Obama administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, will serve as the coalition’s executive director.

“There is a political sweet spot on criminal justice reform,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference Education Fund, one of the coalition’s members.

The seed of the idea was planted last October, when an array of think tanks and advocacy groups from all points on the political spectrum assembled in Washington for a spirited meeting. Finding broad agreement, they agreed to team up despite longstanding acrimony on a host of other policy issues. “Did anyone on any planet imagine these Republicans and Democrats would come together for a common cause?” asked Matt Kibbe, president of the Tea Party group FreedomWorks and another participant in the coalition.

The group’s formation is just the latest sign of the emerging bipartisan agreement about the flaws riddling the justice system. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any developed nation, with about 2.2 million people behind bars, a figure that has leaped 500% over the past three decades. It jails 25% of the world’s prisoners, 60% of whom are racial and ethnic minorities. The one-in-three Americans with a criminal record struggle to reintegrate into society because of employment, housing and voting restrictions that boost recidivism rates.

But consensus does not always mean progress. Members of the coalition cautioned that coalescing around principles is merely a first step. Several pieces of justice-reform legislation have thus far languished in Congress despite bipartisan backing. While the coalition on Thursday lauded federal efforts to reform the civil-asset forfeiture process and adjust mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, it declined to delve into much detail nor to sketch out a strategy for threading complex legislation through a divided Congress. “This is not all going to get done quickly,” Leonard acknowledged. “It’s a challenging environment up there.”

Indeed, it wasn’t long ago that immigration reform was Capitol’s bipartisan cause, backed by powerful lawmakers and advocacy groups on both sides of the aisle. Yet comprehensive reform remains elusive, and a dispute over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration has led to the prospect of a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security later this month.

The coalition’s members were realistic about the long road ahead. The damage wrought by decades of bad policy will take “years to undo,” said ACLU executive director Anthony Romero, who cited a “unique window” to address the issue. “We finally have the wind at our backs.”

TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush Steps Away From His Brother’s Shadow

Former Gov. Jeb Bush provided an early preview Wednesday of how he will address the central challenge of his all-but-certain presidential campaign: defining himself outside the shadow of his family.

“I love my brother. I love my dad,” Bush told an audience of business leaders and politicos during a foreign-policy speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “But I am my own man—and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.”

It was no coincidence that Bush picked a foreign-policy address to start the process of sketching the differences between his approach and those of the two Bush presidencies past. If he chooses to run, the former Florida governor will be saddled with the legacy of his brother, whose presidency was marred by two unpopular wars that sullied the family name.

Bush took tentative steps toward distinguishing his own views. “There were mistakes made in Iraq,” Bush acknowledged during a question-and-answer session, saying George W. Bush’s administration should have focused on ensuring security after the fall of Saddam Hussein. But he credited his brother’s decision to launch the 2007 troop surge that stabilized the war-torn nation, and said it had descended back into chaos because of President Obama’s decision to withdraw forces after his brother left office.

Ranging onto Obama’s home turf, Bush denounced the President for diminishing the nation’s stature on the world stage. Calling for a more assertive foreign policy that he dubbed “liberty democracy,” Bush skewered Obama’s approach as too passive toward America’s enemies and too murky for U.S. allies to rely upon. “The great irony of the Obama Presidency is this: Someone who came to office promising greater engagement with the world has left America less influential in the world,” Bush said.

“America does not have the luxury of withdrawing from the world,” Bush said. “Our security, our prosperity and our values demand that we remain engaged and involved in often distant places. We have no reason to apologize for our leadership and our interest in serving the cause of global security, global peace and human freedom.”

Bush criticized Obama for his handling of his “red line” with regards to Syria’s use of chemical weapons and his early dismissal of the Islamic State. He also whacked the President for failing to combat the threats posed by Russia’s escalations in eastern Ukraine, Boko Haram’s insurgency in Nigeria, and the personal distrust between the President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This administration talks, but the words fade. They draw red lines, then erase them,” Bush said. “With grandiosity, they announce resets and disengage. Hashtag campaigns replace actual diplomacy and engagement. Personal diplomacy and maturity is replaced by leaks and personal disparagement. The examples keep piling up. ”

But blistering Obama was the easy part of the speech. For Bush, the hard part will be drawing distinctions between his approach and that of his brother—particularly in light of the fulsome praise he has heaped on George W. Bush’s foreign policy in the past. “I’m the only Republican that was in office when he was in office as President that never disagreed with him and I’m not going to start now,” Jeb told CNN in a rare 2010 joint interview with his brother, who is seven years his senior. “I’m not going to start now. It’s just till death do us part.”

As he moves toward a presidential campaign, Bush is soliciting foreign-policy advice from a broad range of conservative thinkers, including many who advised the 43rd or 41st presidents and some who helped orchestrate his brother’s ill-fated endeavors in the war on terrorism. They include former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, former Secretary of State George Schultz, and former Deputy National Security Advisor Meghan O’Sullivan.

In a rare venture into policy specifics, Bush explicitly defended the National Security Agency’s telephone metadata program, which was exposed by leaks from Edward Snowden. “For the life of me I don’t understand the debate,” he said, calling the controversial program “hugely important.” The position pits himself against likely 2016 GOP primary opponent Rand Paul, a Kentucky Senator who has made the purported excesses of the U.S. surveillance state a cornerstone of his campaign and a rallying cry designed to attract independents and young voters.

In a question-and-answer session that followed his speech, Bush called for Obama to confront Russian leader Vladimir Putin—whom he described as a “ruthless pragmatist—and criticized Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba. “I think it was the wrong thing to do,” he said. Bush indicated that Obama should have allowed Cuba to feel the economic squeeze from falling oil prices, adding that he does not believe that Cuba’s dictatorship will make a transition to democratic government. “I don’t think it happens,” he added, “unless you negotiate the conditions for it to happen.”

As a governor, Bush lacks the day-to-day familiarity with foreign policy issues that some potential Senate rivals boast. But he sought to highlight his foreign policy bona fides by reciting his experience abroad, including trade missions conducted while he was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007 and four annual trips to Asia in recent years.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found that Bush’s name could be a drag among some Independent voters in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia, but most say it will not alter their decisionmaking should he face former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A CNN survey found that 64% of Americans associate Bush with the past, compared to 33% who say he represents the future. For Clinton, 50% associated her with the future, compared to 48% with the past.

Before Bush spoke, Democrats launched a preemptive attack that derided the former Florida governor for blaming the current Oval Office occupant for problems created by his predecessor. “The Jeb Doctrine seems to be to point fingers at the wrong Administration, cheerlead go-it-alone diplomacy, and put on blinders to the failures of the past,” said Mo Elleithee, communications director for the Democratic National Committee.

TIME 2016 Election

Why Democrats Chose Philadelphia as Site of 2016 Convention

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Democrat
Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, speaks at the DNC's Leadership Forum Issues Conference in Washington on Sept. 19, 2014.

The City of Brotherly Love beats out Columbus and Brooklyn

In a pick that melds political calculations and historical resonance, the Democratic Party on Thursday announced that it had selected Philadelphia as the site of its 2016 national convention.

One of three finalists to host the convention, Philadelphia edged Brooklyn and Columbus, Ohio, for the honor. In a statement, party officials pointed to the city’s status as a cradle of American democracy as well as the logistical infrastructure to pull off a massive event in which thousands converge to celebrate the official nomination of the party’s presidential candidate.

“In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep-rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chair of the Democratic National Committee. A contract with the city to host the event was signed Thursday morning.

Party officials calculated that staging the event in Philadelphia could give Democrats a boost in a vital state that Republicans are hoping to contest in 2016. Pennsylvania is more blue than purple: Barack Obama won it twice, as did defeated nominees John Kerry and Al Gore. But with 20 electoral votes, the Keystone State is a battleground the party cannot afford to lose. And it is filled with the white middle-class voters that form a cornerstone of Democratic nomination front runner Hillary Clinton’s coalition. Democrats believe that hosting the convention in the Philadelphia media market will help showcase their message to such voters.

A walkable city with mass transit and a plethora of hotel rooms, the City of Brotherly Love boasts the amenities needed to absorb the influx of visitors. “The only three factors that we considered when deciding which was the strongest city to host our convention were logistics, security and resources,” Wasserman Schultz said on a conference call Thursday afternoon. “Extraneous issues were not a factor, whatsoever.” Yet Philadelphia lacked the potential drawbacks of its competitors.

As the capital of the vital swing state of Ohio, Columbus was an appealing option to party officials. But as the smallest city among the finalists, there were concerns about whether it had the hotels to host the event, as well as whether the Republicans’ decision to hold their 2016 convention in Cleveland would sap the state’s finite supply of cash.

A lack of accommodations in the immediate vicinity was also a concern about Brooklyn. One plan relied on transporting guests from their hotel rooms in Manhattan to the convention at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center via ferry, which seemed a sure logistical nightmare. And in recent months, says a Democrat familiar with the process, the party’s selection committee grew increasingly concerned about the tension between New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s police force. Selecting New York as the site of the convention would have trained a spotlight on de Blasio, a controversial liberal, during a week when the party’s prime mission is to reach the swing voters who can shape the fate of elections.

The convention will take place the week of July 25, about a month earlier than four years ago. As in 2012, it will immediately follow the Republican convention in Cleveland. The back-to-back scheduling is designed to counter the bump in the polls that parties traditionally accrue from the nationally televised spectacle.

— With reporting by Zeke J. Miller

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