July 9th, 2009
02:06 PM ET
5 years ago

Jeb Bush: 'I don't know' if Obama is a socialist

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is part of the effort, led by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, to re-brand the GOP.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is part of the effort, led by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, to re-brand the GOP.

(CNN) – Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told an interviewer that he could not say whether or not President Barack Obama is a socialist, and that the president would not have been elected if he had been honest with Americans about his agenda.

Bush would not answer the question of whether he agreed with the assessment of some congressional Republicans that the president is a socialist. "I don't know. Define socialism for me," he told Esquire magazine. "It's a word... I believe he's a collectivist. He believes that through collective action, through government, you can solve more problems." He added that he believed the word "socialism" was a pejorative, and "didn't help" the GOP make its case.

The brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H.W. Bush dismissed the idea that his party's policies were unpopular with most Americans. "I don't think there's any seismic shift. The Democrats have won on tactics," he said. "Barack Obama would not have gotten elected if he'd let us in on his secret plan prior to the election," he said, pointing to the president's economic agenda and energy proposals.

"....He made it appear like McCain was going to raise taxes, which was unfair, but there was no response back. When there was an ideological component, it was generally centrist or even center-right. Had he said what he was going to do as a candidate, (Obama) would have lost."

He downplayed the president's approval ratings, which remain above average. "First of all, who cares?" he said.

"His popularity is no greater – in fact it's less – than what my brother's was during the beginning of his tenure, in a time of unbelievable friction, if you think about it, because of the 2000 election. His approval ratings were higher than Barack Obama's during his first one hundred days."

According to the most recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation polls, Obama's approval ratings have averaged several points higher than President George W. Bush's were at the same point in their presidencies.

Told that Joe the Plumber had briefed congressional Republicans on Gaza, Bush launched into a defense of intellectualism. "I think it's okay to have a deeper understanding of things. I think it's okay to talk in three-syllable words. The world we're living in is incredibly complex," he told the magazine. "And simplifying things to the point where you're misunderstanding where we are as a nation isn't going to help people overcome their fears or give them hope that they can achieve great things. I don't get inspired by shameless populism."

Bush called conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh "a hugely important force for the conservative movement," but added that he was "more interested in elected officials, how they behave."

"I feel happy for Rush to get all this attention. He's one part of a mosaic of people and thought in the conservative movement," he said. "I don't think you can discount his importance. At the same time, he's not an elected official, so I think he has a different responsibility."

Asked by Esquire to name the leaders of the Republican Party, Bush included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, but did not mention 2012 GOP frontrunners Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin.

He discounted the idea he might run for president one day. "Frankly I don't wake up each day assuming I'm the solution to life's problems" - and said he was not upset by observers who say his last name would keep him out of the Oval Office: "It doesn't bother me. I feel blessed. I have a blessed life. I don't feel like life has been unfair at all. I got to be governor of a fantastic state. I got to do what I said I was going to do."


Filed under: Jeb Bush
soundoff (302 Responses)
  1. Jack

    Just what we need, another Bush wanting to add his two cents. Hasn't his family done enough damage to this country? And how are the people of Florida doing these days? Highest foreclosure rate in the country, highest unemployment rate in the country and lowest standard of living all because of the policies of his brother. He's done wonders for the people of Florida.

    July 9, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  2. Robert

    2 Bush presidents was enough. Keep dreaming of your chances in 2012.

    July 9, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  3. To: DT

    "…and now let all the brainless, zombie, lefties get in their abject comparisons to his brother. Here they come."

    I think your posting is what Jeb is talking about in reference to "didn't help"

    July 9, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  4. Bruce D

    Is there a more toxic family in the world than the Flying Bushes? Not content to having Dubyas ultimate 8 year disaster of a govt on their family resume, now we have the other family idiot chiming in. Seriously, considering what this family have foisted on the nation and the world, they should hang their heads and leave the country.

    July 9, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  5. D.Tin

    Jeb we know that you will be running for president in 2012. When the majority of the people have lost their jobs, have no healthcare, are homeless, are hungry, then yes we need to have a social agenda in such a situation. If you do not then, you might have a repeat of the "french revolution". In our local case many killings, burglaries and other forms of violence. Cities are strapped for cash to provide the protection it needs for its residents, cutting police forces and firefighters. So it is irresponsible and selfish and just not Christian to not think of the social plight of others!

    July 9, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  6. SkiDoc

    A good, honest assessment of a failing president whose failed economic policies are worsening the so-called "inherited" problems. Whether it is collectivism or socialism doesn't matter. This country is spiralling downward into economic and social ruin. It is truly sad to watch our once-great American way of life languish. And, Lord help us if, in Biden's words, this guy is ever "tested" on the terrorist stage. He is simply not up to it.

    July 9, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  7. Michael Marsh

    Go Jeb! I saw the Play "Little Shop of Horrors" last night, and couldnt help but make the comparison of Obama's Government with Audry 2 (the alien plant) everytime it said "Feed me!". Audry 2 is in the house, and will need to be fed again soon. Sure sounds like socialism.

    July 9, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  8. David

    This is the problem with American; not willing to discuss issue’s as they are. Jeb Bush is really in no position to be passing judgment in any shape or form on anyone considering his record in Florida. I would ashamed to be a governor of a state that’s not able to count electoral votes. I find it incredible insulting that republicans kept quite as GWB ran this country into the ground for 8 years and never once address issue’s and concerns as their President and Vice President benefited enormously from the rush to war.

    Not to mention how the republican President played with the levels of security, by raising a lowering our threat levels to keep America scared and uninformed.

    By the way Jeb, during the presidential debates then, Senator Obama defended his tax plan based upon truth unlike Senator McCain who was unable to formulate an actually working tax plan. For your assessment of Rush Limbaugh as hugely important to conservatives, really demonstrates the need of a new impartial view point. It’s quite sad to see, just how desperate the republican part really is to put your parties’ ideas in a former drug user hands is beyond approach.

    July 9, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  9. Oregon calling

    And this coming from a person who assisted with the 2000 election? Give us a break!

    Peace :-)

    July 9, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  10. George Jetson

    I guess G.W. Bush's secret plan was to wreck the world economy

    July 9, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  11. cream

    Hilarious!!!!!

    July 9, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  12. cramit

    Obama HAS done more ! And Osama doesn't like the competion.

    Trillions and trillions more

    May America rest in peace

    July 9, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  13. Hary Widdifield

    Jeb is not his brother. A feeding frenzy of those who hate him for his bloodline will only serve to cost us in the longrun. I found Jeb's answers to questions surprisingly thoughtful and without malice. We can't listen to a man through hate filled eyes and expect to see anything but bad... just a we can't look at a man through the eyes of a worshipper and see anything other than a God.

    July 9, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  14. sadieg45

    Give me a freaking break. You don't know if President Obama is a socialist. What about your idiot brother? Was he a socialist? After all his administration is the one who introduced TARP. What was President Obama supposed to do? Should he have continued to allow the bank to do as they saw fit with my freaking tax dollars? Are you kidding me? We all should be greatful that the President had enough sense to actually put some strings on the funds. If there were no restriction as Bush allowed all the banks would still have our tax dollars, so please stop this nonsense about whether President Obama is a socialist.

    July 9, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  15. PAUL

    The Bush's never change or disappear. They love the brainless one Rush Lumbaugh and patronize their rich frients. The Bush's started out OK with Prescott Bush but heirs have ideas that have have putrified like a good steak standing on a table uneaten for hours.

    July 9, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  16. jimmy

    You and your republican friends lost; get over it !!! I am a christian who is tired of the Bushs and their kinds who wants the rest of us to believe that they stand for our values. Really? Well let's see; starting a war for no reason, refusing to help those who are struggling in life, firing people (the DAs) from their jobs for personal vendetta...etc. You Mr Jeb Bush have the audacity to express your condemnation about Pr. Obama being a socialist? For what? For wanting to stop an illegal war? For wanting to help the 42 million uninsured for health care? For working hard to create jobs for the country? Sir please go get saved; perhaps then you too will become a caring politician like Pr. Obama.

    July 9, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  17. midwest

    Golly Jeb. Don't really know what socialism is? How about tax breaks to oil and gas companies during years of never before seen profits? How about no bid contracts to supply our military? How about consolidation of corporations and banking interests? Seems to me the legacy of the Republicans is corporate socialism.

    July 9, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  18. Carol

    Hey, Jeb! What about the eight years of your brothers' incompetency that sent us to war and to the brink of financial disaster? Remember that?

    July 9, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  19. Mike D

    "I don't think there's any seismic shift. The Democrats have won on tactics,"

    Like the tactic of having a brother be the govenor of the swing state in the election?

    July 9, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  20. Steve Thrasher

    And who cares about Jeb Bush? Republicans knocking Obama on the economy after what happened on their watch is laughable. The hypocrisy never stops.

    July 9, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  21. matt

    funny how the only response democrats ever have to logical arguments is "george bush was bad". I agree with that – voted for him twice and did not like a lot of what he did. But just once, I would like to see the majority of democrats discuss the issue. Of course, that can't happen. The one Obama voter who has commented here and actually addressed the issue agrees that if Obama had made his plans known, he wouldn't have been elected. All the other democrats just hate Bush. Y'all should maybe look at Bin Laden and see where hate gets you.

    July 9, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  22. Bill

    Jeb illustrates that deep thoughtfulness is not a characteristic that runs in the Bush family

    July 9, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  23. Johnsonj3

    Why don"t all the Bushes just go away. Where was he when his big brother was putting the lives of our young men and women in a war zone to be killed. Stop trying to make it look like our President is the reason why all this mess has happen. Shut your mouths and get a life.

    July 9, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  24. purna

    Obama is a collectivist? and thats a bad thing? I mean we certainly dont want at singularist right? is that what Jeb Bush is advocating? A ruler for the USA?

    I

    July 9, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  25. Eileen

    Jeb just proved he's as big a nitwit as his idiot brother.

    C'mon Jeb, let us all in on Obama's "secret plan".

    Thankfully, the bush name is now toxic in American politics.

    July 9, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
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