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How I met my wife. I was 17 years old, it was a Sunday afternoon right after Mass in a colonial Spanish town, Leon, Guanajuato. The interesting part would be it was the same way men and women met in colonial Spain over the last 500 years….I met her just by looking at her. It was love at first sight...she didn’t fall in love at first sight. I had to convince her. She reorganized my life.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a grinder...I’ve never taken more than a week off in my adult life. I truly believe work is a virtue, it gives you purpose. I love my family, love my grandkids.
What's the number one way you're different from your brother?
Different than Marvin?
We'll let you choose the brother.
He’s the runt of the litter. I’m 6’4”.
So, why should America hire you?
Because I have a heart for people...It’s time for leadership and I believe I can bring that leadership to allow people to rise up again. And I base that on the fact that I got to do something extraordinary: I got to be governor of a crazy, wacky swing state [with] 500,000 more Democrats than Republicans. And I applied conservative principles to disrupt the old order and bring about a new way of looking at things, and I think I could do that in Washington...They [Americans] need a government that’s not putting lids on their aspirations, that creates a floor for them to rise up.
Who should we call for a reference?
I would give you Berthy Aponte. She’s a woman I met when I was running [for governor]. She’s a Colombian-American [and] she was a liberal Democrat at the time...In a town hall meeting [she] kind of challenged me and said “What are you going to do about my daughter?’”....I said, “I’ll give you four days this month, so I can learn what it’s like to have a child with severe developmental disabilities.” And what I learned was, [her daughter] was a child from God….I learned to admire the courage and determination of people like Berthy.…She’s now a Republican….I think [she’d say] that I’m the biggest advocate for the developmentally disabled probably in the country. That’s probably an exaggeration, but that’s what you want -- a good reference that is prone to exaggerate on the upside.
What's your greatest strength?
Dogged determination. I’m an introvert. Introverts have a huge advantage over extroverts. We can create a mission and we can act on it.
What's your greatest weakness?
I’d say it’s impatience. I don’t suffer fools well, although a grinder would also try to work on that.
The mission is high-sustained economic growth where people have a chance to earn success. [I’ve] unveiled a pretty provocative tax reform policy, simplifying the code, lowering rates. Regulatory reform is part of that. The stories of investments not made, of jobs not created, of income not earned, is pretty phenomenal in a world where Washington is just on steroids as it relates to the rules they create. [I’d] repeal Dodd-Frank* if I could….It’s not the intention of regulation that matters, it’s actually the results. And these results have created greater systemic risk and are hurting the heartland.
Education and student loans.
We’ve allowed universities to finance their big, deep, broad agendas without any accountability, on the backs of students. And outside the elite schools, 60% of full time equivalent students in public universities graduate with a four year degree in six years. Most of them have student debt….So I think we need to go in a completely different approach….it will be a market-oriented approach to align what we want: more accountability for higher education, lower costs….degree completion rates need to increase. We were number one in the world since WWII all the way to the 1990s, and now we’re 13th or 14th. So [we need] to improve degrees being completed in four years, making them more relevant.
I think the climate is changing. I think man has something to do with it. It’s uncertain the degree to which climate change is human-driven. But if you start with the premise that the climate is changing, a couple things come to mind. One, maybe we need to have an insurance policy. You insure for the unforeseen in your life….Secondly, I think the government should play a role to provide research and development dollars to create the next generation of renewables. Here’s where I diverge from the left: I don’t think we should destroy our economy and impose high costs on working families and low-income people to achieve a minimum result….Carbon emissions are down 10% over the last decade. And it’s not because of government policies….most of it is because we’ve supplanted higher-carbon power generation with lower-carbon cleaner energy, principally natural gas. We should be embracing that.
The Iran Nuclear Deal.
It stinks. Is that short enough [for you]? It’s dangerous to our future….I think it creates an existential threat to our strongest ally in the region, Israel. It allows Iran to continue to be the largest sponsor of terrorism….It changes the order of things in the region in a very unstable way.
Would you change anything about how the US is handling this whole ISIS thing?
I would have a strategy. Twice [the president’s] said there’s no strategy. Strategy needs to be re-engaged in Iraq, embed with the Iraqi military, arm the Kurds [in Iraq], have greater capabilities to identify where the evil-doers are, have air controllers, spotters. Then build a fighting force in Iraq that, with support of the neighborhood, effectively takes ISIS out. Syria’s a much more complicated place…..[my strategy is] to create safe zones which would be helpful to the refugee crisis. To provide support for the Syrian Free Army. The Russians wouldn’t be strafing and killing members of the Syrian Free Army and the forces fighting Assad if they knew the US was serious….We should wipe out the Syrian air force if they continue to obliterate the innocent people in Syria and create this crisis.
I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I believe that in addressing violent crime, we need to focus on violent criminals and persons with mental illnesses, not restricting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. I believe that with a focus on law enforcement, mental health identification and prevention, and criminal justice reform, we can protect both our citizens and the Second Amendment.
Right to choose. Yes or No?
I’m pro-life. The law protects women’s right to chose, and I think there’s a competing right, which is the rights of the unborn. And as you get closer to term, I think the rights of the unborn become more and more prevalent….I think we should defund Planned Parenthood, or they should re-focus their efforts exclusively on women’s health. They claim that 3% of funding is for abortions, but there are 340,000 abortions that take place in these clinics….My guess is it’s more at the core of what they do. I defunded Planned Parenthood when I was governor.
My thoughts are written down in a wonderful book called “Immigration Wars” which I wrote three years ago. It’s a conservative pro-growth immigration policy. Respect the rule of law, enforce the rule of law, secure the border, deal with the 40% of illegal immigrants that are here with illegal visas and just overstay. Do all those things right, e-verify, and then narrow the number of people coming by family to spouse and minor children, like the rest of the world. And then create an economic strategy for legal immigration: guest worker programs, high-skilled workers. Not taking jobs away from Americans, but actually creating economic activity for Americans….The power of America is the set of shared values we embrace. We need to remind ourselves of what those are, and immigration becomes a huge positive benefit.
What would you ask the white house chef to make for your first meal?
I’m paleo but I’d have a cheat meal the first day: tacos al carbon.
How many times do you hit snooze in the morning?
Never. I’m so good at this, I wake up a minute before the alarm goes off.
How do you take your coffee?
With fake sugar and fake milk.
*Dodd-Frank: A financial regulation overhaul passed after the financial crisis. Goal: avoid another meltdown like in '08. But some say it goes too far with government overreach, and hurts competition.
It’s hard to create a fresh reputation when your last name is Bush. But Jeb’s also made a first-name for himself as a Florida gov. popular with Hispanics, who’s very moderate on some issues (immigration, education), and very conservative on others (economy, abortion). TBD on whether he can make enough Americans see him as just “Jeb!”