tv Wall Street Journal CEO Council Discussion with Jeb Bush CSPAN December 4, 2018 6:41pm-7:12pm EST
>> and, again, our continuous coverage is over on our companion network, c-span. the state funeral is happening tomorrow at 11 a.m. eastern at washington's national cathedral. the president will then depart for houston from joint base andrews later on wednesday. on thursday a funeral service set at st. planet's episcopal church in houston with a burial that afternoon at the george bush presidential library and museum in college station, texas. earlier today one of the president's sons, former governor of florida jeb bush,
spoke in washington talking about his father's leadership and legacy at "the wall street journal"'s annual ceo council conference. the conversation is about half an hour. >> the man to my left you all know, and i notice at the table here many of you know him personally. governor jeb bush, here for what is really becoming a bit of a national celebration of your father's life, i think it's fair to say. he graciously and gratefully in the middle of a very emotional and busy week for your family agreed to come by and speak with us, and we appreciate it very much. welcome, thank you for being here. >> honored to be here. thanks for letting me come. [applause] >> you know, it does seem to me that something interesting is happening right before our eyes here which is that in death your father seems to have, over the last 72 hours, started to bring
people together. which is pretty remarkable in this period that we're going through, particularly in this town. can that last? can something good come of that? >> well, a girl can dream. [laughter] look, outside of washington in your businesses, in our communities, people actually do like each other more often than not, and they do find common ground, and they solve problems. the contagion hasn't spread to the extent that people in washington think it's, you know, the world's coming to an end. it really isn't. this is still a pretty dynamic country, and there are a whole lot of people focused on solving problems, and they know that with civility and kindness and compassion and generous the city of spirit you can do -- generosity of spirit you can do far more than pushing people down and all the things that go on here. i'm much more optimistic because i don't come here often -- [laughter] and i follow this kind of abstractly now, not consumed by it. but i hope, look, my dad was a really unique, special guy, and
my mom's passing, similarly, kind of brought -- hopefully, it's not the end of an era, because that's the other thing people talk about. that would be bad to be the end of an era where you actually care about family and you support one another and you show integrity and compassion and courage instead of what we now reward as, you know, a sign of strength now is measured differently. so i hope it's not the end of an era. my belief is that people i hang out with don't think it is. >> yeah. so you were faithful son and a very strong family, so you obviously have learned a lot of things from your father. but if you had to distill it down to one big thing you learned from your father and one big thing that we should learn from his life and his legacy, how would you describe that? >> not one, i'll say a couple people haven't talked about. one is the guy was, like, incredibly competitive. >> yeah. >> i saw him -- >> at conditionny bunk port. -- kennebunkport.
[laughter] >> life. life. not just horseshoes, but winning politically. winning in the right way, but he was very competitive. just as one, i was thinking about this. in 1980 he was running against governor reagan, and just for the record, i remember these things because i was full time as a volunteer. he won 2-1 in pennsylvania, he won michigan, he carried oregon, he won, like, 15 primaries. not that it really mattered. the thing was over. but a week before tend of the primary process, my dad was like in washington state the -- state campaigning. jim baker finally had to drag him off the campaign trail saying, it's over. [laughter] he's a very competitive guy. i'd say that just his persona doesn't necessarily show that. secondly, he was very entrepreneurial. people kind of forget that at the early age of, gosh, 23 with little george w. in a cradle somewhere -- [laughter] they went to odessa, texas, to
start out, and he worked for dresser industries. but shortly thereafter, before he was 30, he was the ceo of a new venture that turned into saw pad da offshore, one of the pioneers in the offshore drilling business. he took big risks. i remember in the mid '60s, i don't know what age, i was probably 12 years old, i came home. i never saw my dad unhappy, because if he was -- and he was, i'm sure -- he never would share it with his kids. he was really down, and i said, what happened? he said, we have three rigs, and one of them just got wiped out in hurricane carla, i believe it was. literally, one-third of your assets wiped out, no evidence it existed. totally wiped out by a hurricane. for those in the oil sector, you know that now you kind of batten down the hatches. in 1960, in the entrepreneurial oil and gas exploration world, they didn't have that opportunity. so those are the two things that i would say are things that people don't realize. and he used those tools as a public leader as well.
but, look, the guy was just the most generous, kind person that you'd ever meet, decent. and he treated everybody the same way. so i've probably gotten -- i'm still an e-mail guy. i'm old school. i've gotten 1800 e-mails in the last two days, and i'll respond to all of them, because my dad would ask me to do that. [laughter] and the ones that i most love are the ones of people that i never met that said i met your dad, he did something incredible that redirected my life in a way because he actually cared, you know? he didn't think, well, i'm a big dog, you're not. let me move on to the important people. he treated everybody the same way, and that's the most powerful lesson that i've learned. >> so we talked a little bit about leadership, and these people in the room here are all leaders. is that the leadership lesson? is that the lesson of leadership that he carried into the oval office and beyond? >> well, it's the reason why he got elected president, i can assure you that.
it's the reason why i think he was successful just building relationships across the board. his foreign policy successes, you know, it's hard to tell. we could game play this, but i don't know if without the personal connectivity the end of the cold war would have happened. without having given gorbachev the confidence that the president of the united states and the mesh people had his back -- the american people had his back as he tried to manage what was inevitably going to be the downfall of the soviet union, gorbachev may not have believed that, but i think my dad understood it. and he could have done it, you know, he could have gotten on the wall. i saw lesley stahl on one of the cbs morning shows this weekend. she's kind of forgotten, like a lot of the elderly reporters have forgotten finish. [laughter] you know, every chance they got, you know, they would drill another belly button into my dad. [laughter] now she's, oh, yeah, he was so good.
[laughter] she was sticking a mic in the oval office, why aren't you there? well, my dad realized if you do these things, the relationships that you had with gorbachev and others would have sent a horrible signal that we didn't have his back in a situation where he had, he had very few options. and so those personal relationships as it relates to the operation desert storm, can you imagine 200,000 american troops in, you know, infidels basically in saudi arabia? can you imagine china and russia supporting a coalition of the willing today? those were difficult things to do. and i don't think you could do it in the abstract. you have to do it by having human connections and, you know, in business it applies as well. the minute times get tough, you want to have people that believe in you. and they'll have your back if they know, you know, you have theirs. >> so you're saying there was a point to all those notes and all those phone calls. >> well, it's just in his dna, but he saw that, you know,
personal diplomacy is the first step to -- he had a vision. he clearly realized the united states' leadership in the world mattered. and he used his personal connectivity to enhance that policy. and i would say those four years are perhaps the most consequential years in modern american history in terms of foreign policy. >> so you mentioned mikhail gorbachev who was then president of the soviet union. i -- you could argue that relationship in particular, the george h.w. bush/president gorbachev relationship, may have been the most consequential one of the last latter half of the 20th century. did they stay in touch? did he -- did your father describe his relationship with gorbachev? who suffered through some tough times after they made history together. >> he did. this is all off the record at "wall street journal"? [laughter] >> those cameras are there because it's off the record. >> that's what i thought. [laughter] they had a great relationship. they had a, they had a -- i think they had a personal, they
had personal connectivity, and i think gorbachev respected my dad and believed he was doing what he thought was right. they didn't have the relationship we were talking about it, the mulroney and john major relationship, which was a personal relationship that went way beyond their time in public office. but they've maintained contact. in fact, i was, i thought that president gorbachev was coming, but apparently, at the last moment, couldn't make it. and he went to the opening of the library. he watched my dad jump out of an airplane, like, a little different for someone from the soviet union, i think. [laughter] so they had a close enough relationship to respect one another which was, you know, what matters in this stuff. if you don't believe that your word's your bond, then it's very hard to trust someone, you know? >> it's been obvious to everybody who has read and certainly those of us who have written about his life in the last few days that it was a life
of incredible achievement. i mean, an enormous list of achievements. which one do you think he considered his greatest achievement? >> the one he would say was that his children came home, you know? that his family really kind of -- particularly at the end of his last 25 years of his life. i'd say two things really drove, gave him purpose. one was giving back to others. family mattered. the pride that he, you know, had in george w.'s ascendancy as president of the united states was real. all of the -- i'm giving myself therapy here about the press a long time ago. now it's so much better. [laughter] all of the psycho babble analysts about my brother's relationship with my dad and vice versa is just total hoe couple. i mean, it's just -- they had a deep, deep relationship. i'm sure you're going to find that when my brother eulogizes him tomorrow. and it starts with the
incredible source of pride. guy was president of the united states. he could have been thinking about how great he was, but i think he got so much joy out of my limited success, but more importantly, my brother's success. family mattered a lot. grandkids doing stuff with him mattered. and the other thing i would say he was proud of and wasn't organized was his, his later years were defined by, you know, not retiring, not leaving it, you know, he didn't leave anything on the field here, man. this guy, jumping out of planes, living a joy toous life, working with president clinton to deal with katrina as well as the tsunami. all of these things gave him great joy, and i think he really sent a pretty powerful signal as we age as a country that people that are supposedly retired -- which will have to be redefined -- can live purposeful lives and add value to people's lives s and we should treat them
with dignity and respect. we should encourage them to be out there doing stuff. don't be moping around. and the second thing is how you end your life, how you, you know, go about the last traumatic, difficult parts of your life to watch my mom and dad do what they did and how they did it with such grace is another lesson for a whole lot of people. our country really is not good at this. i was governor of the state where a lot of people move on to heaven. we had, you know, people don't have living wills. people don't want to talk about what the last months of life should look like. we don't really focus on it because it's kind of hard to do. but if you view life as, you know, purposeful and particularly if you're a person of faith, this is a time to celebrate george h.w. bush, not to bereave his lost -- grieve his loss. that's what we're doing as a family right now. >> i think in talking to people over the last couple of days there is a lot of interest in that final stage of life, how, the whether it was peaceful, how he coped with it. can you describe the closing days a little bit for us?
>> sure. well, i'd say the closing year or two years he was, you know, he was in decline. so he never complained. he, you know, when you'd have a conversation with him, it was like -- [laughter] he would be interested nor a while, and when he checked out, okay, that's it, we're moving on to the next thing. [laughter] he didn't have -- he's really uncomfortable with people taking care of him. the challenge for people that are in that situation is they lose their dignity a bit, or they think they do. so i was very, you know, it's sad to watch that as someone who loves my dad. but he never complained. he was always in good humor. people would come -- he was surrounded by friends all the time because he's got an army of friends, legions of friends, and i think a lot of people felt like this may be the last time i see him. he had people lined up to see him. and jim baker would -- my dad was in the hospital maybe five
times in the last two years. and every time at houston memorial hospital baker would sneak in -- what do you think that shaker for the martini? [laughter] >> shaker for the martini will do. >> i'm not a martini drinker, but he would bring, no matter, like 10 in the morning -- [laughter] >> full. you mean the shaker was full. >> yes. >> okay, all right. [laughter] >> they would have a martini. that's what i meant. [laughter] and that kind of friendship, i mean, how many people would go to not the icu, but close enough, and be with their friend? and he was there the last, you know, the last day of his life as well. now, my dad did the same thing with jim's, the passing of jim's first wife as well, so that bond and connectivity is something to really admire. >> you know, you used the term "friend" there a couple of times. you know, those of us who covered your father knew and those of us who watched him subsequently realized even more,
he had a lot of friends, but he had a lot of democratic friends. he had friends from across the aisle. those friendships don't seem to exist anymore. have we lost that? or was this unique to george h.w. bush? >> no, i -- look, i think there are a lot of people that had friendships across the aisle 20 years ago. >> yeah. >> and it was partisan. i mean, i used to throw stuff at the television when george mitchell would do things that i thought was inappropriate or whoever the speaker was, i can't even remember now. gephardt maybe? i don't know. there was, the founders created that tension just between the executive and the legislative, then you add the partisan component, there's always that tension. but it wasn't that long ago that tip o'neill, ronald reagan example is the one used, but it wasn't that long ago those ties, those bonds went way beyond tip o'neill and ronald reagan. it was across, you know, all parts of the congress and the executive. so, look, we're -- what i try to
tell people as they try to sort of scratch their head, you know, about washington and about politics is it's worse than you think because this is, politics is a reflection -- see? you don't like it, right? [laughter] well, here's my, this is my admonition. politics is not creating our culture, politics is a reflection of our culture, and our culture is more vulgar and more coarse. and so if you want to solve washington's problem, to a certain extent we need to take the first step which is to reach across the partisan aisle in our own lives. stop self-sorting. stop the, you know, watching if you're a conservative like i am, force yourself to read the editorial page of "the new york times". and if you're a liberal, read the damn editorial of "the wall street journal" -- [laughter] it'll warm your heart. [laughter] it'll lift your spirits, it'll give you hope and optimism. [laughter] >> there you go. thank you. >> you know, crossing -- [laughter] [applause]
>> but, you know finish -- >> and now i've got to start liking maureen dowd. this is going to be really hard, but i'm going to do my best. [laughter] >> you know, it's also true that when your father got to washington, junior member of the house, there was a bond that a lot of those people had which is they'd served in world war ii together. >> yeah. >> i mean, people like john dingell have told me that was a more important connection than where you came from or which part you were from. did he view himself as part of the greatest generation? >> you know, as part of the greatest generation, the reason why they're great, they didn't talk about it. the weirdest thing in the world was i was reading one of the books about -- i didn't realize my dad -- i knew my dad was shot down in the pacific. i didn't realize that had the japanese garrison got there before a submarine that randomly showed up, a u.s. submarine, he could have been cannibalized because the garrison commander
on the island was convicted and executed for war crimes for cannibalism to maintain the morale of the troops. i mean, dang. [laughter] 20-year-old kid. i mean, this is, like, you don't -- in our world, in our generation you don't have people talking about that, there'd be books written about how great i was. i mean, now, that generation really put that away and moved on with their lives. so, no, he didn't talk about the it, but that bond, i think, was a powerful one. i'd say there are other bonds as well that as a society, if washington's a reflection in some ways, maybe an exaggerated circus mirror of life, then there were -- if you were a rotary january, how many people are a protear january here, just out of curiosity? one, two. for those that are that were ashamed to raise their hand, you know, there's three maybe. [laughter] ..
. >> but he probably will. [laughter] one of his closest friends was sunny was a democrat from mississippi. you don't ask your party affiliation because there was a lot of common ground including with world war ii. >> talk about the next couple of days that for the next moment. there has been a lot of speculation how this moment would go because of the
current white house. has it been all right? are things smooth? mimic yes the president and first lady have been really gracious. in fact, my two granddaughters are at the white house doing christmas along with other family members are there by invitation of the first lady which was really kind. they have been great. what people want to talk about why is of the president giving the eulogy? because we have a unique circumstance. my father was president. [laughter] first dibs. [laughter]
they have been kind and gracious they called me and george and could not have been nicer. >> but you sound as if you don't want it to be a somber occasion. >> no. of course, not but i hope it is short. and we're ready to slap george if he goes beyond 12 minutes. i feel it is a beautiful place and the incredible tradition and to be surrounded inside the national cathedral and many who could not get in. and to build a network that is amazing so it's a great time. >> the last question from me for those of us who walked away with a lot of great
memories one of the phrases that rings through your head through the bush presidency it would not be prudent. >> that also and i don't have to eat broccoli. [laughter] but he really did want this to be a kinder and gentler nation is it still out there? . >> think about it. vein capital head of the mars office from the consulting fee are asked to come down to study american politics to determine whether harsh in mean is worse than kinder and gentler. it would take really a tortured report to suggest to all of us that being kinder is
not as good as the opposite. of course, it is better. but it's not winning right now. >> politically it is not but that's not to say we should not restore it. . >> do you want to win and do nothing or when and if i do not solve problems or actually embrace the fact this is still a phenomenal country and if we fix it we will be the world not just the 20th century but through the 21st. we cannot do this if we are disunited kinder and gentler means we don't assume someone disagrees with you is evil or not patriotic what that there is something wrong. or vice versa. if you see someone truly hurting you don't just step over them. you figure out a way if you are conservative or liberal with those solutions on the left and right to solve problems. that is kinder and gentler
which is an ailment that is pervasive. we want politicians to be strong as an attribute of leadership with public life as well as private life. and to include leading light from example order to focus and making courageous decisions but if we rewarded politicians who occurred restore the degree of civility. >> so governor bush condolences for your dad i always wondered how your
siblings deal with two famous brothers. >> they don't need therapy. [laughter] george and i probably need more therapy. [laughter] . >> people may not remember this but my dad ran for office in 66 when he was 40. so those formative years other than doris who is five years or maybe six years older the rest of us grew up in a time we did not talk about politics as a political family is quite natural it is odd that the two of us caught the disease it is normal that three didn't. no one feels like someone is in the limelight it is normal that three didn't. no one feels like someone is in the limelight trust me the others have been extraordinarily successful in her happy not to be in the limelight.
my parents love them may be even more. [laughter] i don't know. >> despite your desire for less partisan politics with the florida governor's race is a precursor for the far left in the far right click. >> let's see how governor desantis governs. my guess is he will. i have gotten to know him pretty well so one hint i think he will go i am a little biased i do think it's the best job in the world and being governor is the best job so by default it is the best job and i was curious if he
would view it that way and i get the sense that he does. i am confident how he ran the primary which is different than the general he told me once is that i will nationalize the primary and localize the general. that is a pretty smart strategy it turns out. that was quite effective. and it is purely hypothetical but i'm guessing he would try to find common ground as well i heard from people that were close to him thinking that he would win. but that's okay. i think it's better to run on what you will do rather than running to win because it's harder to create a mandate unless you say what you want to do but i am confident the
governor elect will do a good job and maybe disprove the idea that you have to be far right or far left. >> sully the dog? rockstar. did you have any idea. >> there was a special bond between your father and that dog it appears. >> yes he just like to be there and hang out and many people like the name as well. he is a pretty cool dog if there is the "wall street journal" addition in heaven i will get in trouble but my mom had these two little evil mean little dogs that were this size. [laughter] the only people they would not bite were george and barbara