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Jeb: I'd Have Been 'Mumbling and Fumbling' if I Tried to be Like Trump

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waves as he arrives for an inauguration ceremony Jan. 8, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

WASHINGTON – Former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush predicted that President Donald Trump would have “at least” one or more challengers in the 2020 Republican presidential primary.

Bush, who spoke at Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s second-term inauguration, praised the governor’s effort to reach across the aisle and said both parties “need more Larry Hogans.” Bush was asked if he thinks Hogan should run for president in 2020.

“It’s not a surprise that people are speculating. We never talked about it – that’s his decision and he’ll be the one who makes the announcement… I’ll let him decide if he’s running for president. There’s likely to be a candidate,” Bush said during Stevenson University’s Baltimore Speakers Series on Tuesday evening. “There’s no barrier to entry anymore. Basically, we had 18 people running [in 2016], something like that. The Democrats will have 64 so I’m sure President Trump will at least have one; he might have more.”

Bush applauded some of Trump’s actions as president.

“As a conservative, I would say the president has done some encouraging things. If you look at the results, we’ve had two years of rising income. Prior to that, we had no years of rising income for a long period of time,” Bush said. “We have full employment; in fact, there’s 7 million jobs that are unfilled. For the first time in American recorded history, there are more unfilled jobs than job-seekers. This is a time of extraordinary economic progress. If you look at the judiciary, if you look at the economy, if you look at the regulatory issues, I, as a conservative, give President Trump and the team in Washington credit.”

Bush did not elaborate on the areas in which he is not satisfied with Trump’s job performance, but said more Republicans should speak out if he they do not agree with something that Trump does. Bush added that Trump’s tweets are probably the reason he lost the nomination.

“There are others things where I think many conservatives would say, no, he doesn’t get credit for that stuff and he ought to be called out and people are reluctant to do it – and for the life of me, I don’t think the risks are as high as what they believe,” Bush said. “The arguments I hear are ‘well, if you go too hard against the president when he does something wrong, he’ll tweet at you’ and that could get ugly. I’ve got firsthand experience on that, so I’m not an elected official probably because of that, so I can see why they might be nervous.”

Bush explained that some Republicans are reluctant to criticize Trump because it would make it harder for them to work with the White House on certain issues.

“Stand on principle, oppose the president for some of the more outrageous things he says, support him on the things that are done,” Bush suggested. “It’s really important for all of us to stop focusing on what he says because sometimes that’s like in Trump world, that’s like this world that is not based on results and reality, and that’s exactly what he likes. He wants the whole world to be focused on good news, bad news, as long as it’s focused on him. And I’m not sure that’s healthy for our democracy.”

During his speech at the event, Bush called for more civility in the political process.

“Voters need to penalize rather than reward vulgar and toxic discourse or acts. We see this increasingly and I saw it firsthand, maybe 10 feet from me on stage. You’re not strong when you disparage the disabled. You’re not strong when you say POWs are losers,” Bush said.

“You are not strong when you call people Nazis. Still, there are a lot of Holocaust survivors and the term throwing out Nazis all over the place, which is common, mostly from the left than the right these days, is despicable. It doesn’t come close to the experience the suffering families went through in that experience yet it’s thrown out like it’s very common,” he added.

The former Florida governor criticized freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

“You’re not strong when you are a freshman member of Congress and one of the first public acts you make when you arrive to Washington, D.C., is in front of a progressive group, you say we’re going to impeach the – and I can’t repeat it – it starts with ‘M’ and you got the rest of it.”

Bush also said that “too many Republicans were silent” about Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) statement about white supremacy.

“You’re not strong when you are Steve King and you talk about how white supremacy is part of our western civilization – no, it isn’t, Steve. It is not. America is a loving place. It’s not a place based on hate and we need to call it out for what it is. We can’t just allow this to happen,” Bush said.

“No one that I am aware of has criticized the freshman congresswoman from Michigan for saying the outrageous things regarding President Trump. No one – not a single person. When someone says something vulgar or incorrect in a horrible kind of way, they should be called out irrespective of what party they are in or what tribe they are in. You’re a hypocrite if you don’t do it – that should trump loyalty over party,” he added.

Bush reflected on the 2016 campaign and how he dealt with Trump as a candidate.

“The Trump effect was kind of weird; it wasn’t bad or good, it was just different. And because I guess I was most of the time in the primary while I was in it, I was the one guy who went after him and stood up to him, I got more of his attention than I probably deserved and that could get ugly, I guess, but I had been around the track enough where it didn’t bother me,” Bush said.

“It upsets me, though, when you have people aspiring to the highest office in the land that disparage their way to the nomination and the presidency – that’s not what we need. It was effective politically, and kudos to him for understanding the angst that people had and kudos to him for changing the dynamics of politics,” he added.

When asked if he there is anything he would have done differently during his presidential run if he had the chance, Bush said he could have tried to “scrape the bark off the guy before he got going.”

“I couldn’t have been like him. I couldn’t have done it. I would have been, like, mumbling and fumbling. I was not suited for that, and going after him early might have been a difference – that would have been the only path forward, if a group of people decided this guy, he’s onto something here and it’s a danger for the conservative cause or whatever you would believe and we needed to confront him,” Bush said. “I don’t think anybody thought that he would capture, kind of, a third or 40 percent of Republican primary voters from almost the beginning.”