HH: Joined now by former Florida Governor and candidate for the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential election, Jeb Bush. Governor Bush, Happy New Year, great to have you back.
JB: Great to be with you, Hugh.
HH: Does the North Korean explosion and the Sunni-Shiia confrontation today, Iran is claiming that Saudi Arabia sent missiles into their Yemeni embassy, do these sorts of events impact the race on the ground?
JB: Absolutely, they will. And it’s a reflection of a presidency that does not believe that America’s role in the world is to bring peace and stability. As we pull back, we’re not the only reason why these things take place, but we, by our abandonment, you see the fragile world that exists. Without American leadership, things get ugly pretty quick. And by the way, Hugh, that’s, I think, an important point, and probably, hopefully, it will be discussed in the debate next week, that Donald Trump’s first impulse as it relates to the issue of North Korea is to say that’s China’s problem. But really, I mean, you think about it, you asked a good question to Mr. Trump about the nuclear triad in the last debate, and he didn’t seem to have much knowledge about it. But it is our problem when they’re trying to build long range missile capabilities in trying to develop a nuclear weapon that could reach the shores of the United States. And we can’t outsource our national security to the Chinese.
HH: He has suggested to me…
JB: That is just crazy.
HH: He has suggested to me that maybe those 28,000 American troops are not providently deployed. Do you agree or disagree with that, on the Korean Peninsula?
JB: They are essential. And put aside the size of it, in fact, they’re looking to relocate some of the, at least the command further south. But it is essential for us to be engaged in the world, whether it’s Japan or with our Navy assets or Korea. How do you, I mean, Korea is a good example where American leadership matters. Do the Koreans provide support financially for this? Yeah, they do. Of course, they do. And put aside the amount of troop level, we should stay engaged. And Trump is an isolationist. And I think it’s dangerous in this world. We see it, we see the unfraying happening. We see the attack in Paris at the police station today. We see North Korea kind of feeling like they need more attention, so they test this bomb. We see the Shiia-Sunni conflict playing out in a very dramatic way, principally, and at least in one reason, because the United States is not sending a signal to one of our strongest allies in the region, Saudi Arabia, that we’re going to be with them.
HH: Does Donald Trump have, not temperament, but the deep exposure to and nuanced understanding of American foreign policy and Defense factors to be president?
JB: Not right now. He doesn’t. I mean, that’s pretty clear. It was clear on the debate stage last week. It’s clear when he talks the way he does. Just take ISIS. Mr. Trump in the matter of, since late September, where he said that we didn’t have a fight in Syria, then he said let’s let the Russians take out ISIS, and prior to that, he said let ISIS take out Assad. And then he said we’re going to bomb the bleep out of ISIS once the attacks took place. That kind of volatility and lack of seriousness should give people pause. We’re electing a president of the United States and a commander-in-chief, and I think we need a steadiness, and someone who has an understanding of the complexity of how the world works, and certainly an understanding about how America’s presence and leadership in the world can bring about security and peace for the homeland.
HH: I want to come back to the ’94 deal in just a moment, but to be clear, if Donald Trump is the nominee, will Jeb Bush support him and campaign for him?
JB: Donald Trump will not be the nominee, because of the reasons we’re discussing right now. I think there will be, particularly here, I’m in New Hampshire today, as people begin to realize the responsibilities they have as first in the nation primary voters, that they will take into consideration that we’re nominating a candidate to beat Hillary Clinton, which I don’t think he can do, and we’re nominating someone who could be president, which requires leadership skills and understanding of how the world works.
HH: But if he were, and I asked this question, I have to ask it twice of everyone.
HH: If he were, would you support him?
JB: Donald Trump’s not going to be the nominee. So you asked me twice, and I answered you twice.
HH: Okay, I’ll try three times. Just go with me, because he’s ahead in New Hampshire, he’s ahead everywhere. Would Jeb Bush do the loyal Republican thing and support the nominee?
JB: I have been a loyal Republican my entire adult life. I have supported and voted for every Republican candidate since Richard Nixon. That should give you some indication of my loyalty to the conservative cause.
HH: So is that a yes, Governor?
JB: That’s not a yes, it’s not a no. I’m just telling you, I don’t think it matters. I have been a loyal Republican, and is past is prologue, then I’m confident I’ll be supporting the Republican nominee.
HH: But if Donald Trump hears that, and I’ve got to break and then I’ll come back and talk about it after the break, he might say the same thing, which would send shudders down the spine of the Republican Party, right?
JB: I’m just telling you what I believe. I believe that we need to have a candidate that can beat Hillary Clinton, and that candidate cannot be a candidate that tries to insult their way to the presidency. Perhaps Mr. Trump will change his path, start taking lessons on how things work. It’s possible, I don’t know. But I’m organizing myself to become the nominee to beat Hillary Clinton. That’s all I can tell you.
HH: More on that in a moment.
JB: That’s what I know from the bottom of my heart.
HH: More on that in a moment. I’ll be right back with Jeb Bush. Go nowhere, America.
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HH: Now I want to go back to the 1994 deal in the North Korean crisis, but one more political question. You are in New Hampshire. You’re getting great crowds. New Hampshire brought Bill Clinton back from the brink in 1992. You don’t have his problems, because they were moral problems, but you’ve got political problems. Do you think New Hampshire will do for Jeb Bush this time what it did for Bill Clinton in ’92?
JB: I feel really good about where we are. We have a great ground game. We are, look, we have this superPAC that’s not, that I’m not coordinating with or affiliated with, but they are advertising. I see it when I get home to my home away from home at the Hilton Garden Inn. And it seems like we’re making good progress. The crowd sizes are bigger, the conversion rates are growing. I’m excited about it. It’s fun to campaign here. People actually, really, ask incredibly good questions. And so I can’t predict how this outcomes, this is a pretty volatile year to be making political predictions, but I feel good about where we are.
HH: You know, I didn’t get to ask you during the debate about the triad. I took the follow on to Marco Rubio. What would be your priority among the three systems to update and modernize?
JB: Well, first of all, had I been asked that question, I would have ripped into Trump saying he had no understanding of the first obligation of a president, which is because he has unique responsibility as it relates to the deterrent effect of what the nuclear triad brings. So I would have prefaced my answer by saying that, rather than ignoring it as Marco did. And then I would have said that all of them are important, but I think the submarine part of this needs to have the highest priority. I think our Navy has been devastated just by neglect. The sequester has been bad across all the Armed Forces for sure, but the United States Naval superiority needs to be maintained. And certainly, the submarine capabilities, which are stealthy, mobile, are not, all of them are important, but that would be, perhaps, the most important thing to modernize and to focus on.
HH: There is a Seth Crosby piece in the Wall Street Journal today, Governor Bush. We’re down to 272 ships, and Ash Carter said we’re going lower, not the other way. I’m kind of stunned by this. What was your reaction? Have you had a chance to see the piece?
JB: I’ve seen the piece, and I was stunned as well. We are at levels that are dangerous for our country. I mean, think about it. We now announce when we’re going near the island, the manmade island that China has built a hundred miles off in the South China Sea, as though that’s a sign of strength that we just announce that we’re doing it. We should do this as a matter of course, but if we don’t have the naval assets to be able to engage in the Persian Gulf, engage in Asia. The rest of the world sees this, and they take advantage. They immediately, the Chinese aren’t waiting for us to figure out how to deal with sequester. They’re engaged in a major modernization, and building up of a navy. And there’s going to be a tipping point at some point. And I think this is a really dangerous time. The gestation time for getting new ships into the seas, and new arms into the hands of the warfighters, and new planes which haven’t been built in ages is not just a month. This takes years, and yeah, we need to modernize the procurement process and lower the costs and all that. But we need to make a commitment that we’re going to have the greatest fighting force in the 21st Century, not just holding together by Band-Aids the greatest fighting force of the 20th Century.
HH: Now I want to switch to the subject of the day. I’m in D.C., because the President is holding a gun forum tonight, and I will be on CNN with Jake Tapper talking about that forum after it concludes. First question that I think is directly related to guns, the President did not ask during the Omni negotiations of last month for anything that he demanded yesterday. How seriously do you take his demands in light of the fact he didn’t even bring them up last month when everything was on the table?
JB: I don’t take his interest in dealing with Congress seriously, for sure. I do take, unfortunately, his interest, even though he claims he’s a Constitutional lawyer, to trample the Constitution. He doesn’t have the power to sign executive orders where the authority hasn’t been delegated to him. And every time he does this, he makes it harder and harder to find common ground. And the presidents that are successful have to lead. They can’t just always be pushing down someone who doesn’t agree with him. Look, our gun control laws, I think, are done best from the bottom up, that reflects the uniqueness and the diversity of our country. Florida is a 2nd Amendment state. And I worked to create a support for law abiding citizens being able to access guns. We have background checks. People that are, that have restraining orders because they committed domestic violence, cannot get guns. We have good gun laws, and we punish people that commit crimes with guns. That’s the idea that I think reduces gun violence. And I don’t think we should expect Washington to oppose a one, you know, to create a one size fits all approach to this, and certainly not by executive authority when the president doesn’t have it.
HH: Now up in Chicago, a Hillary Clinton/Bill Clinton protégé, and Barack Obama protégé, Rahm Emmanuel, is the mayor, and he’s been involved in a cover-up and a scandal involving police violence. Should Rahm Emmanuel resign?
JB: I think that Rahm Emmanuel should embrace an outside investigation of the practices of the police in Chicago, where you have extraordinary increases in violence and death, and you have cover-ups that clearly have taken place. And for his own reputation, he should embrace an outside view of this. Whether he should resign or not, I’d leave that up to him. But I think that there should be, to kind of defiantly go about this, when there are these scandals that have taken place, I think is just plain wrong. Government works when people trust that the people in government are working on their behalf. But when elected officials do the things that they do, that trust is violated, then you have a really dangerous situation. And I think Mayor Emmanuel is a gifted politician. He understands the challenge that’s faced. He should just turn the tables, accept an independent investigation, and then do what politicians used to do that seem not to do it anymore. Stop saying the dog ate my homework. Start fixing things. Accept responsibility. My goodness, you know, there are people that run to the fire, and there are people that run away from the fire. And we have too many politicians right now that when they see a problem under their watch, run away, blame somebody else, blame their predecessor, blame the climate, blame whatever it is, instead of saying this happened on my watch, I’m going to fix it. That’s what he should be doing.
HH: Boy, you know, you sound like, I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie, 13 Hours, yet, but that’s the impression one gets of Hillary Clinton when Benghazi was on fire, Governor Bush. Have you seen 13 Hours, yet?
JB: I haven’t. Doesn’t it come out next week?
HH: Yeah, but I got to see a screener, and some people, there are screeners out there. I’ll be right back, one more short segment with former Governor Jeb Bush.
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HH: Governor Bush, there was an interesting piece today that suggests 43, your brother, W., is going to hit the campaign trail with you. Do you have plans for that?
JB: Not yet, but my brother happens to be one of the most popular Republicans out there, maybe the most popular Republican, and he’s going to vote for me, and he supports me, and he’s given me good advice and it’s been helpful. And we’re trying to sort all that out. Look, I love my brother, and I’m honored to have his support, but I know at the end of the day, I’ve got to go earn this as well. There are high expectations on me, given my family. The only higher expectations that exist are on myself, by myself, and I know that ultimately, this is my challenge. But having a brother that has done this is, you know, and by your side to help, is great.
HH: Yeah, in South Carolina especially…
JB: The rest of my family has been supportive as well.
HH: In South Carolina, especially with Cologne attacks on New Year’s Eve, with the attack today in Charlie Hebdo anniversary, which thank God was stopped short, with the Paris attacks, San Bernardino attacks, I think people have an appreciation for what he did that would be powerful on the campaign trail after the first couple of touching gloves in Iowa and New Hampshire. Have you talked about it with him?
JB: I haven’t talked to him directly about it. I intend to do it. I’m really focused on making progress in the first two states, as you said, as we touch gloves. But there’ll be time to talk about this, and it’s certainly under consideration for sure.
HH: All right, last question, you’ve got brother and father down in Texas, so Jerry Jones has got to come across your radar occasionally.
JB: (laughing) Once in a while.
HH: So the Ohio primary is coming up. Can you persuade Jerry Jones to take Johnny Manziel off the Browns’ hands? That could get you Ohio.
JB: I saw, the last Cowboy game that Robert Griffith’s family was dressed up in a Cowboy jersey with his number.
HH: Yeah, everyone’s trying to get to Dallas. But I’m telling you…
JB: I know you’re a Cleveland fan.
JB: I think you’re stuck with Manziel for a little bit more, my friend.
HH: This is an unfortunate development, and you guys did not come through for, and you did not come through for Ohio State when Florida took on Alabama in the SEC championship, either, Governor…
JB: Hey, but Hugh, just remember, you stole the national championship from the University of Miami.
HH: Oh, dear, he’s still bitter. Governor, good luck out there in New Hampshire, I will talk to you again in a couple of weeks, and I appreciate you taking the time today. Thank you, Governor.
JB: Thank you.
End of interview.