Why you should care
Because even the Bushes have their foibles.
“You might see this tire mark on my forehead,” Jeb Bush joked with an OZY Fest crowd yesterday in Central Park, pointing to the creases in his face. The former presidential candidate was referring to wrinkles brought on by having proposed immigration reform during last year’s bruising primary season.
Having withstood the scars of political life, Bush now seems to have found the peace and comfort he never enjoyed on the campaign trail. “Bush! Bush! Bush!” the crowd shouted when he arrived, dressed in a light purple shirt, dark purple socks and casual loafers. He smiled, encouraging them to continue the applause — this time, he didn’t even have to say please.
When asked by OZY co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Carlos Watson what it takes to run for president, the son and brother of Presidents Bush praised the work ethic of his older brother with a humorous dig: “[George W.] was always, in his own words, ‘misunderestimated,’” he quipped.
The debate changes when the president wakes up at 6:30 a.m. He released five tweets today … none of which is relevant to getting tax relief done, health care done, implementing his regulatory agenda.
Gov. Jeb Bush
But don’t overestimate the 45th U.S. commander in chief’s power to forever change the GOP, Bush said. “Since we’re in his voting precinct, I’d just remind you that until last year, it was a ‘D’ on his voter registration card,” he explained, referring to Trump’s previous affiliation with the Democrats. “He’s not really affiliated with the party, to be clear. He’s Trump” — plain and simple.
He showed little patience for Republicans who once accused Barack Obama of being feckless in his dealings with Russia … only to support Trump’s cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin. Bush also decried the lack of legislative activity in Washington since January’s inauguration, accusing Trump of squandering the opportunity to create important reforms while boasting a Republican majority in Congress. “Every day there’s a new game-changing context,” Bush said, lampooning the president’s fickle nature and his tweets. “The debate changes when the president wakes up at 6:30 a.m. He released five tweets today … none of which is relevant to getting tax relief done, health care done, implementing his regulatory agenda.”
Embracing his role as an elder statesman, Bush unveiled his new “rules” for political engagement. First? When you agree with anyone on policy — even if they have a different ideology — “pause, embrace, act on it.” Second, if your opponent does something that makes your head explode, then a candidate in your party does the same thing — have the passion to be critical of your own candidate. Third, be civil! “We can’t solve problems [like that], even if it’s just fake, faux anger,” Bush said, advising that “[nowadays], strength is measured by how you insult people — reject that.”
So if angry tweets aren’t the GOP’s future, what is? Bush the Younger said future GOP standard-bearers could include Govs. Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Doug Ducey of Arizona, as well as Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. He even gave a shout-out to Democrat John Hickenlooper, governor of Colorado, as a politician to watch. The seasoned politician also offered some advice for those who dare to consider running for office. “Run against a weak opponent,” he said, adding a touch of self-deprecation. “Donald Trump followed my advice.”
The trouble with Washington today? There’s a real obsession about the politics of politics, Bush said, and yet “back at the ranch, you have only a third of our children who are college- or work-ready by the time they graduate from high school.” America has permanent unemployment, he explained, noting how 5 million jobs go unfilled. And yet, politicians are “talking about things that are completely irrelevant.” Like him or not, Trump knew that better than any other candidate. “The president didn’t create that environment — he exploited it, from a tactical point of view, that nobody envisioned.”
The postelection pace has allowed Bush to enjoy some hobbies, including swimming and reading. Recently, news broke that a group led by Bush and Derek Jeter had won the ownership auction for the Miami Marlins baseball team for a whopping $1.3 billion. Older brother George W. — owner of the Texas Rangers — told him he “paid too much,” Bush says.
Another leisurely pursuit of late? Listening to the podcast of another OZY Fest headliner, Malcolm Gladwell, who has talked about the need for college donations to go to smaller schools rather than the Harvards and Stanfords of the world. Bush expressed his support in a typically self-effacing way: “This may offend [Gladwell],” he joked, “but I agree with him completely.”