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Jeb Bush Calls Shutdown 'Embarrassing And Shameful,' Talks Trump, National 'Angst'

Republican politician Jeb Bush, pictured here at a 2015 event, joined "St. Louis on the Air" for a conversation ahead of his Jan. 22 St. Louis Speakers Series appearance at Powell Hall.
Gage Skidmore

When St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Monday asked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush if he was glad to see the end of 2018 – which marked the passing of both of his parents – Bush acknowledged it had been a difficult year but focused on the celebration of what he called “purposeful lives.”

“It was a sad time,” Bush said, “but at the same time it was a wonderful time to be able to celebrate the life of my mom and dad and to see the outpouring of love and incredible support to our family.”

He joined the talk show ahead of a visit to St. Louis set for Jan. 22, when he’ll be giving an evening talk at Powell Hall as part of the St. Louis Speakers Series. He said he plans to “paint a picture of where we are as a country.”

“There’s all sorts of uncertainty,” said Bush, who was among the Republican candidates for president during the 2016 primary. “People think we’re on the wrong track – even with the good economic conditions that we’re living through, there’s this deep angst that exists because the institutions that we’ve relied on have eroded at the very time when life seems to be accelerating.

“The disruptive nature of technology creates a lot of winners that have done extraordinarily well but a lot of potential losers as well. And so I’m going to talk about three or four things that I think we need to do to turn this technological wave away from being something that can drown us and turn it into something that we can ride to a better life.”

‘There should be more reining in bad behavior’ of all sorts in Washington, Jeb Bush says

When the conversation turned to current political dynamics at the national level, Bush said he thinks “there should be more Republicans” speaking out about what is happening at times.

“When [President Trump] gets it right, celebrate the success, for sure. But when he either – if it’s policy or if it’s just his own behavior – does things that are wrong, he should be called out,” Bush said. “I think part of the problem now is we’re in this period, hopefully temporary, of tribalism, where if you’re a Democrat and a Republican does something bad your head explodes, but then someone on your team does the exact same thing and you’re quiet, and vice versa, that’s not healthy.

“Bad behavior is bad behavior, and so I do think there should be more reining in bad behavior, not just for the president but across the board.”

U.S. government shutdown is ‘embarrassing, plain and simple’

Bush called the government shutdown, which is now in its third week and has many workers on furlough or forced to work without pay, “embarrassing, plain and simple.”

"You can't explain [the government shutdown] to a normal person."

“You can’t explain it to a normal person,” he added. “This is the one job that Congress has, [to] pass appropriations bills, preferably before the end of a fiscal year, so that government can work effectively. And immigration is now a wedge issue – it is not a policy. If it was a policy it would’ve been fixed 10 years ago. But both the left and the right now see this as a wedge political issue to prey on people’s fears and their angst. And it’s shameful … a lot of people are going to be hurting if this doesn’t get resolved.”

He said the situation “should be the catalyst for broad-based immigration reform.”

“There’s a path forward – it’s to provide a path to legalized status for the ‘Dreamers,’ for border enforcement that is a strategic approach that includes a wall, if you will, in some places, includes technology, includes better enforcement,” he said. “Sixty percent of people that come here legally come with a legal visa and then overstay … there are all sorts of things that we could do to fix this. The asylum process is run amok.

“But rather than do that, somehow this is viewed [as], ‘If we just keep holding on the president’s going to be hurt,’ and the president views it in the exact opposite way. It’s all about their own personal … where they stand politically rather than solving this problem. That’s the problem with Washington, D.C., now, and it’s quite dangerous, I think, if it continues.”

Jeb Bush says 2020 presidential contenders ‘can’t out-trump Trump’

When asked if he has any advice for 2020 presidential candidates, he began his response by saying he’s “not sure I’m the right guy to ask.”

“But I would try to run a campaign – not against the president here, just in general – I think we need to restore a higher degree of civility and talk about issues that are important to people,” Bush said. “And bet on that – that at some point there’s going to be a change.

“Because if you’re going to get into a fight with candidates that don’t believe that, that believe the best way to win is divide and conquer, to push people down and make yourself look better, there’s no one better than President Trump on that. You can’t out-trump Trump. So you have to try a different path. Looks to me like the Democrats will sort that out. They’ll have 30 people running, and you know, gosh, some will try to out-trump Trump, and they may win. And if they do, we’re in for, you know, four more years of dysfunction.”

"Mexico's not the problem. The problem is that 10 years from now there could be the continuation of artificial intelligence, automation, big-data analytics – all of these things converging to create fewer and fewer jobs for a larger number of people."

He said the loyalty of Trump’s base has to do with people being “anxious about their lives and about the future.”

“They’re looking for answers of why it is that they’re lagging behind, and the president has laid out [that] it’s immigrants, it’s the Mexicans, it’s the Chinese,” Bush said. “And I think they’re saying, ‘The institutions we’ve relied on, the elites that kind of run the show, they don’t care about us anymore.’ And the president has really been effective [in] connecting with a group of people that are deeply depressed, deeply pessimistic about their future.

“And you give him credit politically for that, but what the next step is, should be, to connect with these voters with policies that will lift them up, to give them a sense that their lives can be made better rather than attacking straw men kind of challenges. Mexico’s not the problem. The problem is that 10 years from now there could be the continuation of artificial intelligence, automation, big-data analytics – all of these things converging to create fewer and fewer jobs for a larger number of people. That’s the scary thing, and we can fix the things that would make that, you know, mitigate those challenges and turn them into opportunities. But we’re not doing that.”

He declined to speculate on what will result from the ongoing Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, saying he has “no idea” what to expect from Mueller.

“I’m not a big fan of special prosecutors,” Bush said. “I think they have way too much power and not a lot of accountability, to be honest with you. But it’s taken way too long. It’s time for us to move on after the facts are laid out. So hopefully we’ll find out what he’s up to in the next couple of months.”

Related Event
What: St. Louis Speakers Series presents Jeb Bush
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Where: Powell Hall (718 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63103)

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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