US presidential hopeful Jeb Bush was treated to a round of applause during a Republican nomination debate on Wednesday after he suggested the late former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s portrait should be plastered on the US $10 bill.
Each of the 11 presidential candidate hopefuls, including tycoon frontrunner Donald Trump, was asked which women they would select for the banknotes.
Bush, who formerly held the position of Florida governor, responded: “I would go with Ronald Reagan’s partner, Margaret Thatcher.”
While he admitted Thatcher’s face was unlikely to be printed across the $10 bill because she is British, he heaped praise on the former PM.
“A strong leader is what we need in the White House, and she certainly was a strong leader that restored the United Kingdom into greatness,” he said.
Despised by leftists and loved by Conservatives, Thatcher’s political legacy lingers to this day. She is particularly detested by much of Britain’s left for driving privatization, inequality and the disintegration of the welfare state.
Thatcher played a key role in instigating the first Gulf War and using her political influence to push for Britain’s 2003 attack on Iraq.
She is also remembered for denouncing Nelson Mandela and his affiliates as “terrorists,” a move Prime Minister David Cameron later conceded was wrong. The former PM has also attracted vitriol for befriending brutal despots such as Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein and Indonesian dictator General Suharto.
Across the Atlantic, however, Thatcher is admired among right-wing Americans. In particular, they praise her role in championing free market economics and cold war politics.
After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, she famously told then-President George Bush Senior: “This is no time to go wobbly, George.”
Jeb Bush later backtracked in an interview with NBC, suggesting he would like to allow the public to vote on the issue.
“That would generate a lot of interest. It could create all sorts of opportunities for math teachers to teach math, for social studies teachers to do the same. You could have an avalanche of interest in picking the woman that should be on the $10 bill,” he said.
Civil rights activist Rosa Parks proved the most popular suggestion for the new $10 bill, while Mother Theresa also featured high in the ranks. Donald Trump’s suggestion of his own daughter evoked bemused looks from the audience.
The most serious clash during the debate, hosted by CNN, came when Bush demanded Trump apologize for claiming he was weak on immigration because his wife is Mexican. However, Trump flatly refused Bush’s request, claiming he had said “nothing wrong.”
As the debate progressed, Bush admitted to smoking pot in his younger years, while Rand Paul defended the use of legal marijuana.
Chris Christie, who also took part, said Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted over her private email scandal.