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Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge, I am Peter Robinson talking today with the 43rd Chief Executive of the great State of Florida, Jeb Bush governor, former governor he stepped down on January what? January second. January second of this year, in a state in which democrats outnumber republicans, you won elections and reelection by comfortable margins, you reformed education, you cut taxes, you stood out for traditional moral values and you left office after eight years with an approval rating of more than 60 percent, how how did you pull that off? Well first as I have blessed to have a great team, there are actually four teams because in eight years you kind of wear teams out that I had I had talented, very idealistic, quite conservative, very intelligent people that worked hard. So we had a good team, we had a willing legislature or compliant legislature depending on the on the year. And and I learned that you say what are you going to do when you run to create a mandate if you kind of play it cool and not say which you cant do, then you never really have a chance to be big and bold. Here is the puzzle, its Ronald Reagan's still puzzles to political scientist in the following sense, he got a lot of what he wanted, he remained extremely popular but all the polls showed that he was more conservative than the country. You called yourself in an interview I read while you are still in the office one of the three of foremost - most conservative governors in the country. So it seems to me that you got a choice for explaining your record, either you convinced a not particularly conservative electorate to buy into a conservative agenda or you are such a sweet guy that they just didn't mind what you did? Well, I guess was relatively sweet not too sweet. I think people just respected the fact that I have the courage in my convictions that was important ,that I had a high voltage energy that everybody knew and most people knew unless you were a Bush hater in Florida and you know, you can forget the They are always, they knew I I love the state, and that that my heart was in right place, and most people really on that ideological, they are willing to bid on somebody who has thought it through who is going to stick to their convictions who is genuinely passionate about his ideas. I love the fact that I was more conservative than the electorate only because I really got the liberal press just they just went ballistic, they couldn't understand it and it it made it gave me great joy, but it also can be the fun part of my job was and the joyful part was to actually take the ideas stolen from the Hoover Institutions and all over the places wherever I can get on and develop strategies around them and it was just the most fantastic time in my life. Speaking of liberals, James Carville, earlier - earlier this month I am quoting him, there is nobody in the current field of presidential candidates, you can rally the Republican party. Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida is the only person in America who can do it. What about it? James is probably very good observer of democratic politics. All right, if that's the way you are going to handle the question what can I do? What it means to be a conservative in 2007 after the republican party lost control of both houses of congress in 2006 you said the GOP didn't loose "because conservatives were rejected but because we rejected the conservative philosophy" explain yourself? Well, I I was really was referring to congress, if you look at earmarks I think they have set the Olympic world record in the number of earmarks in size of earmarks and there was an arrogance about that that went against everything that conservatives belive in, we have all sorts of different blends and brands of conservatism, but limited government is really at the core. And if you are if you violate that I think you violate the trust of people that elect you. And secondly there was awful lot of corruption, I mean apart from the arrogance there was corruption you know, consistently might one of Florida's congressmen Mark Foley violated the public trust and a lot of other people did that too. I think people just said throw the bums out, I I discount, I mean Iraq is certainly a part of this, but I think the bigger issue was the democrats were smart to run moderate conservative candidates against a congress that was corrupt, fair or unfair that was the perception and the congress that lost the way ideologically. Lost their way, so the you have to restate and reaffirm the principles after you in office is it? Here is what I am trying to get something like this John O'Sullivan, Editor of National Review. He is famous for saying about institutions such as the Ford Foundation, that any institution any non-profit that is not aggressively and assertively conservative becomes overtime liberal. Absolutely. And that's the there is something like that about the pressures of the government particularly in the congress. And in government State government, the demands on government are never ceasing. They never go away, and so actually one of the strategies that conservatives have to realize as part of our or has been part of our agendas that we have to restore self government or over the - you know, the dike breaks. And so congress I think you know, you throw a couple of teaspoons of of corruption and a tablespoon of arrogance and we got what we have. Domestic Conservative Agenda - Let me try something out on you. President George W Bush campaigned on a platform of compassionate conservatism, there are various, it's also called strong government conservatives conservatives and that's what David Brooks likes to call it, big government conservatism. Signature piece of legislation, 2001 "No Child Left Behind Act", increases federal funding of public schools by many billions asserts federal control over public education which was originally almost entirely or very mainly very chiefly as responsibility of the states and now that the "No Child Left Behind Act" is up for reauthorization, the evidence that it has actually improved test scores in dispute at best is big government conservatism conservatism? Well, as it relates to education reform, it needs to be the highest national priority because our economic prosperity depends on I never felt. In fact I cannot give you one instance where the federal government intervened in the affairs of education policy in the state now, we actually implemented a version of No Child Left Behind prior to no child left behind, so you know, it may be a unique situation but we we had rigorous accountability, we had grading of schools, - That doesn't bother you as a violation of federalism then. No child left behind. Well, it didn't in our case because we already we already met those standards and then so and then so Yeah so if you are a state that wanted to gain the system and you didn't want testing and you didn't want accountability, I think that that would have been an infringement. But in a world where knowledge the acquisition of knowledge is really the key determining factor whether you are going to be able to be successful, to pursue the dreams, what we do. Do we do we sit back and say, okay you know, everybody thinks there child's school is good, but the system stinks. The fact is whether they are good or bad, they got to get a lot better, we are going to get our clock cleaned by places, far off from here but not that far in this new world that we live in, so I think you need to temper this idea of federalism with reality that this should be a national, the highest priority in my opinion more than anything else. Foreign policy, some conservatives, again the question here is about conservatives. Some conservatives, Norman Podhoretz for example, argues that the United States should prosecute the war in Iraq vigorously, unapologetically. We have got other conservatives, William F. Buckley Jr. who says the war in Iraq was the product of a of a terrible mistake and a naÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¯ve idealism. How should conservatives think about the war in Iraq, or the war and terror what's the way of addressing that problem by means of conservative principles. You know, I think here is where conservatism is a kind of vectored off and I I feel sometimes that I am I can't answer that question because I don't know you know, traditional conservatives don't want to project American force around the world but we are at war and so a new kind of war against. Similar to education policy. What we do do we sit back, and wait till we are attacked again before we respond again. I think that's talking about naÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¯ve idealism. That's that's just naÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¯ve and so I think most people in fact frankly, this is not so ideological. I think most Americans recognize that we are safer today. Then we were on September eleven 2001. And that is appropriate to to do what we are doing in Iraq. What they want as a result, and interestingly, those results are starting to bear fruit. Now there is new strategy, which changed a failed strategy, - is working. So I think foreign policy works a lot better when it works well. It's not so much an ideological thing. I think people wanted to work well. And it's working well now, - So Jeb Bush conservatism is a very practical conservatism. I think we are we are naÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¯ve to think that we are not interdependent and interconnected with rest of the world. When you use American power the traditional American power, military power, and we need soft power, we need every means by which we can use our influence and use our might to be able to project American values to the rest of the world. It is for our own safety, it's also for our own prosperity. Okay, conservatism at the national level. Now let's talk about a couple of issues that you cared about most as a governor. Education and emigration, education; simple question here. Milton Friedman advocated universal vouchers in education. Parents of every student, gets vouchers to send their kids to any school they want to public, private, religious, secular. Your A plus education reform included a limited voucher program for children in failing schools. By the way as I understand it as of this date more than 20,000 kids have received vouchers under their program, is that No, interestingly, we have three voucher programs, that one is the smallest, it was ruled unconstitutional, I see. So 900 students took advantage of that and they had also had public choice options and then we have two other programs that total now at 35000. We have more more kids I see of large number. It is and it's more universal, but it's still god bless Milton Friedman but they you know, sometimes, when you steal ideas and you try to implement them in the in the realm of politics you you can't achieve everything you want. But we have achieved more in Florida in terms of school choice than any state by far. And so, here is the question, the underlying principle there. Would universal, but politics of the situation aside, would you go for some sort of universal voucher program if you could, you would And if we had you know, and for the result of free universal public education, we will get better. I mean I can never envision more than 25 percent of all the kids not going to public schools. The question is the kids that go to private schools, their parents choose, are going to be more engaged. They are going to benefit and the kids that are in the public schools will get better as well. The myth that it was the opposite has been shattered in Florida. Public schools are a lot better today because more parents have more choices. Immigration Samuel Huntington, the professor of political professor of political science at Harvard "Unlike past emigrants, Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into main stream US culture forming instead their own political" you are already shaking your head, but get the reaction shot here. The guy needs to get out more. They need to get out of Let me finish the let me let me do the do the justice of filling the finishing the quotation. "the persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures and two languages question, is Florida in any way becoming two cultures and two peoples. No and Professor Huntington I am sure is a really smart man, needs to truly get out of the zip code of Cambridge. And so does Tom Tancredo and so do the people that use this and not Dr. Huntington, but politicians have used this as a wedge issue it's a loser. And if you believe in conservative principles and you want conservatives to win and to implement those principles to totally disown a group that is the only group that is growing in our country. And as an American in their pursuit of the traditional dreams of people pursue here as any other group I think we do it I mean it's bad, it's wrong it's wrong and it's stupid and the combination of being incorrect and stupid is just great dangerous in politics. Let me push you one more time on that one Please. You majored in Latin American studies at the University of Texas. You are fluent in Spanish, you are married to a Mexican, there is no reason why you would feel, walking around a Cuban neighborhood in Miami for example that you were in anyway an outsider. But let's take somebody of our age who grew up in Florida who was born in Florida in 50s and now wanders around the state and feels that though he is the foreigner. Well here is here is the answer of that. I will give you a specific answer, Marco Rubio 32 year old, 34 year old now Speaker of the Florida House. He speaks better English than United, he is eloquent, he is he is down right eloquent, he speaks Spanish fluently. His parents have speak halting English, his parents worked hard two jobs they came with nothing there were two jobs so their son can go to the University of Florida and then to the University of Florida Law School. They saved their money, they did everything that every immigrant group and people born here what we expect them to do to provide for their families, and the pride in their son when he assumed this responsibility as the first Cuban American to be Florida Speaker of the House was as American as any other parent. And the notion is somehow we now are changing the rules of the game that immediately when someone arrives in our country they have to automatically speak English and automatically assume that they know everything about the American culture when people born in this country don't have very much sense of what our heritage is and what our culture is. I think it is wrong. And so with all the respects the people may feel that they are the foreigner in these countries if they look at the next generation it that assimilation of acculturation is happening just as it did generations ago. Last question immigration you talked earlier about the need for conservatives and republicans to accept certain political realities there are certain things that are just that are just are and you have to deal with them. Your brother the president had an immigration program that had broadly very crudely put two aspects one is greater control of the borders and the other is some form of normalization or legalization for the 12 million reserve and the documented immigrants who are already here. You supported it so to John McCain, so the Teddy Kennedy and it went down to defeat in the senate. The question that I have is why did you go down to defeat is that are you going to write that off the way I think some democrats did as demagogy or would you say what John McCain is now saying that the clearly good people don't trust their government to control the borders you need to break this problem into two pieces, prove that you can control the borders and then address the second piece. How should the next president address the problem? I think that's a fair I mean you have to wait to control the borders I mean that the responsibility of the federal government now. There is more money and all that, I think that's a fair assessment but the another reason why it didn't pass was that it didn't get 60 votes it got 50 votes in fact you got 58 votes before everybody jump ship, including many of the fresh men democrats that Leader Reid said where have to be delivered and they they had second thoughts because of this this legitimate push back by a lot of people that are very concerned about the point you make, which is that we haven't been able to control our borders and people don't have confidence in that. I accept that. But at the same time you know, we have these pressing problems, immigration, energy security, social security, the Entitlement Time-Bomb, how do we remain competitive in this ever increasingly interdependent world. All of these issues are standing by, waiting for some breakthrough ways to you know, Nixon the China ways if you will to to solve problems. And so idealism or political ideology needs to be tempered with a need to get stuff done. And we are not we are not doing it right now. Faith; Jeb Bush speaking this past summer, I quote you, "I don't think you can separate your personal faith from your public actions, and I don't think you need to. Openly expressing your faith is a good thing," and now here is the statement that I want to hear you explain, "Jesus was my best political advisor." Yeah, I didn't say that. You didn't say that? No. It appeared in quotation marks, all right, how much of it did you say? Up to that last part. I said when I made big decisions I prayed, which I do. Okay, all right. So, I am not sure Jesus was a political advisor. All right, we will drop that all right, we will drop that. But that was in the you correctly quoted it and I was surprised to see it because I didn't quite say it that way. But that the point being that faith it's hard to imagine, I don't know. I guess people say it and they act on it, but it's hard to imagine, well my faith does this, but my views are different in the political realm. Well, who are you if you don't act on your faith and then I mean the good thing about it Christian faith is that it's a tolerant faith. It's not a faith that's judgmental. It's a loving faith. It's a faith that accepts other points of view and it's a faith that recognizes that we are all imperfect under God's watchful eyes; it's why I love it. And I don't see that as a threat. I think that that's something that is positive. Interestingly the left now if you see, you know, they have adopted people are now they were fearful of talking about their faith and now I think many people that don't share my ideology are are more comfortable about speaking about their faith. I don't have a problem with that at all. You were raised Episcopalian about a dozen years ago. You became a Catholic Right. - you are fairly devout, you turn up at church most Sundays? Fairly, I would say that my priest probably wouldn't be completely happy with my attendance. When you got yourself in a scrape or a dilemma, you pray? I pray I mean, I pray everyday, but yeah. All right, so here is the question. How do you reach out then as a Roman Catholic? By the way, the point of departure for this question is that somehow or other you managed, because you were re-elected and you had this very high we are talking about a successful governorship. How did you as a Roman Catholic, reach out to and appeal to the large Jewish population in Dade County, the very heavily evangelical population up in the Panhandle. Was it simply not an issue as a practical matter in day to day politics in Florida? It didn't seem that way. Really? I mean I didn't get 100 percent of the vote either. So it didn't seem that way to me. The language in which the language you use if it's you know, language that is judgmental, that says you know, all homosexuals are bad because that's what I that's my faith, my faith tells me that. That sends a pretty bad signal out to people. I never did that, because I don't believe that. And the fact that I was a Catholic, I never felt like it was the only time it came into play was when it got into the political realm and so I implemented the death penalty, which was the law. And I felt like I had a duty to do it. I will tell you it was the hardest thing I had to do. I got I didn't get comfortable with it but I reconciled myself to do it. And I did it as honorably as I could and as fairly and equitably as I could and we changed some laws that as it relates to mental retardation and other things like that. But then the you know, that puts you in a position where your faith is different than what your actions are, and of course the people in the press rightly brought it up and and or the bishops The bishops, right. - you know, they politely scolded their flock occasionally on that. The Schiavo case Schiavo, just a quick reminder here, you will never forget it but let me set up a reminder. Terry Schiavo spent 14 years in a persistent vegetative state. Her husband wanted to remove her feeding tube and starve her to death. Her parents wanted to keep her alive. You intervened on their behalf, one court matter after another. Courts finally ruled in favor of her husband. Her feeding tube was removed and in March 2005 she did indeed die of starvation and dehydration. Regrets about your intervention? None at all. First of all we passed a law that allowed for the intervention. She had two cycles through this. She had one where the feeding tube was removed. The legislature was in session. We passed a law that gave me the right to intervene. And in the second case, after it was ruled unconstitutional, we couldn't. And so I had adhered to the law and I do think that sadly, Florida's law is so open-ended as it relates to this, where an estranged husband, who was living with a woman and moved on He moved on. - he had two kids and every right to do so had won a malpractice suit, by the way and promised to care for her for the rest of her life, and had this loving family that wanted to take care of of Terri Schiavo, I thought it was appropriate to do whatever we could to change the law, to make sure that she had a chance because in my mind she was disabled. In my mind she was disabled and so, back to the question of faith, she is as important under god's eyes as you and I are. And the disabled were very concerned about this about this case and they should have been. So you can describe your actions, and did at the time, in terms of human rights. You could you could justify your intervention in purely secular terms. Absolutely, and plus I didn't I didn't violate the oath I . Everything you did was perfectly legal. Yeah, and it broke my heart that I couldn't in the end. She she went many more days than what people thought and and the idea that somehow starving to death and being dehydrated is okay, it's painless is sadly not true. Last question about that. There is now I think a consensus in the mainstream media that conservatives overreached in the Schiavo case. That was when they went too far, they got stung, they backed off, we won't see conservatives try that kind of that in someway or other it was a political failure for you and the fellow conservatives. Do you see it that way? I think you know, I was surprised that the Federal Government intervened. I didn't I am not a lawyer thankfully. So I can't tell you what the constitutional case was to speak of. My intervention related to state law, that we we crafted and compromised as best as we could to get it through the legislatures fast as we could to and then we defended that case in front of the judges. That's more than appropriate. In fact being passive on it I think would have been would have been a miscarriage of justice. All right, your family. Actually let me start with what I want to know is just generally influences, we are talking about you as a conservative. Let's start with aside from your family. What people have been the most influential in your life, in your thinking, the political outlook? Well, I think Ronald Reagan was I loved campaigning in 1980 when I first campaigned for my dad and then stuck it out in the general election which was a great joy to to work for him and my father. I admire both of them so much. That was certainly someone who fits the profile. I am I really like governors, because they have to do things. They don't have to just talk. They can't hide behind the skirt of some collegial body. They got to be out there. He or she has to do what they say they are going to do and they have to take decisions that aren't always perfect because the context is never perfect. So I have admired a series of governors starting with Tommy Thompson and Engler in the 90s. Those guys were well, they were reformers. And I think for our party to be successful, the conservative movement to be successful; you can't just talk and kind of stiff-arm reality and think, you have to act and the world is in constant flux. And so the party that is going to win in the end is the one that's going to reform things that need to reformed to work on behalf of the people. That may be is even more important or is as important as ideology I think. So governor's across the board of law, I admire the courageous ones, the ones that have not just focused on popularity. Your grandfather Prescott Bush represented Connecticut in the Senate from 1952 to 1963. I think it's fair to call him an Eisenhower Republican, what we would now look back on as a moderate. Your dad, George H.W. Bush, leaves Connecticut goes to war, comes back after the Second World War and goes to Texas. Would you describe your dad as a thorough-going conservative - by the time he achieved the White House? I would. I think he is you know I think he was practical when he needed to be. But yeah, of course. All right, then you got an Eisenhower Republican and he helped define it, a Reagan-Bush Republican he was the Bush in Reagan-Bush. We got you as got as these different flavors of Bush's. Is it generational? Is it philosophical? Is part of it that your grandfather was a northeasterner and your dad broke out and moved to the west, what accounts for these -? That's a big part of this? I think so, yeah. Growing up in Texas is a lot different than growing up in Connecticut. And Florida is like Texas in many ways. It's the it's the east coast version of the Wild West. Speaking as somebody who well I worked for your dad when he was Vice-President as I mentioned but, I have always been impressed that within the Bush family you seem to be both intensely competitive. I have watched some Bush's on the golf course sometime or on tennis court. But intensely loyal. How do you pull that off as a family? Yeah. I don't it's not an either-or situation, isn't it? If there was a hand grenade right here and I was and this was my dad and this was me, I guarantee you I would beat the secret service. It's just the way it is. You know it relates to him, it's because he is the greatest man alive, he is the greatest man I have ever met. He is the most decent, honorable, courageous every virtue that you would consider to be a virtue of worth, describes my dad. So you know, he is my dad too, but he has been an extraordinary father and an extraordinary man. So loyalty comes pretty easy when you have mom or mom like I do and a dad like I do. And my brother, same thing by the way. And the sense of competition? That's pretty tough too. All right, you suffered a narrow defeat when the first time you ran for governor in 1994. Yeah, I did. And you said, you realized that the people of Florida wanted you to tell not just where you stood, but who you were. And you added, now I am quoting you, "That's not easy for a Bush to do." Have politics become too touchy feeling for you? Yeah, well -. Is the are baby boomers too self absorbed? Yes, that's more like it. I think politics is a mirror image of life. It's a circus mirror, but it's a mirror. I mean its exaggerated and all that. But it's a mirror image of life. And so I think the generation now that's kind of in charge of the life around here is very self absorbed. And it's overdone a bit. So may be moderating kind of the the old way, which was to not express any emotion with the new way which is that you know, add a drop of how do you feel everybody's pain and you bite your lips and stuff, I mean there has got to be some little ground. And that's what I learned. I mean I learned in 94' that talking about ideas, I had whitepapers you know, with 30 pages and all sorts of nerdy, wonky details and people were saying, that's great, you know, but who are you? And so I got attacked which I got pretty you know . That was a rough one. Yeah, I mean 94' standards, it was pretty vicious, now its it would be nothing I guess. But the people started to believe it. They didn't shrug their shoulders and say, I know this guy, it's not him. So I learned that you have to let people know who you are as well. It was a it was a great learning experience. Last set of questions here. Jeb Bush Junior, one of your sons has endorsed Rudy Giuliani. I know. George P. Bush, your other son has endorsed Fred Thompson, are we going to hear who their father is going to back? No. All right, let me just give you then I want to support the party nominee. All right. Let me give you a few names here of candidates, without committing yourself, give me their greatest strength and their worst weakness. I am not going to do the weakness, because I saw someone who did that, Dan Bartlett and it came up pretty bad looking. All right, okay, I will take what I can get. Just give the greatest strength. Rudy Giuliani. He is direct he sees the world the way it is and he is direct and he communicates well and he has got high energy and a tremendous personality. People are drawn towards him. Fred Thompson? Fred Thompson I think is a committed conservative. Yeah and by the way, everyone of these guys running, they are testing themselves, they are proving themselves along the way. So this is the last debate, I thought it was better than they were They were all better. - and they were all I thought proud to be a Republican. It was the first time I kind of felt proud in a while, to be honest with you other than seeing the courage of my brother and the determination, they all did well and they all have attributes that are to be admired and they are getting they get better in this grueling process as you go along. So you know, Senator Thompson is kind of new at the game, and I two months from now he is going to be dramatically different. John McCain had the line of the evening at that debate. What's his greatest strength? His courage, I mean I was in my bed watching this with my wife. I got out of bed and started cheering. I assume you are talking about the Woodstock thing. Yes, that's exactly right. You know, I mean he didn't do it in a he did it in a humble way. He didn't do it in a way that was grandstanding at all. He it was -. It was about as good as it gets I think. It was spectacular. Mitt Romney, greatest strength of him? Intellectual curiosity, which I think the next President of the United States is going to need to have, he is real smart and asks the questions necessary to get to find that common ground to the for the next challenges that we face which you know, politics is not really good at right now. We are it's a lagging it's a lagging institution, not a leading institution and we need politics I think now to be more in the leading side of our life. Last name, Mike Huckabee. You know, I'd I want the governor. You like him? I like him. And he is a great speaker and he is he is clear minded about the importance of moral principles which you can't untether particularly if you believe in limited government you have to also advocate self government. You can't untie the two - you can't be - you know libertarian in a libertine world. Okay. Last question you are not going to play the game of predicting who would get the nomination but let's just set it up this way one of these fellow wins the republican nomination. I think that's going to be the case. Now imagine imagine that the moment after he walks off the stage after giving his acceptance speech you get to give him one or two sentences of advice what would you say? Well I kind of already done it in you know privately but it's something I believe in which is - be who you are be genuine. There is a disconnect right now I think that is relates to this that people don't believe the candidates to the extent that they need to before going to have a leader that leads us into this wacky world we're moving into so be genuine don't worry that if you don't pass some litmus test of some group that's on the sidelines because frankly they are on the sidelines you are the one that's leading us you are in the arena. If you if you have the courage of your convictions. My experience as Governor of Florida is people who follow. Governor Jeb Bush. Thank you very much.