OTR Interviews

Jeb Bush: Trump will be just as divisive as Obama

GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush goes 'On the Record' on his latest war of words with Donald Trump, why he feels he has new momentum after the NH primaries going into South Carolina and more


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 11, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, ON THE RECORD, the Bush brothers invading South Carolina. Governor Jeb Bush is right here to talk about the presidential boost his campaign is about to get. And that's not all. Governor Bush certainly isn't afraid of Donald Trump. He says Trump would be a worst president than President Obama.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is in Columbia, South Carolina.

Good evening, sir.

FORMER GOV. JEB BUSH, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good evening. Great to be with you, Gretchen -- I mean, Greta, excuse me, what am I talking about?


VAN SUSTEREN: I get that all of the time.

BUSH: I'm sorry.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know you are. Let me wish you happy birthday. I know it's your birthday.

BUSH: It is. I have had a great birthday campaigning all across the coastal part of South Carolina as well as now we are in Columbia. So it's been great.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And your brother is joining you. Your brother has had enormous success, even your father has had enormous success in South Carolina going back to '88 and '92.

And what's your brother going to do for you?

BUSH: Well, he's going to have a rally in North Charleston. I'm excited about that. I think he's going to be in Columbia prior to that and I will hook up with him for an evening event next Monday in North Charleston. He has not done this before. Since he has left office, he has not been involved in any kind of public political event. And I'm proud that he is going to help his younger brother.

VAN SUSTEREN: I listen to a radio show you were on today in which you said that the next debate, part of your strategy is not to let Donald Trump bully you. What do you mean by that?

BUSH: Well, he bullies everybody. He pushes people around like we are all, you know, parts of his little domain. We are not. We are running for president of the United States. I'm the only guy standing up to him. I didn't say that Donald Trump would be worse than Barack Obama as a president. But I did say that he is as divisive as Barack Obama and he is. He is a competing version of negativity and pessimism and divisiveness.

And for a conservative to win, we need to have a hopeful, optimistic message. And that's my case that I will make on Saturday night. And the fact that Donald Trump may not like the fact that I'm going after him, that's just tough luck. I mean, he disparages people. I'm not disparaging him. I'm just pointing out that his record, his ideas are not the serious ideas that we need to lead this country forward.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, at the same time, you take this strategy towards Donald Trump. Governor Kasich now said he is accusing you of a negative tone. He even said that your negative tone could impact sort of the Bush family name.

BUSH: Oh, I know. They are so upset that there is a comparison, for example, on Medicaid. John Kasich expanded Medicaid through Obamacare. Many states did, including Florida. And I was -- as a private citizen, I worked hard to make sure that Medicaid wasn't expanded. He is proud of it. I think it's the wrong thing to do. That's not attacking him. That's just pointing out that there is a difference. I'm a conservative reform-minded candidate running for president and I have the most conservative reform- minded record as governor of the State of Florida.

VAN SUSTEREN: You mentioned that President Obama and Donald Trump and correct me if I am wrong that they both divided -- they may be more divisive than they are uniters.

How is President Obama that way? How does that manifest itself?

BUSH: All the time. Whenever someone disagrees with him, he, for example, on the Iranian agreement, which I think is disastrous agreement for our country in the midst of the debate rather than defend his position and persuade, he says Republicans were in cahoots with the death to America crowd. I mean, really?

I mean, you consider the fact that he negotiated with the same people that chant death to America, but this is always his tendency. He always wants to push someone down, push people away to make himself look better. It's not about him. It's not about Donald Trump. It's about forging consensus to solve problems.

Our country is hurting. People are suffering. And we need someone who doesn't focus on how big he is and how little other people are. He needs - - we need someone focused on creating a sense of purpose, of unity again for this great country.

VAN SUSTEREN: There is -- problems are heating up if that is even a possible way to describe it in Syria. Where are you on the topic of a no- fly zone or not in Syria?

BUSH: Yes. We need a no-fly zone. I laid this out at the Reagan Library in August. And I continue to believe here respective of the intentions of Russia that we need a no-fly zone and safe zones in Syria to unite Europe, the Arab countries, the United States with a Sunni-led army to defeat is and bring about change as it relates to Assad.

You have to create a secure Syria over the long haul to eliminate the breathing ground of Jihadists that is going to take place with these refugee camps all around the region.

VAN SUSTEREN: Could you have a no-fly zone without putting a lot of troops on the ground and even just sort of maintain this safety zone? I mean, somebody has got to be on the ground looking out, you know, above and calling out where things are.

BUSH: Sure. No, absolutely, we need forward leaning air controllers. We have to have special operators on the ground. We have them already, and we need to expand them so as to create the trained force that I'm talking about. And the no-fly zone, you know, you do need infrastructure on the ground to identify and create precision strikes for sure.

We need all this, by the way, in Iraq as well. We need to reengage with the Sunni leaders, provide more direct support, more sophisticated weapons with the Kurds and embed our troops with the Iraqi military. That's the strategy I laid out. And it requires getting the lawyers off the backs of the war fighters and lead the world not just do this unilaterally, but we need to do this in unison with our allies.

VAN SUSTEREN: As awful as Assad is, we saw that there was such a void left when Mubarak left and when Gaddafi left.

Do we run into a situation where if we do get rid of Assad, we have suddenly created an Egypt-Libya situation?

BUSH: That's the lesson learned of both Iraq and certainly Egypt, and most particularly Libya, when you achieve the military victory and don't have the political solution behind it, you have chaos.

And now ISIS apparently has up to five thousand Jihadists in Libya. It's the largest branch of ISIS and you have total chaos and a dysfunctional Libya. You have to find a political solution and my belief is that in Syria, that would require Assad's demise that he would have to leave. And it would be with pressure from the international community, but from a position of strength.

Right now, John Kerry is negotiating to try to get to the peace talks in the interim of the Assad regime supported by Hezbollah, Iran and Russia is pushing the-our support outside of Aleppo and people are dying. And there is more refugees going and we are striving to create talks. We need to deal with this from a position of strength. And you do that with a military strategy first and foremost.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you, sir.

BUSH: Thanks, Greta.