Jeb Bush has a little unsolicited advice for President Donald Trump, his former primary rival.
“He should stop saying things that aren’t true, that are distractions from the task at hand,” Bush told Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 in an interview that aired Sunday on “Facing South Florida.”
In his first in-depth local interview since dropping out of the presidential race more than a year ago, Bush offered a mixed assessment of Trump’s first 60 or so days in office. He praised several of Trump’s Cabinet secretaries, including Betsy DeVos for education, John Kelly for homeland security and Rex Tillerson for state.
“The president made some really good appointments,” Bush said. “He’s acted decisively on some areas I think are important, particularly on the regulatory side.”
But Bush said Trump “hasn’t shifted to being president in the way that people are used to, and I think that’s the problem.”
“He’s a distraction in and of himself,” Bush said. “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.”
Asked host Jim DeFede: Does that diminish the office of the president? “A little bit,” said Bush, who said he hasn’t spoken to Trump since the inauguration.
Reflecting on his failed presidential campaign, Bush said he didn’t regret running but acknowledged his personality and style didn’t work for the electorate.
“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.”
Bush also said he learned “something unusual”: “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,” he said. “That is dangerous for our democracy.”
He said his top concern for the country is restoring “some sense of what it is to be an American citizen again, and have it be a unifying theme.”
While Bush wouldn’t rule out another political run — “I don’t rule out anything” — he sounded content to be a private citizen again in Coral Gables.
“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.”
Bush also shied away from handicapping the big 2018 Florida governor and U.S. Senate races, though he noted that Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has “never been knocked off as a candidate for Senate.”
“You gotta assume that incumbents have a certain advantage, if they’ve won two or three times,” Bush said. “But on the other hand, the person who’s likely to run against him is also an incumbent — so that’ll be a good race for sure.”
He was referring — without mentioning him — to Republican Gov. Rick Scott.