Kai Nip

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s psychiatrist wants him to move past the 2016 presidential election.

“I’m not going to talk about the 2016 election,” Bush joked on Tuesday in a talk sponsored by the The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale. “I’m still in therapy.”

But that didn’t stop him from taking shots at President Donald Trump, his opponent in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. At one point, Bush described the current president as “Republican in basically name only.” And earlier in his speech, Bush said that after the 2016 Republican primary in South Carolina, he returned home to children who “actually love me.” His comment was met with raucous laughter from the crowd, and several audience members interviewed after the event said they interpreted Bush’s comment as a jab at Trump.

Bush — the son of President George H.W. Bush ’48 and brother of President George W. Bush ’68 — gave a lecture under the title “A Conversation with Jeb Bush: Restoring Conservatism in America.” The lecture and questions that followed focused on the state of American politics and how the younger generation can create a reinvigorated conservative movement.

“If there was ever need for a Bill Buckley-like approach, to transforming conservatism in this country, it is right now,” Bush said. “Maybe not a 19th-century or a 20th-century version of conservatism but certainly a 21st-century version of that. And sadly the fracturing of the conservative movement could not come at a worse time.”

Following opening remarks from Madeline Fortier ’19, president of the the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program, Bush began a 40-minute speech that drew on a wide range of topics — including economic opportunity, immigration and what it means to be a young conservative — before fielding questions from the audience.

During the talk, Bush offered a variety of suggestions for revitalizing American conservatism. He emphasized the need for an embrace of bottom-up economics, a return to belief in fiscal responsibility, economically efficient immigration reform and limited government.

“The 21st-century conservative agenda cannot be nostalgic about the past,” Bush said.

Instead, he emphasized the need to create a plan that accounts for the proliferation of technology, increasing globalization and a more competitive world.

Despite his Trump barbs, at the talk, Bush called for more polite political discourse, citing William Buckley Jr.’s ’50 style of rhetoric. Bush recalled watching Buckley’s famous television program, Firing Line, and admiring Buckley’s respect for the opposition, his wit and his hopeful optimism.

Members of the Buckley Program, students not affiliated with the group and community members alike attended the talk.

“It’s easy to listen to only one side of the debate,” said Ryley Constable ’21 who said he identifies as a “more conservative” student. “The normal Yale speaker tends to be more left-leaning, so it’s nice to hear from some speakers on the right as well.”

Constable said he especially agreed with Bush on the importance of rejecting bad morals within one’s own party. He said that rejecting moral shortcomings in the opposition party while accepting them in your own is reprehensible.

Members of the broader Connecticut community also attended the talk. Carol Platt Liebau, President of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy in Hartford — a think and action tank that promotes limited government and fairness for taxpayers — made the trip down to New Haven to attend the event.

“To me the talk wasn’t a matter of controversy. It was Governor Bush’s vision of where conservativism needed to make sure it was mindful in order to remain relevant, and I thought that his emphasis on reestablishing a less populist, more traditional understanding of conservatism was obviously relevant and obviously something that a lot of people in the room agreed with,” said Liebau.

Bush served as the 43rd governor of the state of Florida from 1999 to 2007. He ran for president in 2016.

Skakel McCooey | skakel.mccooey@yale.edu

Carly Wanna | carly.wanna@yale.edu

Correction, March 28: A previous version of this article stated that Bush’s comment that he “went home to my children that actually love me” was meant as a jab at President Donald Trump. In fact, Bush did not directly refer to Trump — but he was speaking about his loss in the 2016 South Carolina Republican presidential primary, which Trump won. His comment was met with raucous laughter and applause from the crowd, and eight of nine audience members interviewed after the event told the News they interpreted Bush’s comment as a reference to Trump. The News regrets this error. The story has also been updated to include a direct criticism of Trump that Bush made later in his speech.

  • James

    Jeb!

    Jesus christ the Bush family is the last people that can criticize Trump.

    Your brother will still be remembered as the idiot that invaded 2 countries without a plan Jeb. GTFO

    • ryanzb111

      The Bush Mafia invaded the wrong country, probably because Iraq had more oil than Afghanistan. Gotta get that Halliburton money!

  • chop

    Maybe conservatism in the 21st century should include the military when talking about limited government?

  • ron

    All I hear is YAP YAP YAP!

  • John Bingham

    I think Jeb was poking fun at himself for losing and trying to put a joking spin on a tough situation. If he was attacking Trumps kids for their love, that would be the 1 kind of mistake that the Bush family never makes. It was just an unintended miscommunication, which is a mistake Bushes do make.

  • Yshaggy shag

    Two jerks out of three becoming President was more than enough

  • ryanzb111

    Jebus Christ! Please clap for Jeb the Pleb.

  • Becky Adams

    Yeah Jeb of the Bush is an example of a “loving family” married to the knuckle dragging simian criminal Columba, caught sneaking tens of thousands of jewelry and clothing in through customs to avoid paying taxes, whose daughter Noelle was arrested for drugs and remains a junkie, son George Jr was arrested after he committed rape, and breaking into ex girlfriend’s parent’s home and destroying property and Jeb Jr was arrested for violence, statutory rape and drunkenness. Both Jeb and his brother Neil were involved in the crimes behind the Silverado Savings and Loan scandal, and brother Neil’s wife divorced him for getting caught having sex with children in Bangkok. The entire family are s**t weasels

  • Becky Adams

    Yeah Jeb of the Bush is an example of a “loving family” married to knuckle dragging Columba, caught sneaking tens of thousands of jewelry and clothing in through customs to avoid paying taxes, whose daughter Noelle is a junkie, son George Jr was arrested for rape, and breaking into ex girlfriend’s parent’s home and destroying property and Jeb Jr was arrested for violence, statutory rape and drunkenness. Both Jeb and his brother Neil were involved in the crimes behind the Silverado Savings and Loan scandal, and brother Neil’s wife divorced him for getting caught doing unmentionable things with children in Bangkok. The family are weasels

  • SouthBurlingtonResident1983

    If Jeb! wants to reform conservatism, may I suggest he consider starting with his brother and Dick Cheney, by encouraging sincere penance for both and the rest of the band of merry neo-cons who invaded a country that never attacked US soil? And encourage his father and Oliver North, etc. to come clean on Iran-Contra?

    Perhaps Jeb! could offer to do the jail time that the Iran-Contra criminals did not have to do when Jeb!’s Dad used the presidential pardon power at the end of his presidency to excuse them of their crimes? Perhaps Jeb! would also like to talk about his father’s leadership of the CIA in the 1970’s after Bill Colby was forced to step down, including why the CIA suddenly stopped cooperating with the House Select Committee on Assassinations and why Bush, Sr. appointed George Joannides to mislead Congress as they investigated the Kennedy assassination?

    If we wonder about Trump’s election, there is an argument to be made that no family did more to discredit the “normal” GOP brand than the Bush family. Absent G.W. Bush’s presidency and his tarnishing of the GOP, Trump would doubtfully have gained traction vs. the “normal” GOP candidates in 2016.

    • robert pavlik

      Make comments to Cheney?! Then he risks getting a shotgun blast in the a$$ during their next hunting trip.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmSIOoy6MlE&app=desktop Booker ✌🏾👦🏾

    Didn’t Bill Buckley say he wanted to punch Gore Vidal in the face? I’d say Buckley would be proud of Trump’s “muscular” republicanism, as opposed to rank and file Rs who are afraid of their shadow.

  • robert pavlik

    Not sure how Mr. Bush claims Mr. Trump “is a Conservative in name only”. He needs more therapy. Yes, Mr. Trump is a cad with the ladies and a profligate spender (but so was President Bush, his brother!) Let’s look at the other Conservative requirements and see how Trump measures up:
    Strong military? Check
    Pro-Life? Check
    Anti-Regulation? Check
    Pro-Police? Check
    Anti-Tax? Check
    Pro-Border Wall? Check
    Pro-Family? Check
    Pro-America on Trade? Check
    Pro Working-Class Families? Check
    Pro Gun and Pro God? Check​, Check​
    Again, with ​(some) respect for Mr. Bush​, ​who like Hillary​, thought he was preordained​ ​to be the presumptive Presidential Nominee because his Dad and brother were, he’s full of​…​hay.

    • yalie

      He didn’t say that Trump was a “conservative in name only”. He said Trump was a “Republican in basically name only”. There’s a difference.

      • robert pavlik

        Fair point. There definitely IS a difference.

      • 100wattlightbulb

        True. Republicans have turned out to be every bit as duplicitous as the Democrats.

  • Janet Koch

    I’m still trying to figure out the correction.