Jeb Bush says President Trump’s evidence-free claims are kneecapping his first 100 days in the White House.
“He should stop saying things that aren’t true, that are distractions from the task at hand,” Bush said in an interview that aired Sunday on Miami’s WFOR-TV. “He’s a distraction in and of himself. He’s got a lot of work to do, and some of these things — the wiretapping and all of this stuff — is a complete distraction that makes it harder to accomplish the things I know he wants to do.”
But Bush, who did not endorse Trump after losing to him in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, was surprisingly complimentary to the president on other issues. During the bruising campaign, Bush was a prominent critic of Trump — who in turn relentlessly mocked the former Florida governor.
“The president made some really good appointments,” Bush said, including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Judge Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump nominated for the Supreme Court.
“These are all top-notch people,” Bush said.
And Trump has “acted decisively on some areas I think are important, particularly on the regulatory side,” Bush continued. “But he’s going to stymie his agenda by focusing on these tweets that distract people from doing the tough work.”
In Bush’s view, the president has still not made the transition from candidate to commander in chief.
“He hasn’t shifted to being president in the way that people are used to,” Bush said. “And I think that’s the problem.”
He added: “Our country is at a crossroads right now. I think we need sober, serious leadership. And it’s a huge opportunity for the president to win over a whole lot of people.”
According to the Miami Herald, the discussion with WFOR-TV was Bush’s first in-depth local interview since dropping his bid for the 2016 Republican nomination.
Bush also reflected on his resounding defeat in the GOP primary, saying Trump had the right message at the right time. In the early stages of the campaign, Bush was thought to be the frontrunner and had a well-funded super PAC.
“Reasoning, in this environment where people are angry, is hard, and I wasn’t capable of giving them a sense that there is a better path,” he said. “They wanted to have their anger remediated — more than a five-point plan … President Trump’s great skill was to understand that. He understood it better than any other candidate.”
Bush also said the 2016 campaign was a crash course in understanding the way news is consumed.
“It’s not necessarily ‘fake news,’” he said. “It’s that people customize their news to validate what they believe, and it makes them increasingly less tolerant of other people’s views that rely on another set of facts. That is dangerous for our democracy.
“I have so many stories of people that were just passionate about a particular view that they held, based on a set of facts that were inaccurate,” he continued. “And as a candidate, you can’t, like, say, ‘Hey, you’re wrong.’ There’s a point where that doesn’t help you win people over. But that’s where we are.”
And while Bush would not rule out running for office again, he also sounds content at his home in South Florida.
“I sleep at night at home more often than not, and I’ve got my life organized pretty nicely,” he said. “My church, my gym, my golf course. My office is less than a mile from my home, and it’s two stop signs away. You can’t beat that, man.”
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