Jeb Bush: 'I'm a conservative'
November 19th, 2013
10:01 AM ET
10 months ago

Jeb Bush: 'I'm a conservative'

(CNN) - Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush predicted Monday night Congress would pass a series of immigration bills next year and touted his conservative credentials as he talked about his thought process on a potential 2016 presidential bid.

In a wide-ranging, onstage interview at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Bush said he didn't necessarily agree with his mother, who joked there have been "enough Bushes" in the White House.

The Spanish-speaking former governor also took a slight dig at another potential 2016 contender, Sen. Ted Cruz, for his Spanish language skills.

'I'm a conservative'

At one point in the discussion, moderated by Thane Rosenbaum, director of the Forum on Law, Culture & Society, Bush was asked whether the tea party could coexist with moderates like himself and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Feigning shock that he was called a moderate, Bush argued that his style may be different but he's still a conservative at heart.

"I'm a conservative–a practicing one. I'm not a talk-about it one," he said, listing off the ways in which he cut taxes and downsized government during his two-terms as Florida governor. "I would put my record up against anybody that is in Congress right now."

Bush, however, says it's his tone that separates him from some others in his party.

"It's OK to have a tone that is not nasty or mean spirited–what good does that do? The harshness of our message is the bigger issue, I think, than the differences, the nuances, the different strains of conservative thought," he said.

'Make these decisions like a grown up'

With Bush considered a potential favorite in a GOP presidential primary, the former governor said he hasn't made up his mind yet, nor has he sought advice from his famous family.

"I'm trying to avoid the family conversation to be honest with you. I want to defer that to when it matters," he said. "There's a time to make a decision. You shouldn't make it too early, you shouldn't make it too late. There's a time. There's a window. And this is not the time for me. This is the time to show a little self-restraint."

His mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, weighed in on the question earlier this year, saying she thinks her son is "by far the best qualified man" but she isn't the biggest fan of a 2016 run.

"There are a lot of great families, and it's not just four families or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified and we've had enough Bushes," she said on NBC.

Bush said he listens to his mom, but doesn't always agree with her-and vice versa.

"Even when I was a teenager, I'd listen to her respectfully and never always followed what she said, even though she was probably right. And now at the age of 60, I really feel I don't have to listen to every word she says," he said, drawing laughs. "At some point you got to make these decisions like a grown up."

Would Jeb Bush's biggest problem in 2016 be another Bush?

The former governor didn't talk too much about other potential candidates, though he did take a subtle swipe at Cruz, the junior Senator from Texas. When jokingly reminded that Cruz speaks some Spanish, Bush cracked: "Not much."

Cruz last year declined a challenge from his opponent to hold a debate in Spanish during his Senate bid, and told the media he was not as fluent in Spanish as his father, who was born in Cuba.

"I'm not sure Ted speaks much Spanish," said Bush, who's fluent in the language. "His dad speaks fluent Spanish. He's a Cuban immigrant. He has a wonderful story to tell, a very powerful one."

'You win by expanding your party'

Can Republicans take back the White House?

Bush said there will be a natural counter-reaction to the party in power by 2016, saying the same thing happened to his brother in the White House, but added the GOP needs more than that to reclaim the Oval Office.

"For the Republicans to win, I think we need to focus on a message that is more hopeful and optimistic and more positive and less reactionary to what we have now. And it should be more inclusive," he said.

"You don't do that by narrowing your party and by purifying your party…You win by expanding your party and you do that by creating a totally different tone to your message that draws people in," he added.

That includes finding a solution for the country's broken immigration system. As the former governor of a state with large swaths of immigrants and the husband of a woman born in Mexico, Bush has made immigration a major policy focus in his career and co-authored a book this year called "Immigration Wars."

Jeb Bush's controversial immigration proposals

"Immediately after the (2012) election, there was a lot of therapy, self-therapy–we must change, we must embrace diversity–that's kind of gone away now," he said, referring to the GOP's major shortcomings among the Latino vote in last year's elections.

While the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill-in part spearheaded by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida-the bill has gone nowhere in the GOP controlled House, and House Speaker John Boehner reiterated this month that the House won't be holding a vote on it this year.

A number of House conservatives take issue with the Senate bill's eventual pathway to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants.

Boehner rules out immigration reform this year

Bush said he supports the Senate's version, a comprehensive package, but expects it will be stripped down and passed through multiple bills in the House next spring, which he said "wouldn't be a bad thing."

"If those elements are done separately and passed, you could go to conference and deal with it," he said.

"I've talked to Speaker Boehner, and he's totally committed to this but he needs to find a way to get enough of the support," he said.

Family ties

Belonging to one of the most famous political families in American history, Bush answered questions about his father, brother and son, George P. Bush, who's now running for a statewide office in Texas.

"It's hard to be a son of a candidate. It's hard to be a brother of a candidate. I think it may be the hardest thing to be the dad of the candidate. Now I appreciate my poor dad's anxiety of having two sons run at the same time," he said, referring to his own run for governor in Florida and his brother's run for governor in Texas.

His father, former President George H.W. Bush is in "great spirits" and in "a good place," Bush said. The elder Bush, 89, spent weeks in intensive care nearly a year ago.

"He's not as mobile as he'd like to be," Bush said. "I was hoping that maybe on the 90th (birthday) he would jump out of a plane...it's a little unlikely."

The former president famously celebrated his 85th birthday by going skydiving.

As for his brother, George W. Bush, Bush said he believes "history will be kind" to the former President but joked that he has been "mis-underappreciated."


Filed under: 2016 • Immigration • Jeb Bush
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Malory Archer

    As a fifth generation Florida native my advice to you is this: when you think of this guy you only need to remember one word – Flori-duh!

    November 19, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  2. Evergreen

    Jeb, listen to your mother.

    November 19, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. Data Driven

    Great. Who cares.

    November 19, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  4. Gurgyl

    Is that a "Diploma"?

    November 19, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. Anonymous

    Wouldn't he just luv being President of the United States, then he could fast track his son to the Governorship
    of Texas. After all, George P. will soon be Railroad Commissioner of Texas and the next step would be
    Governor............after Greg Abbott digs us even deeper into the tea party hole.. .

    November 19, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  6. Randy, San Francisco

    Jeb is another moderate pandering to the Tea Party extremist right wing of the party. If nominated by his party, he will have trouble moving back to the middle of the political spectrum in a general election. This will cost him votes with moderates, independents, women, and minorities.

    November 19, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  7. S.B. Stein

    The problem isn't if he is a conservative in word or in practice. Look at Christie who is a loud mouth blow hard conserative who accepted federal help with Sandy recovery (not that it happened all that fast or work well thanks to him). The question is can you work reasonably with the other side and not bully brow beat the other side into doing what you want.

    November 19, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  8. Silence DoGood

    Florida and the Bush presidential election: The event that showed conservatives don't care about state's rights when convenient. (used Supreme Court to overturn Florida voting laws) End the myth: Conservatives love big government and spending when it is executing their vision of morality.

    November 19, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  9. The Real Tom Paine

    Don't run. Why subject yourself to the hatred and arrogance of the people that highjacked your party? Besides, you can make a bigger difference outside of the WH.

    November 19, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  10. Malory Archer

    Silence DoGood

    Florida and the Bush presidential election......................

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Let us also not forget it was in Florida that the 9/11 hijackers trained to fly planes – but not land them – at a small airport owned by one of jebbo's deep pocketed campaign contributors and personal friend. And the guy never once thought that seemed suspicious.

    November 19, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  11. Thomas

    yes , your a conservative , and your a BUSH !

    An American Rothschild

    November 19, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  12. kathy43110katie

    I guess he's redefining "conservative" just like liberals redefined "marriage".

    November 19, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    -Malory Archer

    Silence DoGood

    Florida and the Bush presidential election......................

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Let us also not forget it was in Florida that the 9/11 hijackers trained to fly planes – but not land them – at a small airport owned by one of jebbo's deep pocketed campaign contributors and personal friend. And the guy never once thought that seemed suspicious.
    *****************
    With all due respect, don't you think that's a bit of a stretch?

    November 19, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  14. ghostwriter

    I am a conservative! Really, guys! I am. I can prove it....."I hate Obama!" See? Isn't that proof enough?

    November 19, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  15. Marie MD

    No more shrubs in the WH.
    Your brother left a war criminal legacy and thousands of dead and maimed bodies in his wake that will stand for centuries if Earth last that long.
    The Supreme Court fools are not going to hand you the election either!

    November 19, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  16. Malory Archer

    The Real Tom Paine

    -Malory Archer

    Silence DoGood

    Florida and the Bush presidential election......................

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Let us also not forget it was in Florida that the 9/11 hijackers trained to fly planes – but not land them – at a small airport owned by one of jebbo's deep pocketed campaign contributors and personal friend. And the guy never once thought that seemed suspicious.
    *****************
    With all due respect, don't you think that's a bit of a stretch?

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Nope.

    November 19, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  17. Malory Archer

    The Real Tom Paine

    -Malory Archer

    Silence DoGood

    Florida and the Bush presidential election......................

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Let us also not forget it was in Florida that the 9/11 hijackers trained to fly planes – but not land them – at a small airport owned by one of jebbo's deep pocketed campaign contributors and personal friend. And the guy never once thought that seemed suspicious.
    *****************
    With all due respect, don't you think that's a bit of a stretch?

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Not when every single word of it is true.

    November 19, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  18. vic , nashville ,tn

    Pathetic
    “I am a conservative” , “I am a severely conservative”
    Every republican candidates future slogans

    November 19, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  19. tom l

    Mallory,

    I think you need to calm down a bit. I know you're upset that the website isn't working but we know that will be eventually fixed (and they even have a goal of 4 out of every 5 being able to use it!). You should be more upset that our president lied to us. I know it upset you when Bush lied about WMD's (as I know you believe) and you just have to realize that's what politicians do...they lie to get what they want accomplished. I know it's heartbreaking to you that you have to defend someone you thought so highly of and how he has let you down. I know the comparisons of "bait and switch" and calling President Obama a used car salesman hurt, but they will help you grow. They will make you understand that you need to rely on yourself, and not some govt guy who will lie to get your vote with promises of puppy dogs and ice cream. This is good for you. It's like medicine. It doesn't taste good but it makes you better

    November 19, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  20. Boomer in Mo

    Not according to the tea partiers and the Koch boys. Why don't you "normal" Republicans start primarying the rightwing dingbats and get them off the ballot if not out of the party.

    November 19, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  21. Mightyduk

    Jen and his dad are good statesmen. What happened to G.W?

    November 19, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  22. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    If another Bush ever gets elected Preisdent of The United States, it really IS time to move to another country!

    November 19, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |