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It's a low bar, but Jeb Bush sounds a lot more presidential than the GOP pack

Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks to reporters after visiting Thumbtack on July 16, 2015, in San Francisco, California.
Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks to reporters after visiting Thumbtack on July 16, 2015, in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Jeb Bush looked and sounded presidential on Monday. He did it by scolding rivals for the 2016 Republican nomination for overheated rhetoric on immigration and Iran, a tack that positions Bush as the adult in the GOP primary room.

Most notably, he took former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to task for saying that President Barack Obama would march Israel toward the "door of the oven" — a reference to the Holocaust — with the deal to delay Iran's development of a nuclear weapon.

Here's what Bush said, as reported by USA Today:

"The use of that kind of language is just wrong," Mr. Bush told reporters Monday in Orlando. "This is not the way we’re going to win elections and that’s not how we’re going to solve problems. So, unfortunate remark — not quite sure why he felt compelled to say it."

Bush also went after Donald Trump, who has bounded to the top of Republican presidential polls in part on the strength of his anti-immigrant rhetoric. And he did it in Spanish.

Bush, a fluent Spanish speaker, said he sought to counter Trump's negativity on immigration with his own platform, he said in a wide-ranging interview with Jose Diaz-Balart, of MSNBC and Telemundo.

"You know I was hurt hearing somebody speaking in such a vulgar fashion," the Florida governor said in remarks translated from Spanish. "This makes the solving of this problem (of illegal immigration) much more difficult. When we have politicians talking like that, we cannot progress."

Why did Bush sound so presidential? Because what he said tracked very closely with what the sitting president said about Huckabee, Trump, and other Republican Party officials and candidates at a press conference in Ethiopia Monday.

"The particular comments of Mr. Huckabee are just part of a general pattern that would be considered ridiculous, if it wasn’t so sad. ... We’ve had a sitting senator call John Kerry Pontius Pilate. We’ve had a sitting senator, who also happens to be running for president, suggest that I’m the leading state sponsor of terrorism. These are leaders in the Republican Party."

Obama pointed to Trump's rise as a proximate cause for Huckabee's charged comments. "Maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines, but it’s not the kind of leadership that is needed for America right now," Obama said.

At a time when many Republicans are juicing their rhetoric to jockey for position before the first presidential debate, Bush is banking on voters wanting a less-provocative, more staid alternative. That, in and of itself, is presidential.

Here are 9 more things you should know before you start the day.

1) The Holocaust, Joseph McCarthy, and Mitch McConnell's "lie"

Bush wouldn't have such an easy opportunity to contrast himself with his rivals if they weren't desperate to improve their standing ahead of that debate, as I wrote for Vox:

Only the candidates polling in the top 10 will win a coveted spot on the stage. And even for those who seem like safe bets to earn a spot, pumping up poll numbers is a good way to define and strengthen their position heading into the August 6 Fox debate in Cleveland.

That helps explain why Rick Perry spent an entire speech likening Donald Trump to cancer and Joseph McCarthy, Ted Cruz called Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor, and Mike Huckabee, who has lost ground in the polls, compared President Barack Obama to a Nazi who would "march [Israelis] to the door of the oven" because he and other world leaders struck a nuclear deal with Iran.

"The unprecedented politics of a crowded, competitive field bottle-necked in an unworkable but critical juncture compels such a strategic imperative," said Mary Matalin, who was a top adviser to President George H. W. Bush but has not endorsed any of the GOP candidates for 2016. "It is necessary but will prove to be insufficient."

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times does a brilliant job of explaining why it behooves Cruz to fight with party leaders in Washington.

2) Boy Scouts repeal (most of) prohibition on gay leaders

Boy Scout merit badge patches are displayed in a store at the Marin Council of the Boy Scouts of America on July 27, 2015, in San Rafael, California. The national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America is poised to vote to end a ban on gay adult leaders.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

When Boy Scouts president Robert Gates, the former defense secretary, said in May that it was time for the organization to lift its ban on gay scout leaders, it was only a matter of time before the group's executive board followed his recommendation. That happened on Monday, with 79 percent of the executive board members agreeing to the plan, according to Reuters:

The Boy Scouts of America lifted its outright ban on openly gay adult leaders and employees on Monday, rolling back a policy that has deeply divided the membership of the 105-year-old Texas-based organization. The new policy, which takes effect immediately, comes three years after the organization removed its prohibition on gay youth, but local Boy Scout units chartered by religious organizations will still be permitted to exclude gay adults from volunteering as den leaders, scoutmasters or camp counselors.

Who's the most upset? Mormons. CBS reports the church might abandon the Boy Scouts and start its own parallel organization:

The Mormon church, which sponsors more Scout units that any other organization, said it was "deeply troubled" by the decision. Church officials suggested they would look into the possibility of forming their own organization to replace the Boy Scouts.

"The admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America," said a statement from Mormon headquarters in Salt Lake City.

3) Sentencing reform in line for early release from Congress

From Republican ex-cons to Bill and Hillary Clinton, momentum has been building for a reversal of some of the tough 1990s sentencing standards that have filled the nation's prisons. Soon, we'll see the legislative products of that effort, as Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times writes:

Now, with a push from President Obama, and perhaps even more significantly a nod from Speaker John A. Boehner, Congress seems poised to revise four decades of federal policy that greatly expanded the number of Americans — to roughly 750 per 100,000 — now incarcerated, by far the highest of any Western nation.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has long resisted changes to federal sentencing laws, said he expected to have a bipartisan bill ready before the August recess.

"It will be a bill that can have broad conservative support," said Mr. Grassley, who as recently as this year praised the virtues of mandatory minimums on the Senate floor.

4) Mike Lee backs away from "nuclear option" on Obamacare

Utah Republican Mike Lee had an interesting plan for getting rid of Obamacare. He wanted to offer an amendment to the Senate highway bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act. Knowing it would be ruled out of order, he would then seek an appeal of the ruling and, hopefully, win a majority of votes on the Senate floor — essentially circumventing a filibuster against his proposal. But amid some controversy and dubious prospects for success, he chose not to pull the nuclear trigger, as Kelsey Snell and Paul Kane report for the Washington Post:

Conservative Sen. Mike Lee backed down on Monday from a controversial plan to demand a simple-majority vote to repeal Obamacare, following a meeting in which he apologized to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the actions of a Lee staffer.

Lee abandoned his plan after first offering to give up in exchange for a later repeal vote as part of budget reconciliation and failing to find support from leadership.

Sarah Ferris of the Hill has more on just how Lee's staffer cost him leverage in this fight:

The turnaround came after an embarrassing encounter between Lee and McConnell just hours before. The majority leader learned Monday that an aide in Lee’s office may have been encouraging an outside conservative group to pressure other Senate Republicans to support Lee’s effort to repeal ObamaCare – bucking McConnell.

Conn Carroll, Lee's communications director, sought to distance the Utah senator from the email, saying that "this email is not how Sen. Lee does business."

"As soon as Sen. Lee found out about the email he contacted McConnell, met with him, and apologized," he added.

5) Obama summoned Jon Stewart for private White House meetings

Jon Stewart and Obama

The Daily Show/Comedy Central

It's no secret that Jon Stewart lives somewhere at the intersection of standup comic, incisive political analyst, and advocate. And at times, President Obama has been in need of comic relief, incisive political analysis, and outside advocacy. So perhaps it makes sense that Politico super-sleuth Darren Samuelsohn was able to find Stewart's name in White House visitor logs. It's worth the full read. Here's a sample:

Jon Stewart slipped unnoticed into the White House in the midst of the October 2011 budget fight, summoned to an Oval Office coffee with President Barack Obama that he jokingly told his escort felt like being called into the principal’s office.

In February 2014, Obama again requested Stewart make the trip from Manhattan to the White House, this time for a mid-morning visit hours before the president would go before television cameras to warn Russia that "there will be costs" if it made any further military intervention in Ukraine.

To engage privately with the president in his inner sanctum at two sensitive moments — previously unreported meetings that are listed in the White House visitor logs and confirmed to POLITICO by three former Obama aides — speaks volumes about Stewart and his reach, which goes well beyond the million or so viewers who tune into The Daily Show on most weeknights.

6) "The Greek Warrior"

The New Yorker's Ian Parker delivers a rich profile of former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and the debt crisis that shook the European Union to its core:

After months at the center of a global political spectacle, Varoufakis still carried himself as an outsider: informal, ironic, somehow alone on the stage. This demeanor had sometimes given his tenure the air of a five-month-long ted talk. At the restaurant, Varoufakis’s commentary on the recent tumult, and on the likely catastrophic events to come, sometimes seemed amused almost to the point of blitheness. He asked after [economist James] Galbraith’s children, then noted that, a few hours earlier, a member of Germany’s parliament had visited his apartment, confessing, "I don’t believe in what we’re doing to you." The legislator was a Christian Democrat—the party led by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, who had it in her power to ease Greece’s crisis. On departing, the legislator said, "I know you’re an atheist, but I’m going to pray for you."

Varoufakis made a call. Speaking Greek, he greeted Euclid Tsakalotos, a colleague and friend, as "comrade," then speculated about [Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras’s behavior in the event of a "yes" vote: "The wise guys in Maximos"—the Prime Minister’s residence—"have become nicely settled in their seats of power, and they don’t want to leave them." Varoufakis seemed to be suggesting that Tsipras would not resign after losing the referendum. There would be a "strategic restructuring," Varoufakis said, and then elections. As for himself, he said, "After tomorrow, I’m going to be riding into the sunset." He spoke the last four words in English.

7) Gadhafi's son sentenced to death by firing squad

CNN's got the quick story on a Libyan court's ruling that one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons has been sentenced to die.

A Tripoli court has sentenced slain Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi to death in absentia.

He has been ordered to face a firing squad for his role in trying to quash the 2011 revolution that led to his father's ouster.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi was not at the trial, as he is being held by a militia group in the northwestern city of Zintan. He has been held there since his capture in November 2011.

8) The Donald's new demographic: Rich guys with TV shows

Maybe Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban is thinking about a future in politics. How else to explain the way he lavished praise on Donald Trump in a Cyber Dust message reported on by the Dallas Morning News?

I have to honestly (say) he is probably the best thing to happen to politics in a long long time

I don’t care what his actual positions are

I don’t care if he says the wrong thing.

He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. ...

Up until Trump announced his candidacy the conventional wisdom was that you had to be a professional politician in order to run ...

The Donald is changing all that.

9) NFL has its first female coach

Over time, there won't be a whole of sports aggregation in this space. But the Arizona Cardinals' hiring of the NFL's first female coach is, well, a game changer, as Mark Sandritter of Vox sister site SB Nation reports.

The Arizona Cardinals hired Jen Welter as a training camp coaching intern, making her what the team believes to be the "first woman to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL." The team announced the addition on Monday and said Welter would work with the inside linebackers.

Welter was not hired as a full-time assistant, but will be one of seven coaching interns working with the team during training camp. She will bring plenty of experience as well, including coaching and playing. According to the Cardinals, Welter played 14 seasons professionally. Pro Player Insiders notes Welter became the first female to play a non-kicking position in men's professional football when she played running back for the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League in 2014. She went on to become an assistant coach for the Revolution.

"Coaching is nothing more than teaching," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said in a release. "One thing I have learned from players is, ‘How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don't care if you're the Green Hornet, man, I'll listen.' I really believe she'll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her."