The Exception Swallows the Rule

Jeb Bush should step aside. After watching the third Republican Presidential Debate on CNBC last night, this has become clear to me.

Jeb Bush pauses at his podium during a commercial break at the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate held by CNBC in Boulder, Colo. on Wednesday. (c) RICK WILKING / Reuters

There was a time when our politicians recognized that the Constitution was a document providing only “limited powers” to the federal government, reserving everything else to the states and to the people (hence the name of our site). In other words, federal laws and regulations were the exception. In order to regulate anything, the government had to demonstrate its authority to do so, and to show that its proposed regulations were directed specifically at the activity needing regulation.

The EXCEPTION was regulation. The RULE was freedom. This was how the Constitution was designed. But in the last few decades, our federal government has turned that on its head. Now, regulation is the rule and freedom is the extremely rare exception.

If you followed the debate at all, you know that the major news coming out of last night’s debacle was the ridiculous questioning put forth by the CNBC moderators. They were “rude” (Chris Christie’s words), they tried to get the candidates engaged in a “cage fight” (as pointed out by Ted Cruz) and they were flat out wrong on several of their statements (as aptly revealed by Marco Rubio).

But there was an interesting exchange with Jeb Bush that suggests he is not a viable candidate for President. His response to a ridiculous question perfectly illustrates that he does not understand the concept of “limited powers”. He was asked a question about fantasy football (or more generally, “Daily Fantasy Sports”). While he started his response with humor, the last part of his answer was striking. Here’s the exchange:

“QUINTANILLA: Governor Bush, daily fantasy sports has become a phenomenon in this country, will award billions of dollars in prize money this year. But to play you have to assess your odds, put money at risk, wait for an outcome that’s out of your control. Isn’t that the definition of gambling, and should the Federal Government treat it as such?

BUSH: Well, first of all, I’m 7 and 0 in my fantasy league.

QUINTANILLA: I had a feeling you were going to brag about that.

BUSH: Gronkowski is still going strong. I have Ryan Tannehill, Marco, as my quarterback, he was 18 for 19 last week. So I’m doing great. But we’re not gambling.

And I think this has become something that needs to be looked at in terms of regulation. Effectively it is day trading without any regulation at all. And when you have insider information, which apparently has been the case, where people use that information and use big data to try to take advantage of it, there has to be some regulation.

If they can’t regulate themselves, then the NFL needs to look at just, you know, moving away from them a little bit. And there should be some regulation. I have no clue whether the federal government is the proper place, my instinct is to say, hell no, just about everything about the federal government.”

Looking past the personal anecdote and humor, Mr. Bush stated that he thinks we need to look at regulations. Notice that there is no discussion at all regarding what right the federal government would have to regulate in the first place, no mention of any specific section of the Constitution from which such authority is derived, or any argument at all about it. His only reference in that regard is that he has “no clue whether the federal government” should do so, and claims that his “instinct is to say, hell no…”

If that is really your instinct, Mr. Bush, then you would have STARTED with that! But you didn’t. Instead, you began by stating that there “should be some regulation” and that we should look at doing so.

I would suggest that Mr. Bush’s answer to the question, as ridiculous as the question was, came from that viewpoint. He thinks that if there’s a problem, the government should regulate it. I think that’s his “instinct”, and that certainly was the focus of his answer. It’s almost as if while he was answering the question and calling for regulation, someone in his earpiece (if he had one) reminded him that he is “supposed to” answer the question otherwise, and so he reversed course and awkwardly claimed that his “instinct” is to say “hell no”.

Mr. Bush, it is clear that your “instinct” is to call for more regulation. In doing so, you will continue the policy of the exceptions swallowing the rule. Please step aside, sir. We do not need you in the Oval Office.

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