Potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is reflected in a mirror as he departs after speaking to the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce in Salem, N.H. May 21, 2015. 
Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

Why Jeb Bush’s line on Alzheimer’s matters

Like most Republican presidential candidates, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) tends to emphasize his support for cutting spending on most domestic priorities. But as NBC News reported yesterday, there are apparently exceptions to Bush’s preferred approach.
Presidential candidate Jeb Bush says that the nation should increase funding to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and should speed up the approval process for medications to treat it.
The GOP presidential hopeful, who spoke last week about his mother-in-law’s struggle with the disease, proposed the ideas to NBC News Special Anchor Maria Shriver during an email exchange.
Bush specifically said, “We need to increase funding to find a cure. We need to reform FDA [regulations] to accelerate the approval process for drug and device approval at a much lower cost. We need to find more community based solutions for care.”
The former governor also tied his policy position to his own personal, family experiences. “My sister-in-law and husband are the caregivers for my now 95-year old mother-in-law,” Bush added. “Columba helps all the time. She is a blessing from God.”
To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with this. Endorsing increased funding and related steps in the campaign against Alzheimer’s is a perfectly reasonable position to take.
But in Bush’s case, there are some notable angles to keep in mind. The Tampa Bay Times’ Adam C. Smith, for example, noted that the Florida Republican’s current position is likely to annoy the state lawmakers in both parties who “recall Bush vetoing their budget items targeting Alzheimer’s research and care while at the same time approving tax cuts often mainly for the benefit of specific businesses or wealthier Floridians.”
Smith noted several key measures, including Bush vetoing funding in 2003 for daycare centers in Boynton Beach serving 100 adults with Alzheimer’s Disease, and then in 2004 also vetoing funding for construction of outpatient treatment centers connected with the University of South Florida’s Alzheimer’s Research Institute.
At the time, the Republican governor called it a “want,” not a “need.”
But this also reminded me of something we talked about a couple of years ago, when then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) endorsed increased funding on medical research, in part because of his father’s struggle with a neurological disorder. Jeb Bush’s line – he wants spending cuts, except on Alzheimer’s research, in part because of his mother-in-law’s ailment – is quite similar.
I feel like this comes up quite a bit. Republicans oppose gay rights, until they learn someone close to them is gay, at which point they change their minds. Plenty of GOP policymakers balk at federal disaster relief, until it’s their constituents who are hit with a brutal storm, at which point their perspective suddenly becomes more progressive.
As we’ve discussed before, perhaps the key to social progress in the 21st century is more conservatives having more life experiences?