Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush joined me on the show today:
HH: I’m joined by former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush. Governor Bush, the media tends to overplay D.C. stories a little bit, don’t you think? Chaos is a little bit strong compared to real chaos like 9/11.
JB: Absolutely, it’s not chaotic, just dysfunctional.
JB: It just doesn’t work. The big argument about the Washington Redskins, the Redskins being a pejorative term, I think Washington is a pejorative term, not the Redskins, so they’ll get through it, they’ll figure it out. Kevin was a good man and he still is. I don’t understand why all this happens, but they’ll find a leader and they’ll unite and they’ll move forward. They need a president that will work with them and they need a Senate that has a president that will get them through their process as well. The complete dysfunction needs to change for our democracy to work.
HH: Now Governor Bush, one of the stories out this afternoon from Fox, from Brett Baier, good reporter, is that Speaker Boehner has agreed to stay on as long as it takes even if that’s through the end of the year. I think that’s a disaster for Republicans. What do you think?
JB: Look I think they need to find a leader and I’m sure they’re going to work on it. It will be resolved in a few days. The political world we live in, it’s better to create the crisis and the tension, more people watch and all that, but this is a dysfunctional time in Washington’s history. We’ve had 240 years of existence as a republic and most of the time, it’s worked extraordinarily well, we led the world right now. It’s dysfunctional, but it’ll get fixed.
HH: Governor Bush, I have floated the idea that we need a big deal through September of 17 right now because the military is in such dire shape and continuing resolutions don’t allow Joe Dunford, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs or Ash Carter who’s a well-respected Secretary of Defense to rebuild the military. What would you think about a deal where the President got some new domestic spending, some sugar candy, in exchange for blowing the sequester off the Pentagon and starting the rebuild soon rather than after the next president takes office?
JB: How about this? How about having the Senate say if you want a filibuster because you’re opposed to providing support for the men and women in the military because if you’re correct, this one-off kind of continuation budget does not allow for the kind of strategic planning that’s necessary. Let’s have a real filibuster. Make the Democrats filibuster until over the weekend and as long as it takes to break the filibuster because I think a majority do want to fund the military budget. We spend a lot on domestic spending because of the so-called entitlements which grow at a far faster rate than everything else. I don’t think we have a spending problem in Washington, we have resolve problem, and this is a first priority. So force the hand of the Democrats that are saying they are filibustering for more spending. Make them explain why they want to gut the military.
HH: Well, I’m all for that, but they are pretty good at avoiding the spotlight when they want to and we have an international crisis. I’m sure you saw that Russian missiles hit Iran today because they don’t how to fire them. Who knows when they are going to start hitting Israel because they don’t how to fire them. But we have Russian troops and tanks and now so-called volunteers flooding into Syria. Can we really stand around and watch Washington play its games instead of getting real military spending to the Pentagon, Governor?
JB: That’s exactly I think we need to force the hands of the Democrats. I think the majority of them want to be able to support the military. They realize that the sequester has put us in a weakened position. This has lot to do with we have strong military compared to other places even today. This has a lot to do with a lack of leadership in the White House more than anything else. Think about it, as we pull back, we signed an agreement with Iran and the leader of the Quds Forces goes to Moscow. He negotiates the deal for Iran’s significant engagement in Syria as well as the Russian engagement and we have not responded in kind, and it is creating a significant problem and we have the resources, we just don’t have the will.
HH: Now Governor Bush, at the debate, I got to ask Donald Trump and then Senator Rubio about the refusal of the United States Congress to support President Obama’s request to strike Syria two years ago. You did not get a chance to respond to that.
HH: What was your opinion of the rejection of the Congress of the President’s appeal two years ago?
JB: Well, I think the appeal was pretty tepid, but he did make the appeal and I think at that point it wasn’t popular amongst some parts of the Republican Party, so I think people were sticking their fingers in the breeze. And that’s wrong. Look, being popular is not we’re talking about. Being President of the United States requires having clear vision, having a backbone, and I thought that that vote was uncalled vote. We should support the president because that was better than inaction. No action at all, we see what happens. The lack of action now creates chaos and meanwhile, Assad continues barrel-bomb the innocent civilians, we have a refugee crisis, Russia’s on the march, our allies don’t know where we stand. Our support for the remnants of Free Syrian Army is tepid at best. People are looking for American leadership and they’re not getting and I think the Congress should show support at that point.
HH: Was Senator Rubio wrong not to do that? His answer was that it would been a pinprick, it would have been worse than nothing.
JB: Then their responsibility, having oversight responsibility of the executive branch should have been brought to bear. And of course, the president is not firm on these things, but asking for the authorization I think was appropriate thing to do and he should have gotten it. And then a strategy should have been forthcoming which he hasn’t done. I agree with Senator Rubio that the president has not been forthcoming with a strategy, but when had a chance to show support for the creation of one, he didn’t do it, and I think that turned out to be a bad decision.
HH: Now I want to turn to bigger thing, are you a movie guy, GOernor Bush? Do you go to money movies?
JB: I used to (laughs). I don’t anymore.
HH: There are two out now, “Sicario” and the “Martian.” And “Sicario” is about the drug trafficking and “Martian” is about space exploration like the depravity of human kind and the highest stuff that we do. Which way are we going? Are we going to “Sicario” vision of the future or ware we going towards the “Martian” vision of the future?
JB: I think we’re temporarily not as aspirational as we need to be. We are aspiring to the big things. We could be the world’s economic superpower if we were serious about forging consensus on how to tax and regulate the race in the energy revolution and fixing our broken immigration system. All those things are holding us back and I think as people don’t think the system works them, they get more depressed, more pessimistic, they fall prey to the appeals of negativity and frankly, we do have a problem of an epidemic of heroin use and other things like that, but we can turn this around. This is not the worst time in American history. With the proper leadership, I think we can be inspired to be dynamic again and aspire to dream bigger dreams and so my hope is that we move towards the aspirational side of our thinking.
HH: Should the Senate support the Trans-Pacific Partnership as you’ve seen it outlines as part of that move free trade and a booming world economy?
JB: I think they should, but I haven’t the specifics of the agreement and so I’m a little cautious of coming out forthright and say that I’m for it. My instincts are to support free and fair trade, and in the case of Asia particularly, which has non-tariff barriers and tariff barriers which are pretty high and we don’t, my expectation is that when we look into this agreement we’ll find that they’re tearing down barriers more, so that’s one point, second, if we don’t participate in the Asian trade, the void will be field by China and the standards for trade, all of the things that we respect in terms of the rule of law will be a totally different approach and our allies, the best way to show Japan that we got their back, that our treaty obligations are important to us, is to work with them on a free trade agreement. So I think it’s the right approach, I haven’t seen the specifics. I found it interesting that Hilary Clinton in her book that she apparently sent me talks ebulliently about supporting the Trans-Pacific Trade agreement and now has come out four-squared against it because [of] again popular sentiment of the here and now apparently on the left as opposed to this, and that kind of leadership is exactly what we don’t need anymore. We need people that have thought it through, have backbone, persuade people towards their cause, whether it’s popular or not, stick with it, and make things happen.
HH: It’s not popular right now to say, “Do a deal with the president to get defense spending.” I’m going to finish where I began Governor Bush. We’re in the sequester. It’s a nightmare. You know it’s a nightmare. If he said, “I’ll give you three bucks for every buck of domestic,” would you urge Republicans to do that deal?
JB: I always talk to the other side, but I think it’s time now to test the will of Democrats because I think they will break, and I think that’s the first step. It is clear to me that you’re absolutely correct that the sequester is creating so much uncertainty that is putting our troops in harm’s way, and in a time of great of uncertainty, Russia and other countries don’t believe we have the resolve, and they look at our budget, and they don’t think we’re totally committed to maintaining our obligations in the world. And we should lead the world. So how we get to that point, we may have a different tactic Hugh, but I think the objective is the right one.
HH: But we see Russian troops, so-called “volunteers.” They are the black-men that invaded Ukraine. They are now in Syria. Do we really have time to screw around a $100 billion in domestic spending if they need $300 billion in defense spending?
JB: We have the flexibility to put the resources on the ground to push back against Russia and to create a strategy to deal with ISIS both in Iraq and in Syria. We need to the warriors on the sorties, we need to have a strategy, we need to listen to the commanders in the field and we need to act. And we have those resources right now. You’re correct, though, in the long-term, with the sequester, we won’t have that capability, and that’s the issue going forward.
HH: Governor Jeb Bush, always great to talk to you. Thank you, Governor.
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