Jeb Bush on 2016: “Conservatism is Temporarily Dead”

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Since dropping out of a primary race, Jeb Bush has been relatively quiet about the 2016 election. Bush, once regarded as the inevitable GOP nominee, turned out to be the first victim of one Mr. Donald J. Trump. Cast as “low-energy” by the unpredictable candidate and seen by conservatives as soft on immigration, Bush never gained traction. After a dismal showing in South Carolina, the former Florida governor dropped out of the race and retreated from the bright spotlights of the election media.

On Monday evening, Bush returned. And in an interview with MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, he had much to say about the 2016 race, Donald Trump, and the state of American politics.

“Donald Trump is barely a Republican – certainly not a conservative,” Bush said. “Conservatism is temporarily dead.”

Bush said he was “disappointed” in his campaign’s results. “This would have been an extraordinary time to serve as president,” he said. “The country is desperately looking for leadership. I think it requires someone who is not always trying to win, but to solve problems.”

However, he said, he would not have been willing to betray his principles just to win the contest. “If I had to be something different than I was, then I wouldn’t have run.”

When asked to describe what went wrong, Bush said the news coverage could not be ignored.

“I’m not sure in the environment that we were in in 2016 – partially created by this larger than life character, partially created by the media’s coverage of him that blocked out the sun effectively for anybody else…I spent most of my time doing press interviews commenting on what Donald Trump said.”

He admitted, though, that Trump himself deserved credit for understanding and exploiting that environment.

“He’s a master at understanding how the media works – more than anybody I’ve ever seen in politics,” Bush said. “Kudos to him for creating the environment and then manipulating the environment to his effect.”

But he said that manipulation was rife with false promises that would eventually anger Trump’s supporters.

“There isn’t going to be a wall built,” he said. “And Mexico’s not going to pay for it. And there’s not going to be a ban on Muslims. This is all an alternative universe that he created. The reality is, that’s not going to happen. And people are going to be deeply frustrated and the divides will grow in our country. I think people are really going to feel betrayed.”

Well, perhaps.

But what Bush and many other GOP politicians don’t get is that Trump supporters aren’t blindly, dumbly voting for this man because they think he will magically accomplish everything he’s promised. We know how Washington works, we know the president isn’t a dictator (no matter how much he fancies himself one), and we know that his proposals will be even harder to push through than those of the average Republican. We know all that.

And yet we still support him, because he at least understands what we should ultimately be aiming for. As motivational speaker Les Brown says, the problem with most people isn’t that they aim too high and miss – it’s that they aim too low and hit. With Trump, we have a candidate who isn’t afraid to shoot for the moon. If he can accomplish even half of what he’s proposed, we’ll be in a much better place than we are now.

Bush would have made a decent president, perhaps, in another time. But right now, we need a warrior. And that’s what we have.