COLLEGEVILLE — Jeb Bush was definitive. He doesn’t plan to run for president again.
The former Florida governor doesn’t plan to run for his state’s top seat again, and the U.S. Senate is out too.
“I’d be like a caged animal in the Senate, where they talk a lot,” said Bush to a small group of reporters and students at a press conference Thursday at St John’s University.
Later Thursday evening, 1,600 people assembled for a formal interview between the 2016 presidential candidate and Gary Eichten, a journalist and St. John’s University alumnus, at the abbey and university church.
Bush’s father George H.W. Bush was America’s 41st president, and his brother George W. Bush the 43rd. Jeb Bush was one of 17 Republican candidates in the 2016 election.
Bush is catholic and shared some thoughts about his faith, including that he found signing death warrants the most difficult part of his job as governor. He also weighed in on current divisions in the country and how President Donald Trump is doing.
Bush said he did not vote for Trump, but he prays for the president as he prays for all leaders.
“I’m not a big fan; I think that’s been pretty well established,” Bush said of the president. “He’s not shown his ability to unite the country around a common purpose. His obsession with his own election is weird, to be honest with you.”
Bush does appreciate Trump’s judicial appointments, which include Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. Bush also praised the president’s foreign policy team.
Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is unrolling college sexual assault recommendations from former President Barack Obama’s time in office. The Obama administration gave universities new instructions on how to respond to accusations of sexual violence, which critics say curtailed the rights of the accused.
Bush said he agrees with DeVos. Political correctness had replaced due process for scores of people, Bush said.
Bush commented on the political divisions of the day. He wants politicians to be willing to criticize members of their own party for actions they’d criticize in the opposing party.
He also encourages people to latch on to similarities and build coalitions around those, even if they would disagree with those coalition members on other topics. That’s happening with bipartisan support for the young people brought to the U.S. illegally known as Dreamers, he said.
Those people currently work and attend school through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA is set to expire in less than six months and lawmakers are talking about permanent fixes.
For non-politicians swept up in political tensions, Bush suggests that people “turn off cable TV.”
He recommends people read news and opinions they don’t fully agree with or like. That’s why he reads the New York Times, he said.
“It’s so easy to customize how you acquire your information … the righteousness rises and the intolerance rises as well,” Bush said. “Challenge yourself to get outside your comfort zone and listen to people that don’t agree with you.”
Even though he doesn’t plan to run for a major office, Bush said he can still “play a role” in politics. He launched and runs an education reform foundation called Excel in Ed. He mentors candidates and elected officials in Florida and beyond.
Since he dropped out of the presidential race, he’s been rebuilding his life as he wants it, he said.
“I’m living large in Miami,” he said. “Life’s good.”
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