Transcript: Former Gov. Jeb Bush on the future of education

October 23, 2019

The following are unedited transcriptions of remarks delivered by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and a Q&A between Gov. Bush and Rick Larsen, President & CEO of Sutherland Institute, during the event The Future of Education with Governor Jeb Bush. Bush was introduced by Utah Governor Gary Herbert.

Gov. Bush: Thank you. Thank you, Governor [Herbert]. What a great job your governor has done in concert with the legislature and people here in Utah. This is a state that is hopeful and optimistic and on the move.

I got to Park City, I had a speech this morning and I’m East Coast time, so I woke up in like 3:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep so I started watching the news, you know, the D.C. cable news. It is such a delight to be hear. I mean the talk there was about things that are, like, not really relevant about what our future holds for our country, and here, you have problem-solving public servants in concert with a bunch of folks trying to figure out how to build the field of dreams where people can be successful to achieve earned success. Every time I come here, I feel the same thing. I really feel like Utah’s got it going on right. So that requires leadership and Gary Herbert has done a phenomenal job. Thank you for your service. You’ve done a spectacular job as governor and leading the state, for sure.

I’m here just to give a few brief remarks about the importance of education. I’ll start with something…maybe it’s provocative, maybe you guys have already figured this out. It’s my passionate belief that a child born in poverty today in this country, and there are a few here in Utah that are born in poverty, and in Florida, half of our kids are born into poverty, at least starting out in life, they’re never going to have a job if we don’t change and alter and dramatically change how we educate our children.

It’s not so much that the system we have today is bad. It’s that it’s not – what’s the hockey term? We’re not going towards the puck. We’re not anticipating what the world looks like 10 years from now and 15 years from now, when that child born in a public hospital in the United States, when they’re born in that hospital, what’s the world gonna look like for he or she when they’re 18 years old? Will they be college-ready and will college be relevant 18 years from now? Will they be career-ready? Will the jobs that we don’t even know exist, will they be capable of taking on those jobs in the future?

That’s the lens that I look through when I think about education, and I believe that we can fix the path we’re on to make sure that more and more of our children gain the power of the knowledge and the skills they need to be able to live a life of purpose and a life to achieve earned success, where they are proud of the work that they’ve done to achieve what they’ve achieved. That’s always been the American way and that’s somewhat at risk today because of this convergence of big data analytics, automation, AI. All these things converging at warp speed all at once is creating massive disruption, and yet, the systems around us really haven’t changed that much.

Utah’s done a phenomenal job inside a system that was designed with an agriculture calendar and an industrial model on top of our students. Utah’s one of the leaders in the country in terms of making sure that you’re leading in important areas. But we need systemic change if we’re going to make sure that more and more of our kids gain the power of knowledge. And it looks to me, like in our country today, we’re having a harder time adjusting the things that we desperately need.

If I had a magic wand, I would make our government look like a successful 21st century entity, not one designed with rules around it that were designed in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. If I had a magic wand, I would have “loving family life” as the organizing political, most powerful political entity in the country. Each community recognizing the power of parents, making sure that as the first teachers of our children, that they have those skills. And if they don’t have those skills as parents to be able to be the first teachers, that we give them those tools so that kids start out in kindergarten capable of taking on the work that we’re requiring of them.

If I had my way, I would make sure that there’s no kid that passes…that after 3rd grade is functionally illiterate, because we know, I mean, there’s no question what happens when that happens. It’s very hard to come back from the gaps of learning that take place if you can’t read by the end of 3rd grade. That shouldn’t be the biggest challenge in the world, but too many of our children in our country don’t have the reading skills to be able to learn to read to learn. If you can’t learn to read, how are you gonna be able to read science books and other things to be able acquire knowledge?

It should be a priority in every community that we eliminate this insidious idea that we socially promote kids in 3rd kid. It should be non-negotiable, in fact, and we should make sure that every teacher knows how to teach children, how to teach reading, that we bring in mentors to make sure that they’re supported. This should be a national calling.

What I guess I’m saying is, in the 21st century, we don’t protect 20th century systems. We don’t protect the adults in the systems and the systems themselves. We should be focusing on how do we make sure the next generation can gain the power of knowledge, and it should be in a way that is more relevant to the world that we’re moving towards. That means, in my mind, competency should be the organizing principle, time should be the variable, and learning should be constant.

I don’t know. Look, I go to classrooms all the time, Governor. And you can be in front of 25 kids, 5 of them lights out like brilliant and they’re probably being held back because the poor teacher’s trying to teach to the median. Five are struggling but they’re pushed along because there’s not…we have organized the classroom in an appropriate way. And the five that are lucky to be in the middle, you know, they’re in the middle.

But the simple fact is if we turn the system on its head and said, “We’re gonna customize this and we’re gonna move to a mastery-based system,” not an easy thing to do but America’s done less complicated things, I can promise you that, we would have many more kids that were gaining college-level credit during their last two years of high school, we’d have many more children that weren’t 8th grade and 9th grade readers graduating from high school, and everybody would be lifted up and the alternatives for them would be much greater. And the communities that embraces these ideas will be the place where capital will flow, where the high-wage jobs will go.

As I said, Utah is on a cutting edge of this. Utah is poised to be one of the leaders in our country. So moving to a competency-based system has to be part of this. Customizing the learning experience away from the adults and recognizing that each child has God-given abilities and it’s up to us to organize ourselves around them, not for them to get in line to follow the prescripts of something that was organized 60, 70 , 80 years ago.

And then finally, I would say we gotta trust parents. I mean, for the life of me, we’re a country full of choices, aren’t we? I mean, you go, gosh… I do this supermarket shopping. I’m sure you do too, don’t you, Gary?

Herbert: Absolutely, every Saturday.

Bush: There you go. It’s a good way to stay connected with people. It’s a good way for them to let you have it too. That’s what I remember as governor, I’d go in, they’d give me an earful. But it’s interesting, when you go to supermarkets today and see what the abundance of choices are. You can take milk, for example. We have homogenized milk. We have skim milk. We have milk that’s not milk. We have almond milk. We have coconut milk. We have chocolate milk. We have literally… Last week, I did this, there were 40 different versions of things that are not even milk anymore, but we call it milk.

The choices we have, the abundance of choices we have as consumers in our country is amazing. But yet when we think about the choices to customize the learning experience for our children, those choices begin to get narrowed really quick. And I think for a 21st century education system, we need to break the mythology that somehow this is gonna destroy public education, and focus on making sure that every child can reach their God-given abilities, which means that some children may be in a better place in a private setting. Other kids that have learning disabilities may need specialized care. Some can learn at an accelerated rate and they ought to be able to do that. In that system, we would have an explosion of learning that would make sure the United States leads the way.

So I’ve got a great life. I got a great wife. I’ve got only four grandkids, it makes me so mad. Governors are always so competitive. There’s no way I’ll ever catch you. I have a blessed life but I spend a lot of time on this because I do think that put aside all to the fighting and the throwing of punches in D.C., where nothing gets done, in state capitals, there are a lot of good people doing great work to be able to transform our education system to assure the next generation can learn.

That’s why I’m here and that’s why I appreciate being in Utah because you guys are… There’s a set of shared values here that is unique, and I hope you never lose it. I hope you stay focused on the future and that you bring people together to make sure that there’s rising student achievement across this state. Thank you.

Q&A with Sutherland President & CEO Rick B. Larsen:

Larsen: So as always, there are time constraints today. So I’m the designated questioner and we have attempted to formulate the questions that we think most of you would ask. So I’ll do my best to try and anticipate what the audience would like to hear.

Bush: Astros in six.

Larsen: There you go.

Larsen: Response? I know there’s on [crosstalk 00:00:20]. No, they’re not going to be happy about that. Let’s talk a sequentially a little bit. We’ll just work our way through funding and the profession and governance. Utah has a unique feature in its state constitution. It’s an earmark that requires all income tax to go to education. Utah is also known as having the lowest per pupil spending in the nation, and yet we have the outcomes that the Governor talked about. So it’s not surprising the state’s facing a discussion about a major tax restructuring. As the former governor of a state, is an earmark a good way to fund education or are there better opportunities?

Bush: Well, since Governor Herbert was bragging, as he has every right to do as a sitting governor in a great state, we don’t have an income tax, so I don’t know what the problem is.

Larsen: That was a good one.

Bush: That was like a layup, man.

Larsen: I think…

Herbert: [inaudible 00:01:15] way, our tax obligation is the lowest it’s been in Utah [inaudible 00:01:19].

Bush: I would say that, in general, reform, you should, you should fund…the first funding should go to the reform rather than the last. And so if your system of…”I’ve got a great idea, I want to make sure that we expand the number of teachers that are teaching computer science” and you’ve got to go to the appropriators and get it done, and it’s a one-off thing as a line item earmark, we call them turkeys in Florida, that is not a sustainable idea. I think that reforms ought to be in the funding formula. And whatever your tax structure is and the constraints about that, there are creative ways of getting around that, I’m sure.

But if the most important thing isn’t funded first, then why, I mean, you don’t ask that question. The most important thing should be the first priorities, right, as we’ll be doing our budget. So we live by that mantra. That means opening up the budget process a little bit to make sure that there’s not a lot of embedded stuff that may have been really phenomenally important 15 years ago, but totally obsolete now, and move towards the things that are more important now.

Larsen: Thank you. Let’s talk about teaching as a profession for a moment. The estimated average salary for a Utah teacher is just a little over $47,000, and Envision Utah, among others, just published a report recommending that teacher salaries start at 60,000. That would cost the state about $503 million.

Bush: That’s number one in [inaudible 00:02:51]. You’re getting paid, that be significantly higher than the beginning pay of any state.

Larsen: Here’s the question again, talking about outcomes and considering in fairness, all parties involved, is teacher compensation the driving issue or one of many? How do you deal with that in Florida?

Bush: Well, or any place, I mean, Florida’s beginning pay, the governor has just announced he wants to get the beginning pay up to $46,000 or something, which would put us in the top three. But then what about all the other… It becomes complicated because you have compression then. So teachers, there are some teachers that would…a lot of teachers would get a pay bump, but in Miami-Dade County where it’s a higher-cost place, teachers all make that amount. So you have to work this out.

I mean, look, if there are shortages of teachers, then one thing you have to do is make sure that there’s, you know, greater rewards to make sure they stay. And if pay is part of that, which it would be, pay them more. But there ought to be some performance orientation as well. There are great teachers and they’re getting paid the same as mediocre teachers. And sadly, in some cases, at least for a short period of time, they’re getting paid the same as horrible teachers. And we need to have a system that gets the really bad teachers remediation so that they can improve, and the mediocre teachers the same thing. And there should be rewards for great teachers to stay in the classroom.

My experience, you know, this may be different now, but my experience was that great teachers would become great administrators. I’m not sure how…and I don’t know if they are great administrators, but they would get…they would move up for higher pay to become assistant principals or principals or even into the bureaucracy, and all that talent left the classroom. And the question is what was left? So in a state that’s fast growing like Utah, maybe what you do is you also open up the system to have a reciprocity for certification. Florida did that.

You know, we had 60,000 new students every year for a period of time before the Great Recession. And so we said, “If you’re certified in another state, come on down to Florida.” You don’t have to redo it. That doesn’t make any sense. If you’re a subject matter expert in Math or Science because you worked at Lockheed or had some skill, you could immediately go into the classroom and then have an accelerated period, a quick course to be able to deal with classroom management and the pedagogy of teaching.

So opening up the system to bring talented people in, there are a lot of people I know, in midlife, are, you know, tired of whatever they were doing and feel compelled to go back into teaching, and making that possible and easy is another way to deal with this issue. Without talented teachers in the classroom, it’s hard to get a year’s worth of knowledge in a year’s time. Bad teachers probably deliver about a half a year’s worth of…I’m oversimplifying, great teachers a year and a half, bad teachers half a year. If you do two years where you’ve lost the lottery, your kids are way behind. So making this a high priority is certainly important.

Larsen: Thank you. Let’s do one more…

Bush: Can I add one other thing? This could be controversial. I think a defined contribution system for teachers is another element of this, for younger teachers, particularly, that there should be portability of their benefits rather than the defined benefit programs. These are not 21st century retirement systems. They’re underfunded. Someone’s going to have to pay down the road. And giving teachers the power to be able to take that benefit, like all private sector jobs have, I think, is the better approach for a modern benefits package as well.

Larsen: Thank you. Let’s talk about one more Utah-specific thing. Right after [inaudible 00:06:48], here’s another thing that is occurring in Utah. The Utah Supreme Court recently ruled that partisan elections for members of the state school board are constitutional. This has been an ongoing debate in Utah. As a former governor in a state with a governance structure different from that, what recommendation do you have on governance? What is your opinion of partisan elections on school boards?

Bush: If it’s about ideas, fine, I don’t care. Right now, though, partisanship is hyperpartisanship. It means, you know, you’re not advancing a cause or a view, you’re attacking the other person’s view. Look, everything is political. Like ask university professors how universities are politicized, ask school boards, even if they’re nonpartisan, everything is political. What we want to avoid is this hyperpartisanship that is really dominating Washington, D.C. now. And I think you could do that with a partisan election or a nonpartisan election. It’s the culture underneath it that matters.

And I think Utah probably does, I’m guessing that you all are a lot more collegial. You don’t assume that someone that disagrees with you as the enemy. You might just think that they’re wrong and it’s your duty to persuade them towards your view. And you might learn, when you do that. And you might recognize that, “I might might not have gotten this absolutely right.” And then that’s how you form consensus and convergence. This is what our democracy is based on.

The founders created a system that’s got divided government because they assumed that we would figure out how to find consensus. And when that’s not the…there’s no rewards for that anymore in Washington, you have what we have, which is just abject gridlock and it’s dangerous for our country. It’s the same issue in politics. Should we redraw the lines? Should there be electoral…? All these… People are grasping for changes of a system that is a cultural problem more than anything else.

Larsen: That’s well said, ideas should be the driver. Let’s jump federal for a moment.

Bush: Do we have to?

Larsen: We don’t, we can jump right back if it’s… So 2020 is in election year, apparently, and candidates are proposing all kinds of reform from tuition forgiveness to free tuition in higher education. Betsy DeVos just put forward the Education Freedom Scholarships proposal that she called “a conservative answer to what ails American education.” Here’s the question. Many understands education to be a state issue. From your perspective, what is the legitimate role of the federal government in education?

Bush: Very little. I think it would be great to have leaders in Washington realize that this is a national imperative, but they should shift power as much as possible back to the state. So I’m a big believer in early childhood literacy because that’s the start that if you can’t…if the gap start really early, it’s hard to overcome them. So in the case of Washington, I think there’s like 15 different early childhood education programs. It’s $23 billion. Why not trust your commissioner of education and your governor to craft a policy that would be matched with state dollars to create a Utah early childhood literacy strategy? That got the business community involved and got the, you know, the faith communities involved. Wouldn’t that be a better way than saying, “You’ve got to fill out these forms and you’ve got to do all this stuff?” You know, shift all this back.

The 10th Amendment has been trampled on more than any of the other amendments of the Bill of Rights. So I would shift as much power back and just hold people to account. Just say, “Look, you do what you need to do. We want to make sure the kids are learning how to read. You’re not spending it on stuff that has nothing to do with the mission.” Now, the Democrats in Washington don’t like that. And the Republicans aren’t organized anymore on this. They don’t seem to care about shifting power back to the states.

At least Betsy DeVos’s idea is sensitive to the state’s needs because the ways that she’s crafted this, it would be if states don’t want to opt in, they don’t have to. We would opt in in a second, because we would take every dollar we could and embrace and meld them into our programs. It would be a big boon to Florida, and it could be here too. So that’s not gonna happen anyway. Don’t worry about it. The bill’s not going to pass, and we’ll move on.

And then the proposals on the left is strange. We used to have a left-right coalition on charters, for example. President Obama supported charter schools. Now you have candidates saying, “I’m going to kill them, kill charter schools.” Well, tell that to the 350,000 kids and their parents in Florida, you know, how you are going to kill… I mean, I like my charter school. People in Utah like their charter school. You’re going to take away something that is at a lower cost that people, that parents like and students are thriving in? It seems to be kind of…they had this…their own little ecosystem up there that has nothing to do with reality and they’re jibber-jabbering around saying this stuff to try to garner points with the union, basically, to get their money. I don’t think it’s relevant to the work that every governor and superintendents of schools and legislatures do in the states.

Larsen: So given this gridlock in Washington, I hear you saying the solution is giving the power back to states. How does the average parent, the average citizen… Are you optimistic that’s possible and what should people do? Who should they be talking to?

Bush: Well, most of the power already is in the states. Most of the funding is state and local funding, 90% more or less. Just a quick aside that always got me mad. We had, say, 300 people in the Department of Education when I was governor. We shrunk that quite a bit. But out of those 300 people, 90% of them were there to fill out forms and requirements of the federal government’s funding, which comprised 10% of the funding. This doesn’t make any sense.

So not relying on DC, I think, is the first step in making this a high priority in every community, it can be done. Parents, I think one of the things that has not been successful in our country, in most states, there’s very little transparency about how the money’s spent and what the outcomes are and how parents can play a constructive role.

So take your state assessment. If you could imagine having that assessment be done at the…or you know, ideally, you do it when someone’s capable of mastering the material. Assuming you’re not there yet, you do it at the end of the year, closer to the end of the year, and assume that you could get a letter from the superintendent of schools in that district that says, “Here’s your test score of your child. Here are the points that he thrives in and here are the things that he needs to work on and here are the tools at your disposal for the summer to be able to make sure that he overcomes those deficits,” and that information directly goes to the teacher that taught to the kid in the year that the test was given and immediately goes to the teacher for the August start of the next year.

Those kind of tools to make sure parents are informed and that they’re empowered and that they have resources and tools to do what, in their heart they know, they would do. Everybody knows a mom, particularly, wants to make sure their children excelled. If they’re told over and over again, “Everybody’s above average,” and there’s no, like, connection to the actual learning, you’re gonna get a bad result. Or they’re told, “Your kid can’t learn,” even worse, and, “you know, you’re just out of luck,” that’s horrible. So empowering parents and making them allies in the learning experience, I think, can be done today easier than it was in the past.

Larsen: I’m gonna expand on that a little bit. Let’s talk about testing. The debate is there’s too much testing in schools, does it actually take away from learning? Are teachers asked to teach to a test? Another, it’s just a point of contention all around.

Bush: You’re not kidding.

Larsen: Yet it can inform teachers and provide a snapshot of how well students are doing. So what is the best way to measure accountability?

Bush: We talked about this previously, the big challenges. If you can move to a competency-based system, a mastery-based system, where you master the material, you move on, the assessments would be micro assessments in effect. And that challenges the current accountability system. There’s a gap there that we’d have to figure out how to deal with. Our foundation’s working on this with a lot of states to be able to transition. And it would require an adjustment, either a change in the law or waivers from Washington D.C., which, given Betsy DeVos’s role, at least while she’s there, I think those waivers are probably more likely to happen, but it may require a change in law. So that’s a big challenge.

But as it relates to tests, maybe different in Utah, but in Florida, we do over test. And it’s the school districts preparing for the last test. There’s a massive number of tests that aren’t required, but they feel compelled to do it. And so I think there should be fewer, better tests. They should be nearer the end of the year. Parents ought to be given these tools so that it’s a diagnostic assessment, not just a assessment of how you’ve done to the standards. And the school districts ought to be challenged about the number of tests that they’re giving.

Most school districts in Florida now, the superintendents have embraced accountability, but there are a lot that resist this, and the testing is a vulnerability clearly for accountability. I think fewer tests is the right way to go and they should be meaningful, and they should assess where kids are and there should be a diagnostic tool attached to it.

Larsen: Thank you. Let’s jump philosophical for a moment, because you’re talking about change, about innovation. In your opinion, and I’d like to hear this, you’ve had such a varied experience around this and such a commitment to education, is the greatest enemy to innovation political or simply an entrenched status quo? And if it’s status quo, why is that so powerful?

Bush: In education? Change is hard in general. Even in open systems that are more receptive to change. Change is hard. We’re humans. We’re kind of sedentary based. We don’t like everything being turbulent. We’re living in really turbulent times. I totally get why people are anxious about the things they see because it’s overwhelming. The amount of data, the amount of just the rush to change is happening at speeds we’ve never envisioned., I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but government-run, unionized, political monopolies resist change better than open systems. They focus on the economic interest of the adults, even though people inside these systems have a heart for kids, don’t get me wrong.

But ultimately the system in our country is a collective bargaining unit, negotiates with a public administration, both government employees, and they collectively bargain for the economic interest of the adults. And the less accountability, the less focus on performance, the simpler that process is to protect who they’re legally bound to protect, which are the members of their union. I don’t begrudge them the fact that that’s what they do. And the system we have, it allows them to do that more effectively than an open system.

But let’s be open-eyed about this, at least, and recognize they’re doing their jobs. Their job is to make sure that the economic interests of their members is taken care of. Don’t think that that’s not their job. That is their job. And they will tell it, if you ask them five different ways, they’ll finally get to the point of, “Yeah, that’s what I do as.” As was stated last week in the White House, “Get over it.”

So those systems are hard to change. And I think a system where parents have more choices challenges that system, and eliminating lifelong tenure challenges that system. How the governor and the legislature craft the funding that focuses on elements of this that narrows the amount of collective bargaining that take place could challenge the system as well. Moving to a defined contribution system isn’t challenging the system, but I think it creates more liberation for the employees in the unions. Giving union members that don’t…or just teachers or employees in school districts the chance not to participate as a union member if they don’t want to was a huge change. All these things, I think, are moving us towards a professionalization of our K-12 system and away from the system was designed 50 to 100 years ago.

That’s probably politically incorrect and I apologize if I’ve offended anybody in the system, but you know, I don’t have to worry about offending anybody anymore. I’m kind of out of it. It’s a little liberating.

Larsen: So that’s the perfect segue to a question. You touched on this in your opening comments and we’re very interested in this as a think tank because one of our observations, the lack of civility that is…has a hold on this nation, in our opinion, the greatest casualty of that lack of civility is the loss of good ideas. We’re no longer competing on an exchange of ideas.

Bush: I totally agree with you.

Larsen: How do you overcome that? How did you deal with that? Clearly, you had to fight some battles in Florida.

Bush: I’m older than dirt, for starters. I was governor at a time where ideas were rewarded, where big ideas, to execute them faithfully, implement them. You know, not everybody liked what…a lot of people didn’t like what I did, but there was recognition that that was your duty to act on your core beliefs.

So one thing I did is I said what I wanted to do when I ran. You don’t do that anymore. You get killed. Because you’re attacked…people attack you for the ideas, so people pull back. This is more of a Washington disease than, you know, a common disease you find in state and local areas. But I’m a policy nerd and I’m very…it’s disconcerting to see people I know, that have been, in the past, deeply engaged in the policy debate, left and right, but now just spend their times attacking the other side for being different than them. Democracy doesn’t flourish that way. And we’ve always been a country that has been able to move forward by, you know, strange convergence of events, always about big ideas being implemented. Right? That’s kind of been our mantra, but we’ve stagnated in the last decade.

Larsen: So you travel the country. In your opinion, is this nation as divided as we are told that we are?

Bush: Wow. We are more divided. We are more polarized. I’d say there’s two big factors. One is the internet itself, where you can customize the acquisition of information in ways that we don’t even realize we do it. So I have a series of Jeb’s rules as it relates to politics, one of which is force yourself, if you’re a liberal, to watch on Sean Hannity; and force yourself, as a conservative, to watch Rachel Maddow; and read the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, if you’re, you know, a liberal, and vice versa, force yourself to read The New York Times’ editorial page. And what you’ll find is you won’t like it, for starters, you just will not like it. But you’ll realize that people aren’t evil. They just are different; they have a different view.

And now, by putting ourselves in these cocoons, we begin to…and having our views validated over and over again, we become more righteous about our own views and less tolerant about other people’s views. And in a diverse country with diverse views, the lack of tolerance is what breeds this hatred that we now see. And then to have political figures prey on that and exploit that is disgusting. And that’s what’s happening in D.C., not in other places. So yes, that has changed things.

But if you poll, I think, if you poll…you know, we’re still a center-right/center-left country. We move, but kind of back and forth. The people that we elect seem to be less in that realm. And there is no engagement between them.

I’ll tell you a quick story that… John McCain told me this. He was, if you remember, the veterans’ administration had these big scandals of lack of care. And so they were going to do something, which is…normally how Washington reacts is gonna be really ugly. So they passed a bill in the House. They passed a bill in the Senate. The legislators here will think this is funny, probably. And they went to conference for, like, one of, you know, a handful of times in the last five years that Congress went to, and I won’t name the other three members of the conference committee. Well, Bernie Sanders is one. He was the ranking member, I guess, they call it. And the other two members, I won’t name. And so they go to conference, and all three of the other guys and gal started untangling the things…

So conference, you find, you know, you have 80 points or 20 points, you agree on 17 of them, you fight for the 3 and you find common ground. They opened up all of them again. And so McCain, being a kind of guy that was direct and to the point and had a temper, I guess, started shouting obscenities at these guys saying, “I’m going to go on the floor and I’m going to blah, blah, blah. And if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do to go back to regular order, I’m gonna shame all of you.” And they, like, they got scared and they went back to regular order. The problem was I don’t think they ever had been in a conference to know what regular order was.

So are we expecting these folks that have no engagement, have no…you know, the working process of government is no longer the relevant thing, it’s what you say on Twitter. It’s how you look good on MSNBC or Fox yelling at somebody about something else. Look, I’m not counting on them to be the solution. I’m counting on Gary Herbert in the Utah legislature and other governors in their legislatures, and people in the business community saying, “Enough of this. I don’t want to be defined that way. I want to be defined in solving problems.” We over obsess about D.C. It’s not me. I know it’s not you. There shouldn’t be anybody in this room. And if we ignore them a little bit, maybe we’d get a better result.

The vast superpowers of really powerful people would just like…it’d be like kryptonite; they’d all go away if we stopped watching.

Larsen: We empower them by… I can’t think of a better note to end on. Again, as I mentioned, we’re under time constraints. I’m about to shatter dozens of selfie dreams. The last thing we want to do is penalize Governor Bush for being kind enough to be here by causing him to miss his flight.

Bush: Very kind.

Larsen: So what I would like to ask you to do is give him one more round of applause and then stay seated and let him exit the room, if you would.

Bush: Thank you, that’s a nice touch. Thanks.

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