'Hannity' Great American Forum: Jeb Bush

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," July 22, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And welcome to this very special edition of "Hannity," our first ever Great American Forum. And tonight, joining us for the hour is a man that many Americans would like to see make a run for the White House. And please welcome former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Governor, how are you?

JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Thank you, Sean. Thank you.


HANNITY: Do you miss the spotlight, you've been out of the spotlight a little while.

BUSH: I'm kind of in the corners, lurching around but not too much on television. I try to have my voice be heard, but not on a regular basis on TV. But it is an honor to be with you.

HANNITY: No, it is an honor to have you here. And I really appreciate it.

All right. I'm going to ask you in the beginning all the questions that I think probably you don't want to ask, because we have some serious issues you want to get to, substantive issues that I think we need to lead the country towards, for solutions. National Review was pretty much begging Jeb Bush to get in the 2012 presidential race. Did you see the piece?

BUSH: I did. It was very flattering. And others have written nice things. And then they move on to Mike Huckabee and to Mitch Daniels.

HANNITY: Huckabee out, Daniels out.

BUSH: I think a part of this is little unfair to the candidates that are in the arena and running. To be honest with you, they are all good men and women, they're capable. They've made the all-in commitment and this yearning for something else is very flattering for someone if you are that someone else. But in reality, I think this race, we have qualified candidates. And as it gets closer to the primaries, to the caucuses and primaries, I think people will begin to see the mettle of the men and women that are running.

HANNITY: Yes. I agree. I don't like this media narrative that things been out there now for some time, is that this is a weak field, that they can't win, that Obama is certain to get re-elected. Do you disagree with that?

BUSH: I completely agree with you, and disagree with the pundits that, you know, that form conventional wisdom when they're always wrong. I mean, if you recall, my dad in 1992, had an approval rating that was double what President Obama has right now. And he was running against the seven dwarfs, I think.


BUSH: One of those dwarfs became president. President Clinton. So, the notion that somehow these aren't folks that are capable of winning, I just think is ridiculous. These are good people.

HANNITY: Governor, we're going to go over your track record and some of the things you feel most passionately about because you really engaged in the issues that I think this country now is facing which are as challenging as at any point in our history. Explain, walk us through the thought process of why you decided not to run, to the fact that your father, your brother were president, did that impact you at all?

BUSH: No, in fact, you know, I love my brother and I love my dad. And I would consider it a blessing if I was a candidate to have their support and be associated with them. I think the reason I'm not running doesn't have anything to do with politics or underwriting the political risks or anything like that. You know, when you run you got to be all in and you take risks of winning and losing. I never felt comfortable with making political decisions based on whether, you know, it was the right thing to do in terms of a poll. Because by the way, the context changes almost immediately once you embark on a journey like that.

And it will change 10 times between now and the Iowa caucuses. So, my motivation really is a personal one, relates to my family and desire to fulfill my duties as a husband, and a father which is I think we all have a duty to provide financial security for our families going forward. And so, people don't believe it, but I promise you that's the reason. And it doesn't mean I'm a hermit or going to live in a cave. I'm totally engaged in the process. And, you know, I may support a candidate. I don't know. But I intend to have my voice heard. Just won't be with a big megaphone.

HANNITY: Do you agree that maybe this particular primary is a little different than previous primaries? Republicans seem to have historically picked the next person up. This year, it seems to be a little bit of a battle maybe between a Tea Party candidate and a traditional or an establishment candidate, is that a fair characterization?

BUSH: I think that's right. I think the old order is being dismembered. The Democratic Party in my opinion doesn't really exist, it's a coalition of communities around, you know, special interests. And President Obama was very effective in mobilizing support in the down fall of the Democratic Party, around his candidacy kind of being the organizing principle of that. And that's what he's going to try to do again. Republicans being a little more traditional or slower to move into the 21st century model. But, the old idea that there's someone, you know, it was someone's turn no longer is valid.

HANNITY: You have been very critical of President Obama on one issue in particular. And it even came up again today. The fact that the president seems obsessed with blaming your brother for all of the problems that exist.

BUSH: Look, that is personal thing for me, Sean.


BUSH: I get tired of it. I think most people do.

HANNITY: The polls show that it is not working any more.

BUSH: Well, it's just, the guy has been there for three years. And it is time to accept responsibility. He was dealt a very difficult hand. No one can deny that. But the fact is, he's been there long enough for his economic policies to work. And with all due respect, I'm not one those that believes there's some kind of, you know, I don't ascribe evil motives to the president. I think he believes what he believes. And I just think his beliefs are wrong. And his policies are misguided and they haven't worked. And he's not willing to adjust to a different set of policies.

And our challenge, as Republicans, as candidates and those that believe in limited government, can't just be to attack the president as the organizing principle of our party. That worked in 2010 very effectively, I think. We have to offer a compelling alternative that is a lot more hopeful and optimistic. And pro-growth that will create jobs for Americans. And I'm confident that will happen. It hasn't really emerged yet. But I believe that our candidates will start doing that.

HANNITY: I've often said, when I give speeches if the dog bites you it is George Bush's fault, according to Barack Obama. If the bee stings, if you're feeling said, it's all George W. Bush's fault. But now a poll shows that is not working. How would you grade this president on two issues? The economy and national security.

BUSH: I would say national security is work in progress. It is interesting that he was very critical as a candidate of the policies that my brother initiated.

HANNITY: You give grades to teachers in Florida which is all part of your -- I'm going to get into your reform -- if you had to give him a grade?

BUSH: Well, passing, but barely. And I would say failing on the economy. The idea that you can stimulate economic growth by creating massive uncertainly for the folks that make investments that create the jobs, which are predominantly small businesses in our country, is not going to work. And then the hyper regulatory climate on top of that and the fear of just change being always to the detriment of people that are willing to invest and compete and create jobs, it hasn't worked. And it is clear that it hasn't worked. And we have long term structural problems that we have to deal with. And I don't think we ought to be arguing on a partisan basis. We have short term challenges that the president's policies have been tried and they've just failed.

HANNITY: I look at your background as a governor. And we are going to go through a lot of the issues that you implemented that now are being duplicated in other states. Your brother's record as a governor. Your father was a congressman, and ambassador, CIA director, vice president, before he became president. Do you think maybe the root cause of this is he didn't have the experience to be president? Doesn't have the background? Never ran a business? He hung out with very radical people?

BUSH: He's a smart guy. And you can see how he, like on foreign policy, I think he's moving towards a policy that is better than where he started. So, I think he's capable of learning these things. But he doesn't have people around him that have any practical experience. I think Bill Daley is the first guy that I'm aware of that actually worked in the private sector that is part of his inner circle. No one in his cabinet has. And so, when they make these big decisions, there is no one there that has actually created a job.

HANNITY: All right. Good point.

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