JOHN DICKERSON INTERVIEWS GOV. JEB BUSH
NOVEMBER 29, 2015
***FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW***
JOHN DICKERSON: We spoke with another Republican presidential candidate, former Governor Jeb Bush earlier. And asked him how his strategy to defeat ISIS would be any faster or more effective than the current one
JEB BUSH: I'd say a no-fly zone, creating safe zones in Syria, directly arming the Kurds in Iraq, re-engaging both politically and militarily with the Sunnis, the Sunni tribal leaders that were effective partners in the creation of the surge. Have our troops be embedded with the Iraqi military. But basically all of this needs to be a strategy, not just one-off kind of incremental decisions being made by this president who wants to run out the clock. The strategy ought to be: how do we destroy ISIS and how do we create political stability in the aftermath? And right now we have neither.
JOHN DICKERSON: You've talked about, saying you would listen to the generals in terms of their advice about ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria or in Iraq. One of the things the president has said is that his military advisors have told him that without a force on the ground to help U.S. troops, that basically if you were going to put U.S. troops in, they'd have to stay as an occupational force. Is that wrong in your view?
JEB BUSH: I think it is wrong. I think that, had we kept a small force in Iraq, we wouldn't have the mess that we have right now. Look, the president and Hillary Clinton both said that al Qaeda in Iraq was decimated, was gone, and when we pulled back diplomatically, politically -- remember Hillary Clinton only travelled to Iraq one time during her four years. That lack of commitment created the instability that now has created a caliphate. So of course we need to have engagement. And without American leadership this isn't going to happen. And it's going to require troops on the ground, mostly special operators that are helping build this force, but we need to lead in this regard to garner the support of the Persian Gulf countries, other Arab nations, and Europe.
JOHN DICKERSON: I guess what I am trying to figure out is what the number is here between -- you want troops to go in, but then everybody seems to agree there needs to be some kind of stability afterwards. You've mentioned the surge from George W. Bush's presidency. That surge was successful because hundreds of thousands of troops were in there. So how does it work in this case without that many troops?
JEB BUSH: Well first of all had we kept 10,000 troops as the military leaders had recommended, we wouldn't have ISIS. My point is in the post-ISIS world there needs to be stability. You can't just allow the void to be filled. I think we need to do this not unilaterally, we need to do this in concert with Syrian, Sunni-led forces, well trained, backed up by air superiority, and we need to garner the support of the Arab world not to -- in a unified fashion, to create a fighting force that will both take out ISIS as well as bring about change in the Assad regime.
JOHN DICKERSON: But if ten thousand was a good sustaining force in Iraq after all of the activities that had been there -- this is a totally new adventure. So it would seem that upwards of ten thousand troops would be necessary for the kind of engagement you are talking about.
JEB BUSH: ...If I'm Commander in Chief, my first order is "give me options," and if the military force says we need a force of x thousand and this is the best way to destroy ISIS, then I would take that under advisement for sure. I believe most people that I've talked to -- military leaders -- think that we can't do this alone, but it's going to require more effort than we have right now.
JOHN DICKERSON: In terms of building a coalition, you've said that you would -- Russia could be an ally in this fight but only if they abandon their alliance with Assad in Syria. How do you get them to do that?
JEB BUSH: I don't think we will...I have grave doubts whether Russia would make that big kind of sea change. But we always should be in dialogue with Russia. My problem is talking to Russia from a position of weakness only enables their objectives. It has nothing to do with ours. If we were stronger, we'd be in a better position to deal with them.
JOHN DICKERSON: One of your security advisors, John Noonan, refereed to Donald Trump and his plan for registering Muslims, he called him a fascist. Do you agree with that?
JEB BUSH: Look, I just think he's uninformed. He knows what he's saying. He's smart. He's playing you guys like a fiddle, the press, by saying outrageous things and garnering attention. That's his strategy, is to dominate the news. The simple fact is that he's been wrong on Syria and on the refugees pretty consistently. And no one's holding him to account. He first said we had no interest in being involved in Syria. And then he said let the Russians take out ISIS. And then he said let ISIS take out Assad. Back and forth it goes. And the net effect of this is in these really serious times he's not a serious leader.
JOHN DICKERSON: So why, if he became the nominee, would you still support him as you have pledged to?
JEB BUSH: Look I've said -- because anybody is better than Hillary Clinton. Let me just be clear about that. But I have great doubts about Donald Trump's ability to be commander in chief. I really do. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt to see how the campaign unfolded. But if you listen to him talk, it's kind of scary to be honest with you, because he's not a serious candidate. He doesn't talk about the issues at hand that are of national security importance for our country. To keep us safe is the first priority of the president. And he's all over the map, mis-informed at best and praying on people's fears at worst.
JOHN DICKERSON: How would any of that specifically be better than Hillary Clinton?
JEB BUSH: Well I'll let the voters decide about Donald Trump. I'm pretty confident that the more they hear of him the less likely he's going to get the Republican nomination
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about your position on refugees. You've mentioned that perhaps an approach might be to allow Christian Syrian refugees in. How would having kind of a religious test like that, wouldn't that play in to the narrative that ISIS wants, which is this is a battle between the Christians and Islam?
JEB BUSH: Look, it is already in the law that there is a requirement to screen for religion. This is the practice of our country. There was a bipartisan bill that of course didn't pass in Congress this year to provide preference for Christians who are being slaughtered in the Middle East, persecuted based on their faith. Religious minorities I think should have some preference...I think we ought to do what we can to provide support for the refugees. The best means to do it are safe havens inside of Syria. That's ultimately what we need to do, and this president hasn't led in that regard.
JOHN DICKERSON: Alright Governor Jeb Bush, thanks so much for being with us.
JEB BUSH: You bet.
***END OF TRANSCRIPT***
Jackie Berkowitz, firstname.lastname@example.org