January 24th, 2016
01:40 PM ET

Bush on Flint water crisis: "I admire Rick Snyder for stepping up right now"

SOTU

Today on CNN’s State of the Unionformer Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL), GOP presidential candidate, joined anchor, Jake Tapper to discuss the Flint water crisis and 2016 presidential politics.
 
For more information, see http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/. Also, text highlights and a transcript of the discussion are below.
 
MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”
 
Contacts: Lauren Pratapas — Lauren.Pratapas@turner.com; 202.465.6666; Zachary Lilly – Zachary.Lilly@turner.com
 
TEXT HIGHLIGHTS
 
Bush on Trump: “And, frankly, the reason why Donald Trump does well is, there's a perception of strength, but the reality is, when people think about it, it's not strong to denigrate women.  It's not strong to insult Hispanics.  It's certainly not strong to call John McCain a loser because he was a POW.  And it's - God forbid, it's not strong to suggest - to disparage the disabled.  More and more people listening to Donald Trump, I think, realize that he's not the strong horse.  He's insecure and he's weak.”

Bush on a potential Bloomberg 3rd Party run: You know what?  That's not going to happen.  The party process is going to work far differently than what the pundits are saying.  I totally believe that. Mike Bloomberg is a good man.  We disagree on a whole lot of things, but he's a good person and he's a patriot.  And he wants the best for the country.  But we have differing views.  And I want to be the conservative candidate to run - to lead the conservative party into the general election.  That's my focus.”
 
Bush on the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan: “It is a tragedy.  I admire Rick Snyder for stepping up right now.  He's going through the challenge.  And he's fired people and accepted responsibility to fix this.  This is going to be a long-term challenge. But it does point out that we're - we have a 20th century regulatory system on a 21st century world.  Someone needs to change how we go about Washington's role in this, where there's more accountability and more transparency, so that when reports are done, they're thoroughly vetted. You don't need insular regulatory agencies that are blaming each other. That's what happened in this case, and it's just wrong.”
 
Bush on his brother President George W. Bush coming on the campaign trail with him: [TAPPER]: “You said this week you expect your brother George W. Bush to be campaigning by your side.  Is that going to happen before Iowa?”
[BUSH]: “ No, I don't think it is because of schedules.  But I hope he's going to be involved. And the campaign is working with him on that.  He's a popular figure in the Republican Party, and he has been incredibly supportive of me.  I love him dearly.  And I expect to see him out on the campaign trail, but no details yet about when.”   
 
  

 
FULL TRANSCRIPT
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
 
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Despite this weekend's frigid weather, the GOP seems to be in the middle of a meltdown.  Republican voters seem to want either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, who together capture two-thirds of the Iowa vote as of now, but the party establishment nationally is pretty much freaking out.  

Conservative magazine "The National Review" leading the charge against Donald Trump, while elder statesmen like Bob Dole and Rudy Giuliani say nominating Ted Cruz would be a disaster.  


And into this fray steps former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is telling aides that he's contemplating running for president if either Trump or Cruz and Sanders become the nominee, all this with just days until the first votes are cast in Iowa.  


And joining me now is Republican candidate for president former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  


Governor Bush, thanks for joining us.  


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thanks, Jake.  

TAPPER:  Your friend and longtime adviser Mike Murphy, the man who is running your super PAC Right to Rise, he tweeted this week that either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz as the Republican presidential nomination would hand the White House to Hillary Clinton on a - quote - "silver platter."


Do you agree with that?  


BUSH:  Well, I hope to be the nominee.  


I think that Donald Trump would be a disaster as the nominee because he's not a conservative.  Ted Cruz is certainly a conservative.  He doesn't have a proven record.  And the Clinton hit machine is going to be pretty tough to beat.  They know how to do this pretty well.  And I think you need to have someone with a proven record, a record of accomplishment, and a person that has detailed plans that can make their case to the American people that we can transform how Washington works.  


So, I feel confident in these early states that that message is starting to resonate.  


TAPPER:  Part of the reason why no traditional Republican has been able yet to stop Trump, or Cruz, for that matter, is that there are so many of you, Christie, Kasich, Rubio, you.  


(LAUGHTER)


TAPPER:  Do you think - do you think that the establishment candidates - and if you will permit me to use that term - I don't mean it as an insult - but the more traditional establishment candidates should unite behind whoever finishes bronze or better in New Hampshire?


BUSH:  I think what we need do is to let the process work.  The voters are actually going to have a say in this, not the pundits, starting in eight days in Iowa and eight days after that in New Hampshire.  


This will sort itself out.  We have a long-haul process.  And I feel good about where we are.  And, frankly, the reason why Donald Trump does well is, there's a perception of strength, but the reality is, when people think about it, it's not strong to denigrate women.  It's not strong to insult Hispanics.  It's certainly not strong to call John McCain a loser because he was a POW.  


And it's - God forbid, it's not strong to suggest - to disparage the disabled.  More and more people listening to Donald Trump, I think, realize that he's not the strong horse.  He's insecure and he's weak.


TAPPER:  Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has instructed advisers to draw up plans for a potential independent run for president.  He's reportedly troubled by the prospect of Bernie Sanders being the Democratic nominee and either Trump or Cruz being the Republican nominee.  


If we get to the general election and, God forbid, you didn't win the nomination, and you had the choice of Trump, Bloomberg, Sanders, would you consider getting behind the former New York City mayor?  


BUSH:  You know what?  That's not going to happen.  The party process is going to work far differently than what the pundits are saying.  I totally believe that.  


Mike Bloomberg is a good man.  We disagree on a whole lot of things, but he's a good person and he's a patriot.  And he wants the best for the country.  But we have differing views.  And I want to be the conservative candidate to run - to lead the conservative party into the general election.  That's my focus.  


TAPPER:  You have made a point of saying that you're the only Republican taking the fight to Donald Trump.  


Your super PAC, however, has spent at least $20 million attacking your former protege Marco Rubio.  Now, under the law, I know a candidate does not control his or her super PAC, but if you could decide what to do with the money, would you redirect your super PAC's attacks to put them on Trump, or is Rubio the right target?  


BUSH:  Look, I'm getting attacked by two or three candidates.  


The Right to Rise PAC, I don't even - I can't follow all of this stuff.  This is - this is how politics works.  Everybody's record is going to be scrutinized by the voters.  There's a chance to compare and contrast.  This is pretty tame compared to previous elections.  


I can't control what I can't control.  I'm focusing on what I can control, which is to take a message of an accomplished conservative with detailed plans to transform Washington, D.C.  And that's all I can focus on, Jake.  


TAPPER:  I want to turn to the situation in Flint, Michigan, where the population has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water.  


BUSH:  Yes.  


TAPPER:  Senator Rubio said this week - quote - "That's not an issue that right now we have been focused on."  He also said, "I believe the federal government's role in some of these things are largely limited."


You ran a state.  You dealt with situations like this, although certainly not one as horrific as what is going on in Flint.  What do you think?  


BUSH:  Well, first of all, I think it's pretty clear that, when you have local, state, and federal agencies not talking to each other, blaming each other, no one being held accountable, you get this result.  


And It is a tragedy.  I admire Rick Snyder for stepping up right now.  He's going through the challenge.  And he's fired people and accepted responsibility to fix this.  This is going to be a long-term challenge.  


But it does point out that we're - we have a 20th century regulatory system on a 21st century world.  Someone needs to change how we go about Washington's role in this, where there's more accountability and more transparency, so that when reports are done, they're thoroughly vetted.  


You don't need insular regulatory agencies that are blaming each other.  That's what happened in this case, and it's just wrong.  


TAPPER:  I'm kind of surprised you're praising Governor Snyder.  I understand you're talking about his actions now.  


BUSH:  Yes.  


TAPPER:  But a lot of people are faulting his administration for the last two years.  


BUSH:  No, I - look, I am too.  No, I - what I'm saying, though, instead of saying the dog ate my homework, it's someone else's fault, once it became clear, he took - he's taken the lead now.  And that's exactly what I think leaders have to do.  


TAPPER:  Let's talk about leadership.  


You have a new ad on foreign policy.  It features Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio talking about taking strong military action in Syria.  And then the ad is followed by snippets of both Rubio and Cruz talking about avoiding sending U.S. troops into Syria.  


Do you think they're all talk on this issue?  Is that what you're saying?  


BUSH:  I am saying that, because when they had a chance to support a more engaged America in Syria that could have saved lives and could have created a circumstance far different than a caliphate the size of Indiana that exists and is strengthened each and every day, they decided no, because, at the time, the Republican voters were opposed to it.  


And then we had the change.  Then we had the Paris attacks, the San Bernardino attacks.  Now - now everybody is talking touch.  And that's not the sign of leadership.  That's truly not the sign of leadership.  You need to think these things through, and, if it's not popular, persuade people towards your cause.  That's what leadership is all about.  


TAPPER:  Now, during the Republican debate that CNN hosted at the Reagan Library, Hugh Hewitt challenged some of the Republicans on that very issue, asking if Cruz and Rubio bear some responsibility.  


I think that the response from the Rubios and Cruzes of the world is that they don't trust President Obama's leadership and that was the reason they were hemming and hawing.  


BUSH:  Well, Ted Cruz said he didn't want to have America be the air force for ISIS.  And Marco Rubio, as that clip just pointed out, said something totally different.  


They could have created an authorization to use military force that was much more wide open for the next president of the United States, instead of having a tepid one, as the president proposed.  They could have lead the charge to create a strategy to deal with ISIS and Assad.  But they didn't because it wasn't popular at the time.


And then conditions changed.  And that's the problem with chasing popularity, because it changes.  Conditions changed.  We had an attack on our country.  And, all of the sudden, now people are demanding a stronger national security status.  We should have been supportive of that before.  


TAPPER:  The annual March for Life took place Friday in Washington, D.C., just before the blizzard hit.  


Back in 1998, you told Tim Russert that you opposed a constitutional amendment overturning Roe vs. Wade.  


Take a listen.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1998)


BUSH:  I do not believe that the question of abortion will be solved until there is a broad consensus on the subject.  And until that time, it is inappropriate to be advocating constitutional amendments.  The right for a woman to have an abortion, no matter what my view is, is going to be there.  


(END VIDEO CLIP)


TAPPER:  Your basic point was that people talking about this in the media were just trying to scare people, that really the right to an abortion wasn't going to be taken away.  


But, last week, you told the Associated Press that you would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned.  Can you help square the circle?


BUSH:  Sure.


Well, first of all, there's been a growing consensus about the sanctity of life.  As sonogram technology exists where people can see that this isn't a fetus, they can actually see a live, beautiful human being, more and more people are moving toward the life cause.  


And when I was governor of the state of Florida from 1999 on, I was a pro-life governor consistently.  And we did everything possible to create a culture of life.  And I think we need to continue down that road.  


Roe v. Wade being overturned would allow states then to create a regulatory environment around - around this issue.  And I think that is more than appropriate.  In Florida, we would restrict the ability to have an abortion when the life of a child was at stake.  I think the majority of people in the state of Florida and the legislature would agree with that.  


TAPPER:  I don't think there's consensus on the issue, though, as you were talking about in 1998.  


BUSH:  It's moving our way.  It's moving our way, Jake.  


If you look at it, it's clearly moving our way.  There are a lot of people now that understand that protecting - there needs to be a balance of the rights, and protecting the rights of the unborn is an important feature of who we are as a nation.  


TAPPER:  You said this week you expect your brother George W. Bush to be campaigning by your side.  Is that going to happen before Iowa?  


BUSH:  No, I don't think it is because of schedules.  But I hope he's going to be involved.


And the campaign is working with him on that.  He's a popular figure in the Republican Party, and he has been incredibly supportive of me.  I love him dearly.  And I expect to see him out on the campaign trail, but no details yet about when.  


TAPPER:  Your mother recorded a video for your campaign this week.  


Your use of her came under attack from Donald Trump, but she didn't take his trash talk lying down.  And you sent out a - this picture of her in football garb.  "I would be careful, Donald."


BUSH:  That's with - that's with J.J. Watt.  We didn't put J.J. in the picture.  That was a picture of her promoting family literacy in Houston.  


And Trump then, of course, says that you can't send your mom out to negotiate with ISIS.  And it does point out something pretty clear.  Donald Trump has no clue how the world works.  There's no negotiating with ISIS.  We need to have a strategy to destroy it.  And the fact that he would negotiate with ISIS is a pretty scary thought as well.  


TAPPER:  Well, say hi to your mom for us.  We don't want her to come at us with any - any fierce tackling.  


BUSH:  I will.


(LAUGHTER)


TAPPER:  Good luck out there.  We will see you on the trail.  Thank you, Governor.  


BUSH:  Thanks, Jake.  Take care.
 
###END INTERVIEW###
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