Interviews

Jeb Bush on 'Your World'

Exclusive: Former Florida governor on bracing for Hurricane Irene, growing economy

 

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF, “YOUR WORLD”: It is all about keeping calm, though. And doesn’t one Jeb Bush know it? As Florida governor, his was, of course, a very reassuring presence on eventually national TV through countless hurricanes and storms.

I can still remember his message then, as now: Be on top of things, but don’t get overwhelmed or become crazy by these things.

Governor, good to see you.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Good seeing you.

It’s where I got my gray hair.

(LAUGHTER) BUSH: All these disasters bring back many fond memories.

CAVUTO: I remember many of your pressers well, Governor. And I remember always trying to keep the calm. And you were always in the middle of some pretty big storms, Category 4 and what have you.

We have a hurricane to worry about that’s going to hopefully swipe past much of the Eastern coast, although there’s no guarantee of that. But now we have this. How do you advise people when they just get news of this? What do you do?

BUSH: You can’t plan for an earthquake on the East Coast. But once it happens, and then there’s all these uncertainties that can change people’s lives, it’s important to listen to the elected officials, that -- Mayor Bloomberg has got one the best emergency response teams in the country, if not the best.

To listen to him and to listen to the governors talk about what this means and what to expect I think is really important. And to have seismologists on that actually know what they’re talking about is kind of important, because if you and I had an opinion, and we were conjecturing about this, it could be pretty ugly and pretty dangerous.

So, good information calms people’s nerves. And I think that’s exactly what you’ll see across the East Coast now.

CAVUTO: Now, what I remember distinctly when you were governor is that you would try not to create panic, because, obviously, when everyone leaves at once and gets to the roads, and roads are blocked and all that -- you were one of the early ones to change even traffic patterns to clear areas. That was unthinkable before. But, nevertheless, people do hurt each other and cause damage in a -- in a flight. What do you tell folks now?

BUSH: Well, if it’s a hurricane, you have the advantage of five days’ notice. So shame on you for not being prepared.

If Craig Fugate, the head of FEMA, was here today, he would say, where’s your plan? Each person has a family responsibility, the responsibility for their families to have a plan. Do you have batteries? Do you have ice and water? Do you have your medicine? Do you -- if your mom is a shut-in, are you prepared to take care of her?

Can you strengthen your home, so that the winds won’t destroy it? Are you in a low-lying area and you know where you’re going to evacuate? All those things in a hurricane, you can plan. Earthquakes are a little bit harder.

CAVUTO: Yes.

You know, with this Irene approaching, Governor, and I was thinking of you, because I don’t know whether people are getting lackadaisical or just sort of lazy or dismissive, but I don’t see the worry out there. You don’t want to panic, of course.

BUSH: No, I...

CAVUTO: But I worry.

BUSH: I worry about it as well.

We haven’t had a storm in Florida since 2006. So, it’s been five years now. A lot of people have moved out. A lot of people have moved in. So, there is a little hurricane amnesia in the state. And human nature is to kind of move on.

So, I hope people aren’t surprised by this. Thankfully, for Florida, at least right now, it looks like there is -- the storm’s been pushed to the east. But the Northeast hasn’t had a hurricane in a while.

CAVUTO: That’s right.

BUSH: And the amount of damage that can be inflicted in places like Long Island and other places, the insurers say these are -- these are tens of billions of dollars of potential losses. So this has an economic impact as well. It’s not just individual lives, of course, which is the most important thing.

But these hurricanes can stall the economy.

CAVUTO: That’s right.

BUSH: We’ve had a series of disasters this year that have not helped us in our attempts to recover.

CAVUTO: You know, what’s different now, of course, from those days when you were in power to now is, there is not a whole lot of money to go around to deal with these crises.

Of course you spend the money when you have to. No one second-guesses that in times of calamity. But we’re less financially prepared, aren’t we? I mean, I’m not just talking Florida. I’m talking about in general as a nation for disasters of any sort.

BUSH: Well, in Florida, for two years, we had eight hurricanes, four tropical storms.

And so that created, my guess -- I’m guessing now, if I can remember, something like $40 billion of insured losses, and then another $40 to $50 billion of uninsured losses. That’s a lot of money. Now, that was a strange sequence of events, where there was like two million homes or 1.5 million homes that were damaged. A 100,000 homes were completely wiped out. There was loss of life. It was a serious -- like Katrina, additionally -- and Katrina hit Florida first. People forget that.

CAVUTO: Sure. People forget that.

BUSH: But the best way to deal with this is to prepare, so that you are not -- you can mitigate the damage if you prepare in advance -- and then to recover as quickly as you can, because there’s a lot riding on the recovery. If you just stall out, it creates huge hardship for people that weren’t hit by the storm.

CAVUTO: Governor, if you will indulge my inner nerd here -- and we’re looking at the corner of Wall and Broad, stocks having a nice day today.

Some interpreted that, the Mother Nature news notwithstanding, as proof that we’ve hit this bottom in this financial storm and that we’re moving north and we can calm down.

Do you agree with that?

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: I’m no -- I’m no expert. I just know our country is the only developed country in the world that could grow a 3 percent or 4 percent over a sustained period of time. And we need strategies to -- and policies to make that happen.

We’re the most dynamic country.

CAVUTO: But we’re not growing at 3 percent or 4 percent.

BUSH: We’re not growing at all. That’s the...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: We’re barely growing at all.

BUSH: Yes.

And so I don’t think markets are going to react well to a no-growth strategy. In effect, the president’s policies are creating a lid on our aspirations, rather than a -- than a floor. And I think markets are reacting to that more than anything else.

CAVUTO: All right, Governor, if you will indulge us for a break, thank you for...

(INTERRUPTED FOR LIVE EVENT){fnvideo 1125773178001]

Again, interrupting former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

And we were talking about leadership and how you handle this economy.

But to Mayor Bloomberg, how do you -- how do you think he has been doing?

BUSH: He’s spectacular. He’s a great mayor, hands-on.

I mean, when they get in details of a building in Brooklyn, the chimney fell down and everything’s fine...

CAVUTO: Right.

BUSH: ... you know a chimney probably falls down in Brooklyn at least once a day. But to be able to have that...

CAVUTO: But, as a mayor, you really have to -- the nitty-gritty, right?

BUSH: Yes. And to have that kind of information, the police and fire here is spectacular. I think it’s a great city. And he’s been a great mayor.

CAVUTO: All right.

There is a sense, though, this -- this took our eye off some bigger issues. This is a justifiable disruption, but it doesn’t take our eye off the economy, as you said. We’ve got some big problems. You were mentioning Mitt Romney a little while ago, Governor.

And his view was that whatever the president’s going to offer after Labor Day is going to be tepid. He needs to do dramatic things. He wouldn’t tip his hand exactly what his dramatic announcement will be, but tax cuts came to mind.

Do you need big tax cuts? What?

BUSH: I think tax simplification would be perhaps even more powerful. If we could simplify the code and eliminate all of these just deductions and credits and grants and get in the line here if you’re left-handed, and right-handed people, get in the line here to get your deduction over here, and simplify the tax code, it would be a burst of economic activity.

And it would create more certainty about the future as well. And it would trust people to make -- I mean, ultimately, the government’s not going to create the engine of growth. It’s the interaction of people pursuing their dreams. And so the simpler the code, the lower the rates would create, I think, the greatest opportunities.

And I hope that the Republican candidates, when they’re offering their solutions, it’s good to -- to be critical of the president. I think the president means well, but his policies have failed. And to point that out, nothing wrong with that. That’s politics. But just to stop there and say, well, I’m going to win because I am against what’s going on is not enough.

You have to win with purpose if you really want to make these big changes, so energy policy that is based on our own resources; I think an immigration policy that takes advantage of dynamic nature of our country. We still have a wonderful brand around the world.

CAVUTO: Speaking of immigration, the president is delaying deportations, if not shelving them. That’s a plan that has come up. Some people say that that’s a crass bow to the Hispanic vote.

What do you say?

BUSH: I think that that’s -- Hispanic voters want job creation. They want growth. They want economic opportunity. They want education for their children.

The immigration issue is a wedge issue for Democrats, more than anything else. And Republicans, I think, can change our tone and pick up significant support among Hispanics this time.

CAVUTO: You mentioned change the tone.

Jon Huntsman Jr., who‘s, I guess, the moderate guy who feels out in this largely conservative group of Republicans running for president, says that many of them are unelectable, that a Rick Perry in Texas is unelectable, by inference, a Michele Bachmann unelectable, that their positions are simply too extreme and Republicans risk losing a golden opportunity going that super-conservative route.

What do you say?

BUSH: You know I like Jon Huntsman a lot. And I think his voice should be heard.

And we need to be a broad party with divergent point of views. That’s fine. But Ronald Reagan was a conservative. And everybody said the exact same thing about him, that he couldn’t win, that there’s no way, and he was unelectable.

The pundits typically get these things wrong. And so I would -- I would humbly suggest to you that being a conservative is not necessarily a bad thing. But if you’re a conservative, you have to persuade. You have to defend a position. You can’t just be against the president.

And that’s the part where -- that’s the big test.

CAVUTO: So, when Jon Huntsman says, Governor, that, you know, global warming is real...

BUSH: Yes.

CAVUTO: ... and Republicans can’t ignore it, is he right?

BUSH: I think global warming may be real. Whether it’s manmade or not is the point that Governor Perry was opining on, right?

And there’s -- there’s -- it is not unanimous among scientists that it is disproportionately manmade. And so have a conversation about this, defend your views. But I think on the left, I get a little tired of this idea that -- the sanctimonious idea that somehow science has decided all this and so therefore you can’t have a view.

Science has decided that stem cell research, embryonic stem cell research is the way to go, and if you don’t agree with that, that somehow you are a Cro-Magnon man or something like that, when, in fact, embryonic stem cell research has been successful, it’s adult stem cells that’s created scientific discoveries these days.

So, it’s easy to fall into this trap that’s created by the left. And I think Governor Perry, as it relates to global warming, has every right to suggest that it’s not a certainty that it’s all disproportionately manmade.

CAVUTO: Well, speaker of Governor Perry, there’s always this talk that there’s friction between he and your brother and the Bush loyalists.

BUSH: Yes. Look, I...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Is any of that true?

BUSH: I’m glad you asked that, because I get this all the time.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: And there’s just kind of some assumption that that’s the case.

I don’t -- I have never heard anybody in my family say anything but good things about Rick Perry. And...

(CROSSTALK) CAVUTO: Karl Rove didn’t waste a nanosecond when he made the treasonous comment...

BUSH: Well...

CAVUTO: ... or the comment that attributed -- Governor Perry when he talked about Ben Bernanke.

BUSH: But Karl probably would have said that if any candidate said it.

CAVUTO: But would he? Would he?

BUSH: Yes, I think so.

CAVUTO: There isn’t any friction there?

BUSH: Maybe with Karl. He’s around here all the time. You can ask him. No...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But not with your brother? Your brother...

(CROSSTALK) BUSH: Not with my brother or my dad.

CAVUTO: Not with you?

BUSH: Not with me at well. I admire him.

And I think Texas has got a great story. And he can legitimately talk about that story as a candidate for president.

CAVUTO: Many had wanted to see you run.

BUSH: We’ve gone through this, Neil.

CAVUTO: You have. But it keeps staying out there. And maybe it reflects the dissatisfaction with the group out there. What do you say?

BUSH: I think it’s early to be dissatisfied with the candidates.

I think you’ll find that the candidates will start staking out positions that are responsible and forward-leaning and positive and hopeful and optimistic. And, as that happens, I think people will start migrating towards those candidates and be...

CAVUTO: So, you are definitely not running right now?

BUSH: No. What do you mean right now?

(LAUGHTER) BUSH: What does that mean?

CAVUTO: Ever?

BUSH: Is that a trick question?

CAVUTO: Ever?

BUSH: I’m not running.

CAVUTO: OK.

BUSH: And I’m going support the Republican nominee. I might support someone before that, but I definitely...

CAVUTO: Really?

BUSH: Yes. And I -- but I believe that the Republican candidate will win. And I’m looking forward to that.

CAVUTO: What do you feel when -- look at the economy now. When your brother left the office, I mean his popularity was very, very low, obviously. The ensuing financial meltdown really ushered in this new president.

BUSH: Right.

CAVUTO: There were a lot of factors.

But now we’re -- there are fears we’re going into something bad again, maybe worse. No way to know. What do you think about that?

BUSH: I think the president was dealt a tough hand, for sure. And he didn’t have necessarily the experience on how to deal with it.

He made a mistake of outsourcing big policy decisions to Congress, to Speaker Pelosi and her leadership team. And I think that was a disaster. And so he’s made a situation that that was bad worse. And he is deserving of criticism for that. He’s not deserving of the criticism of all -- everything, the common cold, all the way up the chain. But he...

CAVUTO: Do you think some in your party overdo it?

BUSH: I do. I do. I think, when you start ascribing bad motives to the guy, I think that’s wrong. It doesn’t -- it turns off a bunch of people that want solutions. So, the best path...

CAVUTO: So when many in your party, Governor -- and I was there when they were cobbling together this debt deal, and they were dead-set opposed to even closing corporate loopholes, that sort of thing, subsidies, because the end result would be higher taxes, but the argument for them was, at least you get rid of the subsidies that you yourself, Republicans, have criticized, how would Jeb Bush have ruled on that?

BUSH: Well, I think the best approach is that you’re going to create much more revenue if you create a strategy of high growth. You’re going create much more revenue than any proposed cuts that are -- may not even happen over a 10-year period if you grow at 3 percent or 4 percent per year, instead of the anemic 1 percent per year. Billions and billions of dollars of economic activity creates billions and billions of dollars of taxes.

(CROSSTALK) CAVUTO: But would Jeb Bush entertain any revenue as part of the equation?

BUSH: Yes.

CAVUTO: You would?

BUSH: I mean, I would. I would, personally.

CAVUTO: Because Tea Partiers say, zero.

BUSH: So, let me ask you something. Do you think that raising the income limit for Medicare and for Social Security is a tax increase?

CAVUTO: Well, Tea Partiers say yes.

BUSH: I think it is, too. But is it a -- as part of solution to what appears to an intractable problem, is it a legitimate part of...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: No, I see what you’re saying.

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: So, is that a tax increase? Yes. Is that part of a solution for the biggest problem we face, which is that we’ve not...

(CROSSTALK) CAVUTO: So are you intransigent, Governor, if you are -- if you -- if you don’t budge on those kind of issues?

BUSH: I think the problems are so severe in our country that it takes leadership to find common ground and to find solutions.

It’s easy -- and, believe me, because I watch TV all the time -- and it looks really easy for people to get on TV and yap about how bad things are.

CAVUTO: Yes.

BUSH: It’s harder to be in the arena to find common ground. And I think a majority of Republicans; I know a majority of Americans want to find solutions that are principle-based.

And I don’t think it’s a violation of principle to reform entitlements that may mean that higher-income individuals pay more in taxes.

CAVUTO: So when you hear Tea Partiers rail against ‘Republicans In Name Only,’ RINOs, as they’re called...

BUSH: Yes.

CAVUTO: ... who subscribe to those views that you just outlined, how do you feel about that?

BUSH: It doesn’t bother me a bit.

And I think the bigger problem, the -- the greater place of intransigence is -- are Democrats on the left. They’re the ones that refuse to have any kind of conversation of the serious problems that we face.

We don’t need to be raising taxes to achieve these problems, if we could create -- to deal with the problems we have -- if we could create high growth, reform our entitlements. And that could be part of the solution would include raising, you know, limits on caps on taxes right now.

CAVUTO: But Warren Buffett says the rich -- he feels guilty. He wants to pay more.

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: I’m not a...

CAVUTO: Do you think he -- do you agree with that?

BUSH: No.

I think the problem with Warren Buffett’s attitude is that he’s talking about people that are already rich. And his policies, I think, may create a lid on other people that are aspiring to be rich. The whole problem with tax policy is -- isn’t that it coddles rich people already there. If they want to pay more, let them do it.

But it’s impeding other people’s wealth creation. That’s impeding growth and job creation in our country. So any time he has a policy that’s dealing with himself, there are 10 other Warren Buffett’s, aspiring Warren Buffett’s that are going to make it -- it will be harder for them to achieve what they want. And I think that is the part he might be missing.

CAVUTO: All right.

Governor, it’s always a pleasure. Thank you, Neil.

BUSH: Thank you very much.

CAVUTO: If you do change your mind on the presidential thing, I’d appreciate you announcing it here.

BUSH: Get ready for the hurricane. Be prepared.

CAVUTO: Get ready for the hurricane. There we go. That’s right.

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