WASHINGTON -- Jeb Bush, a likely Republican candidate for president in 2016, argued Thursday that now is not the time to talk about the systemic underlying problems that exist in Baltimore while unrest remains in the city. Riots broke out in Baltimore on Monday in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, a young resident of the city who died from a broken spine while in police custody.
“Allowing the riots to kind of just happen was disturbing. You can’t just push over that and go to the grand societal problems,” Bush said at an event sponsored by the conservative National Review. “I do think that public safety is the first priority for any city or government jurisdiction.” He added, “There are a lot of people who are going to suffer because of what happened and hopefully order is going to be restored.”
Bush said there is a tendency on the left “to create a set of reasons why this happened” and to lay blame on others. “Having this conversation in the broader sense is probably not appropriate today,” he said.
Bush also criticized the decision by the Baltimore Orioles to hold a baseball game on Wednesday at Camden Yards, which was closed to the public. “I think it sends the wrong signal to have a baseball game with no people in it,” Bush said.
Bush agreed with remarks by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani about the need for swift police action to prevent unrest in a city. “The broken window policy has been proven successful. You don’t have to take it to the extreme of having policy brutality, but you need to have a certainty of punishment to create order and security,” Bush said.
Bush criticized President Barack Obama’s response, saying the president advocated a “top-down” government-driven approach to solving poverty. “The top-down driven policy programs have failed,” Bush said. “I think we need to be engaged in this debate as conservatives and say there is a bottom-up approach, build a capacity so people can achieve success.”
He offered sympathetic words for Gray’s family. “A young man died and that’s a tragedy for his family. This is not just a statistic, this is a person who died,” Bush said.
Asked later in his appearance about his mother, Barbara Bush, he compared her to Toya Graham, the Baltimore woman who was shown in a viral video hitting her teenage son as he appeared headed to join the rioters. “I think my mom and the woman who was bringing her child back home have a lot in common,” Bush said.