RUSH TRANSCRIPT, Mandatory credit: CNN
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COOPER: And welcome back. We are coming to you tonight from the University of South Carolina School of Law auditorium for the final CNN Republican town hall before GOP voters go to the polls this weekend.
You’ve already met Ohio Governor John Kasich. Just ahead, we’ll talk to Donald Trump. Right now, please welcome former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
BUSH: How y’all doing?
COOPER: Hey, Governor. Welcome. How are you? Have a seat. I like your boots.
BUSH: I do, too.
COOPER: So you’ve — you’ve had a busy week here.
COOPER: Your brother, former President George W. Bush, out on the campaign trail. Your mom has been out with you. She’s — we’re honored that she’s here with us tonight. What’s it like campaigning with your family?
BUSH: Well, it’s a blast being with George, because I love him dearly, and — and this is the first time out that he’d been campaigning for a candidate, and I’m honored that he did it for me. I would have been disappointed had he not done it for me, to be honest with you.
And my mother is a superstar. She is — people just love her dearly, and I do, too.
(APPLAUSE) So she — couple of weeks ago she was out campaigning in New Hampshire, and it was the first time she’d seen snow in a while. So we brought her to the warmer climes of South Carolina for tomorrow, on our bus tour, so it’s better.
COOPER: I want to ask you about a couple of things in the news before we go to the questions…
COOPER: … from — from voters here.
Today, as you know the Pope waded into America’s immigration debate, suggesting Donald Trump is not Christian when he talked about building a wall. Are you and the Pope on the same page here?
BUSH: Well, I always get in trouble when the Pope says things, because I’m — I’m a Catholic. I’m informed by my faith, and he is an inspirational leader of my church.
But I don’t question people’s Christianity. I think that’s a relationship they have with their — with their lord and savior and themselves.
So I just don’t think it’s appropriate to question Donald Trump’s faith. He knows what his faith is. And he has a — if he has a relationship with the lord, fantastic. If he doesn’t, it’s none of my business.
COOPER: Earlier in the week, your Twitter account — you tweeted a photo of a gun inscribed with your name and the word America.
COOPER: What was — what was that?
BUSH: I was at a gun manufacturer here in Columbia, South Carolina, and I — I received that gun as a gift. And it was — first of all, I had a phenomenal town hall meeting with workers that were concerned about economic security and national security. They sell a lot of what they make to the — to the military, and they — they’ve seen the gutting of the military, in terms of the sequester.
They’re concerned about that. They’re concerned about their jobs. They’re concerned about Obamacare. We had a lively discussion, and I wanted to pay tribute to them by showing off the gun they gave me.
And also wanted to show that I believe the Second Amendment is as important a part of the Bill of Rights as any of the other amendments to the Bill of Rights, in that we ought to be protective of it.
And a lot — a lot’s riding with Antonin Scalia’s passing. Now we’re gonna have a conversation this election about — about a lot of important things, including the Second Amendment. And as governor of the state of Florida, I was — I was A-plus rated for eight years in a row. And I believe that we should protect the rights of law-abiding citizens and focus our efforts on putting bad people away that use guns illegally, for a long while.
BUSH: That’s what we did in Florida.
We got 1.5 million concealed weapon permit holders in Florida which is double the next state. But we’ve also seen double digit reductions in gun violence because if you commit a crime with a gun in Florida you’re going to prison. There’s a minimum mandatory sentence and I think that’s the proper approach. So I wanted to …
COOPER: Would you change the president’s recent executive actions on guns?
BUSH: Yes, I would. He doesn’t have the authority to do that. This is the problem with our president. He’s given up working with Congress and I think he’s trampling on the constitution each and every time he does this. The intention — look, I don’t — I don’t necessarily agree with what he did and it’s a response to the San Bernardino killings.
That was an act of terror. That was not random gun violence but the better way to do that — for example on the mental health element of this. Which I think there’s a convergence of interests between left and right on that. Why not go to Congress and see if you could work with conservatives in the Congress to make sure that people that are mentally deranged don’t have access to guns?
There’s ways to do this but trampling over the constitution, using authority you don’t have. We’re at the law school here. I think — I hope at least the law school students would appreciate the fact that — that the president — when the president doesn’t have authority he should not go beyond what the constitution allows him to do.
COOPER: The governor of this state, Nikki Haley as you know obviously endorsed Senator Rubio. That’s obviously a powerful endorsement in this state …
BUSH: I’m marking her down as neutral.
COOPER: Is that right? All right. All right. One way to look at it.
COOPER: How do you convince voters in this state — supporters — your own supporters because I know you’ve been hearing from them in town halls. How do you convince them that you have momentum? That you have a path forward?
BUSH: Well, I do have momentum if you look at the polls and you look at the crowd sizes of our town hall meetings. And the enthusiasm that exists. I’m proud that Lindsey Graham is supporting me. Look, he could have supported two of his colleagues — Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
He’s worked with them in the United States Senate. He chose me because he believes that I would be ready to serve on day one as commander in chief and leader of the free world. And that’s a pretty ringing endorsement for a guy who’s probably the leading national security expert in the United States Senate.
COOPER: You speak about your dad, former President Bush often on the campaign trail or when asked about him on the campaign trail. How has he impacted the way you run, the way you live your life?
BUSH: Wow. Now I’m going to get emotional. He’s the greatest man alive. I — look, Columba — my wife and I have been married 42 years and — next week. And about …
BUSH: I wasn’t pausing for that. Thank you for the round of applause. I was pausing because I was trying to not get emotional here about my dad. About — when I was 25 I think I decided — normally when you’re with — at least I’m a hard charging, striving person. I always want to — people like to strive to be like your parents. It’s kind of a natural thing to do.
I realized pretty quickly in my life if I could be half the man my dad was that that would be a pretty good goal. If I tried to strive to be as good as him it would be impossible. I’d be on a couch getting therapy all the time. My dad is just — put aside the fact that he was the first — the youngest navy pilot in World War II, has served this country in so many different ways including being president.
He’s just a fine man — person of integrity, of honesty, of courage — all the virtues that you would want to have to be inspired by. This guy is the real deal and so half the man of George Bush means you could live a life of purpose and meaning as far as I’m concerned.
COOPER: I want you to meet …
COOPER: I want you to meet some of the voters in the room many of whom …
BUSH: Yeah …
COOPER: Are undecided. This is Steve Hog (ph). He’s Republican. He says he is leaning towards you, Governor Bush. He’s got a question about faith.
QUESTION: Yeah. Don’t mess this up.
BUSH: No pressure on me.
QUESTION: No. Governor, I did not grow up in a religious home. When I was a teenager I became a follower of Jesus Christ and that decision changed me. And it continues to shape who I am and how I see the world. My question is, what is the single most important driving force in your life? What is that one thing above everything that shapes who really are — your core? And if it isn’t faith, what is it? If it is faith, how has your faith changed you not as a politician but as …
BUSH: Right …
QUESTION: A human being, as a man?
BUSH: Great question. Phenomenal question and my life journey as it relates to my faith journey was transformed in 1988 not in any particular way. I didn’t — I wasn’t down. I was just overwhelmed. I was living the tyranny of the present. You know how that feels. Just — when you’re just overwhelmed. I had work, I had family. We just had all sorts of activities.
BUSH: My dad was running for president, and I was working and trying to help him. And I just was overwhelmed, and it forced me to pause and to reflect about the important things of life.
And I started reading the Bible and I — and I accepted Jesus as my savior at that time. And that was an important element of my life.
The second part of my faith journey that was important was when — after the 1994 election and I lost, I decided I wanted to join the faith of my wife. We had gone to — we go to mass, we were going to mass, except I wasn’t a Catholic. That’s kind of cheating in case you were thinking.
So I went to the RCA class. About halfway through — and it was a wonderful experience. I was with real people — this was after an election defeat which was not fun — I learned a lot from the defeat. It made me a much better person. But I — my Catholic journey started then. And on Easter Sabbath of 1997, I became a Catholic, and it informs a lot of how I think about life.
I believe that life is a gift from God, that it’s divinely inspired and that we’re all here for a purpose in life. And if you believe like that, then a lot of the policy and a lot of the thinking that goes with that in the public arena falls quite naturally. It means that you protect life from beginning to end. It means that you respect people that may have disabilities as important as anybody else. If means that you respect everybody and you treat them with dignity and respect.
My faith is an important part of my life. And as — and in public life, I don’t think you put your faith in a lockbox, you know, and say, OK, I’ll do this kind of at home and I’ll do it when I go to the church but I can’t do it openly in the public square.
I think we’re now confronted with a real challenge in our country which is,can we find accommodation in this great country with great diversity — can we find the ability to respect people that may not agree with us on this particular issue, but also allow religious conscience to be front and center in our lives.
The minute we start closing off people acting on their faith in the public square, we’re not being American in my mind. This is the first freedom in our country, and now this is under conversation and maybe under attack depending on — again, we’re back to the question of replacement of Antonin Scalia, both in the 2nd Amendment and religious freedom. These are big issues and I think they should be discussed in the context of the campaign.
COOPER: Thank you for your question. Thank you.
We’ve got a question along those lines. Governor, this is Heather Smith. She’s a Republican who says she’s undecided but she is leaning towards you.
BUSH: Wow, two in a row.
QUESTION: Good evening, Governor. And I’m a Catholic as well, so you have a few of us here. Thank you for being here tonight. With Justice Scalia’s passing, my question to you has to do with the Supreme Court.
QUESTION: Many years ago, our beloved former Senator Strom Thurmond said a president that only has five months left in office should not pick a Supreme Court justice because it’s 120 days to truly vet a nominee. With that being said, our current administration has 11 months in. If you were the current president with 11 months left, would you nominate a Supreme Court justice? And if you did, who would it be?
BUSH: Heather, I don’t — I don’t know who I would pick. I’ll tell you the kind of person I would pick. It would be someone who did not aspire to legislate from the bench. It would be someone with a deep intellectual acumen and persuasive skills because this is a collaborative body. You have to persuade people towards your view, towards your opinion to get to a majority opinion. And it would be someone who has a consistent judicial record.
I think given the context in which we’re operating today, the old notion, the conventional wisdom of picking someone who doesn’t have a record because it’s easier to get that persons passed, that needs to be thrown out the door because we’re living in such a divided society right now, you can assure there’s going to be a fight no matter who you pick. And having someone with a consistent judicial record I think is important so as to avoid the case like David Souter would be an example.
My dad picked him. I’m sure he had the first two. He probably had persuasive skills. He certainly was of — had a, you know, high intellectual acumen I’m sure. But he wandered away from what people thought he was going to be, how he viewed the law, pretty quickly. And he did not have a federal court record from which to operate.
So I would pick someone that was in all likelihood to be in the judiciary already with a proven record. And I would fight. This is — this is hugely important. And I think, frankly, this is a — this is an important subject for this election.
So would I — would I nominate someone? I probably would. Because I — as I said in the debate last Saturday, I’m an Article II guy. I think the presidency should be — we should be respectful of the Constitution, but whatever powers are afforded the presidency, the president ought to use them. They’re there for a purpose.
BUSH: But under — in this current environment, where you have such a divisive kind of environment in Washington, it is unlikely that the Senate would provide the necessary consent for that nomination. And I think it probably is better to have a — make this part of the election.
I’m willing to defend my views about the — you know, the Constitution and how judges should be appointed. The Democratic nominee should probably want to do the same thing.
And then you would have the people deciding, in essence, which president would be the ones that would be nominating not just the replacement for Justice Scalia, this incredible giant — legal giant, this person who I think was the greatest lover of liberty and believed in the limitations of government, but whoever next — whoever the next people are as well.
This should be an important conversation we have. Why not allow it to be part of the election? So I’m — I’m — I’m excited about the prospects of this being an — a — an important election issue. And I hope, with civility and — and a good, solid conversation, we can heighten the awareness of the importance of who — who we select for the next three or four justices.
COOPER: Heather, thank you for your question. (inaudible).
BUSH: Thanks, Heather.
COOPER: Governor, this is…
… this is Brian Bell, he’s a police officer here in Columbia. He says he’s undecided and a Republican. Brian?
BUSH: Hey, Brian.
QUESTION: Good evening, Governor. How are you doing?
BUSH: I’m doing well. Appreciate your service, by the way.
QUESTION: You’re welcome. I’m a combat veteran of the first Gulf War, Somalia and Iraq.
BUSH: Appreciate your service again.
QUESTION: You’re welcome. And I am darn mad. And the reason I’m mad is because I believe this administration — current administration has dropped the ball in fighting ISIS in Iraq, and defeating ISIS in Iraq.
We saw things that happened here in San Bernardino I don’t want to ever happen again in this country. Would a President Bush send ground troops to defeat and destroy ISIS?
BUSH: We have ground troops already in Iraq, but they’re not embedded with the Iraqi military. This is a tragedy of our own doing. When we pulled back, instead of keeping a small force, which was the initial objective, to create stability — a fragile and stable Iraq existed the day that Barack Obama came into office.
When he did not renew the — the agreement with the Iraqi government to allow for troops to stay there, that void was filled by sectarianism that once again kind of unraveled Iraq. And it created ISIS.
Al Qaida in — in Iraq was devastated. Was gone. But the recreation of a caliphate the size of Indiana between Syria and Iraq is because we pulled back and the Iraqis did not have a — a sustainable kind of national government.
So what should we do? I think we should embed our existing troops — 3,500 or more now. I don’t know the exact number. It seems like it’s incrementally going up without a lot of big fanfare.
But I think we ought to embed those troops inside the Iraqi military to give them the training and the backbone necessary for that fighting force to be re-established.
I think we need to re-establish the partnership with the Sunni tribal leaders that led to the heroic efforts of the U.S. Armed Forces and the Sunni — Sunni forces to create the surge that brought about this fragile, but stable Iraq.
And the blood of American soldiers was — was — was lost because of this, and was squandered by this administration’s lack of continuation of the efforts.
I think we need to arm the Kurds directly with more sophisticated weapons. I think we need to get the lawyers off the backs of the warfighters. Now we have approvals required for the sorties that go out from the bases, and — and at least half of the sorties don’t drop their ordnances, because they can’t get the approval.
We need air controllers forward leaning to make sure that — that we can identify and target the terrorists in a — in a very targeted way. All of this together will bring about the defeat of ISIS.
But it can’t just be done in Iraq. It has to be done in Syria as well. And this is where it gets more dicey, if you will, because in the case of Syria, we’ve allowed Russia to establish a military presence back in the Middle East for the first time in 40 years.
We’ve done this in a way that is devastating. We’ve negotiated with the Iranians, legitimized the regime. And what do they do, instead of quietly allowing for dissent inside their country? They execute two or three people a day, and they’re using this money to double down on their efforts to support the — the Iraqi — the Shia militia and Hezbollah in — in Syria.
So this problem has been made worse, but that does not mean that we don’t have a — a duty to be able to protect ourselves by being on the offensive there, which means we need to create safe zones.
You want to solve the refugee problem? Create safe zones inside of Syria instead of allowing millions to be uprooted and creating a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism if we don’t watch it, by not dealing with the problem in Syria.
BUSH: We need a no-fly zone. And that will be in conflict with the Russians, but my personal belief is the Russians should be more worried about the United States Air Force capabilities than us being worried about them.
And then finally…
… finally, it will take more than 50 special operators to embed those troops inside of a Sunni-led force that is organized to destroy ISIS, and be ultimately the political force that will bring about regime change. Assad has to go as well.
This won’t happen overnight. This will be a complicated challenge. But for us, who? In effect, when we pull back and we lead from behind and we talk about red lines, we create chaos. That’s what we see. We see a president that is not exerting United States leadership. And he calls us an occupying force or calls us the world policeman, or argues that anybody that is against his nuanced view is somehow in cahoots with the death to America crowd.
I don’t think that’s the proper way to lead. I think American leadership is necessary to be clear and overt and strong. That’s how you draw the rest of the Arab world to this. That’s how you draw Europe to create a fighting force that can win.
COOPER: Governor, let me just follow up.
COOPER: You — you put the responsibility on President Obama for not signing a status of forces agreement which would have allowed U.S. troops to stay.
COOPER: The prior administration, your brother’s administration, negotiated an agreement and wasn’t able to reach an agreement.
BUSH: Well, they negotiated an agreement that expired in 2012. And the intent — the clear intent was to renegotiate that and extend it. And President Obama now says, well, it was impossible because there were liability issues with the, you know, with the — they couldn’t get it past the legislature.
COOPER: The Iraqi government would not grant…
BUSH: And he said — he could have gotten it if he — if he had gotten the assurance from the president. What he couldn’t get was the assurance from the legislature. It was an easy out for him.
COOPER: The Iraqi legislature.
COOPER: Right — the congress, whatever…
COOPER: I want you to meet Will McCutcheon (ph). He’s a student here. He’s a Republican who says he’s still undecided.
BUSH: Hey, Will.
QUESTION: Governor Bush, I’m a student here at the University of South Carolina. Recreational drug use has become relatively commonplace on college campuses. As we look, and as a student here, I observe that one of the most frequently used drugs is marijuana. And advocates for it would say that it’s harmless; that it’s not physically addictive. Yet I’ve watched several friends, close relatives, people who were like brothers to me, become frequent users of the drug; become unable to do just basic functions like sleeping and eating without smoking beforehand.
What is your stance on legalization of recreational drug use? And also, if elected president, what are you going to do to combat drug abuse and addiction in this country?
BUSH: Two separate distinct questions, both of which are really important, Will. The idea that recreational drug — the terminology is probably a little misleading if you think about it, because of the potency of — of this generation of marijuana. It has major impacts — neurological impacts. There are scores of studies that suggest this.
And yet it’s laughed off because culturally that’s an obsolete notion. Well, it isn’t. My wife was on the board of CASA, the leading advocate of research and development dealing with addiction and dealing with drug use and alcohol use in this country. And you — just go on their website and see the devastating nature of, to your point, of the abuse of marijuana and the devastating impacts that has on productivity; the impacts it has on brain damage.
This is not some idle kind of conversation. This is a serious problem. Addiction in general is a huge problem for our country. If you believe like I — like I said, informed by my faith that we all are here for a purpose, and if we could imagine everybody reaching their full potential, that we’d have a lot less government. We would have a much, much more compassionate and loving society; a much more prosperous society.
That — that I can see, looking over the horizon. Well, with addiction, that makes it harder. Alcohol and drug abuse is a serious problem that crosses all ethnic lines, income lines. Colum and I have struggled with, as parents of a daughter who — who is now 10 years drug-free. But she got into the criminal justice system because of her addictions. There are a lot of people that have mental health challenges combined with addiction.
So here’s what I think we should do. My first impulse on all of these issues is a bottom-up approach, rather than a top-down approach, where Washington should be the partner to help solve these problems. But we should recognize that we should change — I’ll give you three things that we ought to do.
BUSH: We ought to have a — we ought to have a focus on the brain. Talking about moon shots — here’s a moon shot for you. Why don’t we discover the brain, its complexities?
You think about the challenges — neurological challenges that play out in our society — drug addiction, alcohol addiction, Alzheimer’s, autism — all of these things relate to the brain and this extraordinary capability we have to discover drugs to cure disease. We have not been as advanced, as it relates to the brain. And I think that’s one place the federal government can play an important role.
Secondly, we need to look at our criminal justice system — 50 percent of all prisoners in our federal system are there because of drug use, in a — in a variety of different ways — 50 percent. That’s much higher than the — than states, generally.
But I think we ought to review this. Maybe we should focus a little bit more on treatment and a little less on — on punishment. You go talk to the sheriffs wherever you live, and the police chiefs — whoever runs the — the jails, and you’ll find that a lot of people that are addicted to drugs are being housed in our jails, rather than getting treatment.
It costs a lot more to keep someone in jail than it does to give them treatment along the way. In Florida, we created a huge strategy to deal with this, and we created drug courts all across the state, to give people a second chance.
The adjudication was withheld for the crime that might — might have gone along with their addiction, but in return, you had to get straight. You had to become drug free, and you had to be in recovery. That is a far better approach in our society, I think, than just putting people away without giving them the kind of treatment that — that they need.
My wife was the madrina of the prevention movement in Florida. And we saw dramatic reductions, particularly among teenagers, because we also focused on prevention. Greater awareness, greater education was important, particularly for young people.
And we did one final thing that I think government ought to do a lot more of, which is a good, solid business practice — we benchmarked it. We actually measured where we were. And when things were going well, we continued on the strategy that we had. And when it wasn’t working, we adjusted our strategy. We made this a serious effort, and we were successful. And I think the president could play a significant role in making sure that communities and states did the exact same thing. I appreciate the question.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. Thank you, Governor Bush.
COOPER: Governor, this is…
… this is Daniel Morales. He’s a Republican, he says he’s undecided.
BUSH: Your name’s Daniel, I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Yes, correct.
BUSH: How you doing, Daniel?
QUESTION: Good, how are you?
QUESTION: Hey — local business owner here in the area. Just have a question about your marriage. So a lot of the most memorable, influential leaders, whether it’s Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr. — they all had these marriages that were a significant impact in their leadership.
QUESTION: So my question is — is how has your wife and your marriage influenced your leadership?
BUSH: Well, this is — Sweetie, this is going to be your anniversary present.
So I’m — we’re — we’ll have 42 years of marriage next week, on February 23rd, and it’s been a — it’s been a joyous ride, as far as I’m concerned.
I met my wife in Leon Guanajuato, Mexico, when I was 17 years old, on a Sunday afternoon, about 5 o’clock. I can remember — I can remember exactly where I was on the town square. And I remember exactly what she looked like, to this day, 45 years ago, and I fell madly in love — head over heels, lightning bolt in love.
I lost — I was skinnier back then. I lost — I lost, like, 20 pounds. I think I probably weighed, like, 175 after two weeks of — of hanging out with Columba. And she was the most beautiful girl I ever met in my life, and I decided I was going to marry her right then and now. I mean — she said I was too tall. Who would have thought that?
But we ended up — finally, I convinced her that this was the right thing to do, and we got married. She was 20 and I was 21, and we — we’ve been on our life journey ever since. She is my inspiration.
I tell people my life can be divided in a lot of ways, but the most important way, perhaps, is A.C. and B.C. — you know, Before Columba and After Columba. And the After Columba part of my life has been a lot better. I’m a lot better person because of it as well.
Love you, dear.
QUESTION: Thank you.
COOPER: I — actually, I read something from your son, Jeb Jr., who said that you guys speak Spanish in the home. Is that true?
BUSH: Yeah. Yeah.
COOPER: Pretty much exclusively?
COOPER: You must be pretty good.
BUSH: … yeah. No, I — I’m fluent. I’m — I’m — I’m bilingual.
We can do it — si quieres hacer esta entrevista en Espanol, los hemos.
BUSH: Yeah, it’s an — it’s an advantage in life to able to have — you know, a — we have a bicultural relationship, and — and it brings a diversity and a joy to — and a — it just — it adds lot of vitality to my life.
And so, yeah, I speak Spanish.
COOPER: I wish I did. I want you to meet — sorry. John Whitaker. John, what’s your question?
QUESTION: Governor Bush, as a local financial adviser, I worry a lot about debt. I dislike debt.
QUESTION: And we have quickly seen our country go from $9 trillion in national debt to 19 trillion (dollars). If elected, what could you do to help slow entitlement spending, to help get the debt under control to protect future generations?
BUSH: Well first of all, we need to create a culture of savings rather than a culture of debt, not just for the government, but for all of us. If you think about it — and you know this because you’re in this business — 60 percent of Americans can’t make a — 63 percent of Americans can’t make a $500 car payment. They don’t have the cash to do that. And 60 percent of Americans don’t have more than $1,000 of cash available to deal with whatever — you know, whatever comes their way.
A lot of people are living paycheck to paycheck and they’re struggling. They’re struggling. In any kind of hardship, there’s no security, there’s no — there’s no safety net for them, and it creates real hardship. So whatever we do, we also need to be promoting and providing incentives for savings.
My little business — my son Jeb is here, we had a business of four people, and I decided we were going to have a 401(k). It costs $1,000 to open up the 401(k). A four-person business, that’s a cost that is really — you know, I probably shouldn’t have done it if it was just simply based on a sound business decision.
But we should allow businesses to pool their money, to pool their employees to create 401(k) opportunities over a broader scale, like large businesses have the opportunity to do. We should allow businesses to, instead of having a 401(k) if they don’t want to do that, to get a tax-free deduction to invest in their employees’ IRA, which is another way of doing this.
I think Social Security beneficiaries, once they reach retirement age and they’re continuing to work, should not have to pay the employee portion of the payroll tax. It’s their money, they’ve already made the contributions into the Social Security system, why not allow them to keep the 6-plus percent going directly to their pockets. It’s a form of retirement savings, it just stays in their pocket instead of getting — going through the government process. There’s a lot of ways that we should promote private savings is my point.
As it relates to fixing the debt from government, there are three things that we have to do — I’d say four. One, grow the economy at 4 percent, not 2 percent. That 2 percent incremental growth, if you just do the compounding out, given the scale of our economy, you would create a Germany of additional economic activity in the 10th year if we created a high growth strategy. And a Germany of economic activity is a heck of a lot of revenue that would be coming into the federal government.
So growing at a faster rate, which means tax reform, regulatory reform, embracing the energy revolution, dealing with the things that are now impeding our ability to invest in our own country — and I have specific plans. If you’re interested, jeb2016.com. If you want to have a wonk-a-thon, a policy wonk-a-thon, every one of the detailed plans we laid out are there.
Secondly, we need career civil service reforms. There shouldn’t be lifetime guarantees for government workers. Government workers in Washington get paid 40 percent more than their equivalent workers in the private sector. Why? They’re supposed to be the servants, not the masters. But yet, we’ve allowed this to happen because they have these protections that make it harder to adjust to reform, to challenge.
People — we’re stuck — we’re stuck in a 20th century world where — the 20th century’s bureaucracy in a 21st century world. So I did that as governor of the state of Florida, we have to do it in Washington.
Third, we need entitlement reform, as you said, and we need to reform our Social Security system. I would repeal Obamacare and replace it with a consumer-directed model that would, in lieu of all of the subsidies and taxes and all the mandates, we would shift all this away from Washington, create state exchanges that are not coercive and have catastrophic coverage to be the norm, low-premium, catastrophic coverage, with pre-existing conditions being the one standard that would be kept from Obamacare and allowing your young adults, children, to be able to stay on your plan should you so desire and give people that aren’t receiving insurance through their company a $3,100 tax credit, a refundable tax credit to allow them to purchase on exchanges, allow them to cross lines, allow them to pick the best plan for themselves and their families.
This would be a far less costly way and would deal with these out-year costs of Obamacare that are going to be devastating. Similarly, Medicare needs to have reforms and Social Security. And I would — I would create — I would push Medicaid back to the states.
BUSH: I know — if I was governor today of Florida, I could take the Medicaid dollars that the state right now has and create a Medicaid — 21st century Medicaid program for people of low income that would cost less and would have significantly better outcomes. As long as Washington didn’t impose the rules on it, you could too. That’s the beauty of this is common sense applied without all the rules around it we could recast a lot of these programs.
So shifting power away from Washington is the other way to deal with the deficit. You do those four things: high growth, reasonable (ph) service reform, entitlement reform and shifting how we educate, transportation, every possible thing back to the states. I want to be the second — the tenth amendment president because the government in Washington was not designed to do all the things that it’s doing now.
That’s how you get back to moving towards a balanced budget. We can do it. I believe in my heart that we can.
COOPER: Thank you …
BUSH: Thank you …
COOPER: Governor, if you’ll just have a seat. We just have a couple of — usually like to end these with just a couple of lighter personal questions.
BUSH: We’re finished?
COOPER: Well, just kind of …
BUSH: I was just warming up.
COOPER: What kind of music do you listen to?
BUSH: I listen to country music mostly. Zach Brown (ph). The — Tim Miller (ph) is my communications director thinks it’s crazy but the song I come out to for all our town hall meetings I actually like. So I listen to the same songs that we play on our — in our meetings because I actually like the song. Florida, Georgia band I like …
COOPER: How do you relax?
BUSH: How do I relax?
COOPER: You’re governor — your brother paints now. What do you …
BUSH: Yeah. That’s really weird.
COOPER: Has he painted you …
BUSH: I still haven’t quite — no. No. I’m waiting for the primitive era to be finished before we — no. He’s actually pretty good at it. He told some poor — some art teacher. He called him up — call her up out of the blue and said, “this is George Bush. I want to learn how to paint. There’s a Rembrant inside of me and you’re job is to bring the Rembrant out.”
Talk about pressure but he’s gotten pretty good at it. I don’t — I don’t warrant a picture yet.
COOPER: What do you like to do though?
BUSH: What do I like to do?
COOPER: To relax?
BUSH: To relax? I like to do Sunday fun day with my two precious granddaughters that live in Miami with Jeb junior and Sandra (ph). I make guacamole and Jeb cooks on the grill. I like hanging out with my granddaughters and grandsons when I get a chance. I like playing speed golf and I like reading. I love reading. I learned that from my momma …
COOPER: What are you — are you reading anything now?
BUSH: I just finished the John Meacham book on my dad and it was interesting. I learned more about my dad than I thought I would. I thought I actually knew everything and it wasn’t even close. He wrote a diary over a long period of his life and Meacham had approval to read the diary. And mom was the editor.
He had to get approval to put stuff in the book and it was pretty extraordinary. He’s a great writer and it’s a really good book.
COOPER: Is there something in particular you learned that you …
BUSH: I learned of how tough it was to loose in 1992. He didn’t share that. He’s part of the generation that you don’t show your emotions. You grind through, you stiff upper lip or whatever it is. You don’t — we’re now — people in my generation are all like — they’re kind of more like Bill Clinton.
It’s all — you have to emote and it’s kind of more — a little bit more about — about the person rather than my dad’s generation was much more selfless I think. And less about them and more about helping others. So he didn’t ever express any kind of deep disappointment but it was there. It was real and shouldn’t be — I shouldn’t have been surprised by that. He lost an election. He felt like he let people down. He wanted to serve. He was a great president and I think the country would have been better off had he won but he also eventually accepted it and moved on and had a great post-presidency.
COOPER: I’ve heard you say that you’re an introvert. I’m a complete …
BUSH: Yeah …
COOPER: I’m a complete introvert. It’s very strange that I’m on television …
BUSH: No …
COOPER: Yeah. But is it — is it …
BUSH: That’s even stranger than me.
COOPER: No, but is it hard to campaign as an introvert?
BUSH: I — you’ll know this. You’ll appreciate this because introverts set goals …
COOPER: Right, yes.
BUSH: And they grind and they just like — they just go at it …
BUSH: Which is a pretty good thing to be when you’re running for president when you’ve been written off over and over and over again. And you’re not deterred by that. In fact, that just makes me more motivated, more energized. So I’ve overcome my introversion which makes me I think better — better than an extrovert.
COOPER: How do you do that? You propel yourself forward?
BUSH: Yeah. I just — I think I connect better with people because I learned how to do it. It wasn’t something that came naturally. It’s not about me and the greatest jobs that I have are town hall meetings where I’m learning. Introverts like to learn, too.
They don’t like to talk about everything, they like to listen. And my — in my experience listening allows you to learn and then you have a chance to lead. Rather than being a big blow hard and just talking all the time. What are you going to learn when you’re talking? Nothing.
COOPER: Governor Bush, thank you very much.
BUSH: Thank you, guys. Thank you.
COOPER: Thank you.
BUSH: I go out this way?
COOPER: Yes, sir.
COOPER: Oh, sorry. All right. At the break. Governor Bush — we’ll thank Governor Bush for joining us and when we come back, Donald Trump. We’ll be right back.