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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Interview with Jeb Bush

Aired October 12, 2011 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: It's the one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on, the system is broken. No, not Washington. Not Wall Street either. It's the classroom.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high school.

MORGAN: But one former governor thinks that he has the answer. You know his name and his famous family.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: It's been painful to see the people that you love be attacked when you know it's not fair or true.

MORGAN: Tonight, my exclusive with Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor on fixing education and what comes next for him.

You're not implacably opposed to running for president?

BUSH: No, I'm not. So that creates that little opening that now the bloggers will all say stuff on.

MORGAN: Could America be ready for another Bush in the White House?

BUSH: I mean, look, this is a time to serve. There's no question about it.

MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Governor, welcome.

BUSH: Good to be here.

MORGAN: I have to start -- I'm going to come to education soon, but I have to start with last night's Republican debate. What are your -- what's your view generally of these debates? How important are they right now? And what did you think of last night?

BUSH: Well, I didn't see it because I was flying out to San Francisco, but this morning, bright and early, I saw what other people thought of the debate. And first, I liked the fact that it was focused on the number one issue in the country. Up until now, these debates have really -- a lot of the questions were really on marginal issues to try to divide the candidates, which is entertaining, I guess, but this gave the candidates a chance to speak kind of calmly, sitting down, in a way, about their views about economic growth.

So I thought that was good. And I continued to be impressed with Mitt Romney's performance in these debates. He's cool, calm, collected. He's quick, he's agile. I think he could do well going up against President Obama in the fall if he's the nominee.

MORGAN: I mean he's -- he's consistent, isn't he?

BUSH: He's very consistent. And very disciplined and all the things that you would want in a candidate. And other candidates have moments where they've done extraordinarily well as well. I'm proud of the entire field.

MORGAN: Are you edging towards an endorsement of Mitt Romney? I mean, Chris Christie came out yesterday, putting his not insignificant weight behind him. Are you prepared to do this?

BUSH: Well, I don't have as much weight behind me as Chris Christie, but I'm getting up there. You know, I don't know. I'm going to wait. There's no urgency to this. I want a nominee that will win with purpose, that will win dealing with the long-term structural challenges that we face, with ideas to be able to deal with those things. And also someone who can be effective against the incumbent president.

MORGAN: It does seem like nobody else is going to put their hat in the ring now.

BUSH: It's a volatile time. Iowa and New Hampshire matter disproportionately. A candidate could surge over the next three months. You know, it's not a foregone conclusion. That's why they have these things. It's a little masochistic for candidates to run for office, but at the end of the day, whoever wins goes through the gauntlet is going to be a stronger candidate in the fall of next year.

So I'm not -- first of all, I'm not presumptuous to think that my endorsement's going to matter a whole lot. And secondly, I don't have any timetable to get involved.

MORGAN: Whoever the candidate is, what do you think will be the key qualities and assets they need to beat Barack Obama? Will the election be almost solely about the economy now, do you think?

BUSH: I think, as it stands right now, yes, but, you know, last night, who would have thought that the Iranian government may be implicated in the assassination of a Saudi ambassador to the United States using the Mexican drug cartel?

MORGAN: What do you make of that? I mean I got off a plane from London and I thought I was being wound up by my office. I thought it was some sort of elaborate hoax.

BUSH: Well, I was hopeful that the next Bond movie was going to come out soon, so my first inclination was this was a prequel to a movie, but in fact it's very serious. And so there could be 10 things like that between now and the election. But right now the economy is what concerns the American people, and so therefore having a long-term strategy to deal with the structural challenges we face and to lift the pessimism that exists in our country.

I mean, people in Europe used to, I always -- when I went to Europe, they always made fun of the United States or Americans for being naively optimistic. Don't have that problem anymore.

MORGAN: It's not an allegation you're getting very often in Europe. No one in Europe is very --

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: People are moping around and I think campaigns can be about lifting the spirits of the American people. So the candidate that I hope will win the Republican nomination will be specific about the plans that are necessary to restore a confidence in economic growth and psychologically, if you will, to lift the spirits of the American people, and kind of get our animal spirits up and going again.

MORGAN: Yes, I would imagine the Bush family, just generally, you're a positive bunch, aren't you? And for good reason, two of you have become presidents already, and who knows, you may -- you may well join at a later day.

How does America get more positive, given this malaise at the moment, financial -- which shows no sign of diminishing at all? In fact, it may get worse. What should America be doing -- what should American politicians be doing?

BUSH: I think I have a sense of history, for starters. We've had times of incredible turmoil in our country, not that long ago. I mean in the '30s, certainly World War II. Certainly in the late '70s and early '80s. There were times where in the early '80s the interest rates were approaching 20 percent, inflation was 13 percent. Unemployment was as high as it is today.

And President Reagan came and had a tangible plan, but he also spoke to the aspirations of people. And I think, you know, it can be just a catalyst, a spark to change what's going on, but I think we've got to get away from the short-term food fight and focus on the fact that in order for the United States to move forward, we have to take advantage of what's special about our country, and that means, we need to deal with our structural problems of education, take advantage of our -- of our natural resources in our own country that we don't exploit now, like every other country in the world.

Focus on training people for the jobs that may not exist today that will. A tax code that rewards achievement. And an embrace of capitalism. Right now people seem to be very tentative about the positive benefits of capitalism.

MORGAN: I went out last night in San Francisco here, actually about five blocks away from where we are now. There was their version of Occupy Wall Street going on. Demonstrations here, spreading all over America. Not entirely surprising, given the state of the economy.

You support their right to protest?

BUSH: Oh, yes, absolutely. I think -- I think the bigger issue for me is, how do you create a suite of reforms to restore long-term, sustained, economic growth? Because if we don't grow, there's no possible way that you're going to create meaningful jobs of purpose, jobs that allow an independent life.

We can talk about it, we can redistribute wealth, we can, you know, have those ledger count that kind of moves back and forth between who gets what and all that. But if you're not growing the pie, there's no possible way that the kind of jobs that people want that are protesting and people in their own homes are going to be able to get.

MORGAN: Do you feel uneasy that so many people on Wall Street made so much money in the good times, woefully irresponsible, whether they were criminally minded or not remains to be seen. And there are still some investigations going on, but certainly woefully irresponsible, causing ordinary Americans -- you know, less well-off Americans.

BUSH: Right.

MORGAN: To really suffer now, that many of those people, be them a big bankers, Goldman Sachs and so on, the moment they got bailed out, almost within a few months, began rewarding themselves with great, fat bonuses again.

BUSH: Yes. When there were cases like that, it politically showed a tone deafness that's quite remarkable. I would say the bigger story, as it relates to the real estate collapse in the United States, is twofold. One, the government was an accomplice to this. Government policies, both with Freddie and Fannie, and both parties were an accomplice to this.

MORGAN: So we should blame your brother, basically?

BUSH: Well, we do that all the time, but not in this particular case.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: In fact, they tried to reform it, and there was the Democratic-controlled Congress, in this case, fought back. I mean this started long before my brother got there, and it's not to blame anything. It's just saying that the government was an accomplice to the -- to the collapse.

And secondly, if the real estate collapse is the problem that we -- that created the downturn that we're all still suffering from, then why not create policies to deal with that? And yet, ironically, strangely enough, there hasn't been efforts by the president or Congress to deal with this. In fact, the Dodd-Frank bill, 2,350 pages or something like that, with hundreds of rule-making processes that are underway right now, left aside Freddie and Fannie.

Makes -- it just -- it's kind of like an -- like an "Alice in Wonderland" logical tour for the Americans to scratch their heads in wonderment about this. But it's this disconnect, I think, in Washington that I would say is something that people need to focus on.

MORGAN: I certainly think that, at the moment, if you look at it, there's no real structure in place to prevent a lot of the similar problems happening again. That's what concerns people. Is that America's still teetering in recession, may well go into a double-dip? Most people predicting the worst at the moment.

Europe is collapsing. There are serious global issues here. Do you feel confident that enough is being done to prevent that?

BUSH: You know, I think -- I think our banks are stronger today than they were in September of 2008, and they're certainly stronger in terms of their capital ratios compared to the European banks. We didn't -- the regulators did force the banks to raise capital faster than other parts of the world. But this is -- this is a tenuous situation, and we're living in really volatile times. So I'm not smart enough to know what the future holds.

MORGAN: Does it feel weird to be -- to feel vulnerable, as an American? Do you think it's kind of anti the culture of the country?

BUSH: It feels -- when you travel to Asia, particularly, you know, you get this spirit of optimism that's quite remarkable, and also a feeling that they look at us and kind of say, you know, poor older brother, you know, your days are behind you.

MORGAN: Yes.

BUSH: So I feel more anger than anything else, because I don't believe it's necessarily the case. We have incredible abundant natural resources, and yet we spend $300 billion a year writing checks without job creation, investment, taxes on that investment. By not exploiting our own resources, we go to places that are either hostile to us or vulnerable.

We have, in our DNA, the ability to absorb people from all over the world, allow them to embrace American values and create aspirations that create benefits for all of us, yet we are focused exclusively on this very tricky problem of border control, and we can't get beyond it.

We have a tax code that makes us dependent upon government, when Americans do better when we're, you know, when the rules of engagement are clear and transparent, but there's not, like, rules on how you're supposed to be successful in business.

MORGAN: And key to all of this, if you don't mind me jumping in.

BUSH: Yes.

MORGAN: Is presumably the area you're most concerned about which is --

BUSH: Well, I'm glad we're getting there.

MORGAN: Education.

BUSH: Yes.

MORGAN: And that's why --

BUSH: That was my last point.

MORGAN: That's why you're really hear.

When we come back from this break, I want to get stuck into why it matters so much to you, why it's so important to America, and what Barack Obama should be doing but he's not.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Department of Education. Because the Constitution does not specifically enumerate, nor does it give to the federal government, the role and duty to superintend over education that historically has been held by the parents and by local communities and by state government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Governor, let's turn to education. You're known as the education governor, because you put such a premium on this. Why has education always been your great passion?

BUSH: Well, I think I learned it at my mama's knee to start with. I was blessed to have a mother and a father that recognized the value of education. Particularly my mom, I mean, she taught us to read as early as I could remember. So I've always had an interest in learning.

And secondly as governor, I saw the link between economic prosperity and the ability to acquire knowledge. That knowledge now is really the decider for people's future more than family structure or anything else. And so if we can get it right, we give the chance for the next generation to live lives of purpose and live independent lives that can allow them to pursue their dreams.

That's not happening enough in the United States today.

MORGAN: I mean does it worry you when you see the dwindling literacy rates, say, from average Americans, compared to someone like China or other emerging countries. Quite frightening, isn't it?

BUSH: It's very frightening. It is incredibly frightening, and the complacency is quite troubling to me personally, which is why I do dedicate a lot of my time to try to give people a sense of why this is important. I mean income levels, just the strength of communities. You can -- there's a direct link between the educate -- the percentage of young people that are educated and how we live our lives.

It's just -- it's not conjecture. It is a fact. And yet a third of our kids graduate from high school, even though we spend more per student than any country in the world, a third of our kids graduate from high school college and/or career ready. Just a third. A third graduate, they got a piece of paper says, hey, I'm a college graduate.

MORGAN: But the whole system --

BUSH: High school graduate but they're taken -- when they go to community college or college, they have to take remedial courses.

MORGAN: And to compound that, they also -- many of them end up with crippling debts, which is so -- and not quite where they should be anyway, and they're in debt. I mean this whole system, it seems, from almost start to finish, is deeply flawed. Why has it got to this? Why has nobody really got to grits with this?

BUSH: Look, I think -- I think our country has rested on its laurels. The things we've relied on culturally and politically and economically, we have not adjusted them to the new realities. The new realities are technology has changed our lives forever, the world's moving faster, we're in a globalized economy.

We have new challenges economically that never in our wildest dreams we could ever have imagined a generation ago, and yet the institutions mostly public that we've asked to be able to equip us have been mired in the past. I mean you can go to a class today, and instead of a chalkboard, you may have a whiteboard. It might be connected to the Internet, but it's organized exactly as it was 50 years ago.

And so the foundation I'm involved in is focused on trying to bring structural change to allow a thousand flowers to bloom, not just one. I mean I don't believe in top-down driven strategies here. But we need transformation so that we can try many, many different things.

MORGAN: I mean, there is, I think, a real disconnect between teachers and parents now, and the way most young kids are reading and learning from the Internet.

BUSH: That gap can be closed. That's not a huge challenge. We can train teachers to be able to deliver higher quality content. We -- teachers can use adaptive technologies to be able to customize the learning experience for students. This is not rocket science. It's just -- but it does require substantial change in law, 50 states, requiring changes in laws, to be able to make it flourish.

MORGAN: We heard Michele Bachmann there talking about a relationship between state funding and federal funding and so on. This is a big hot potato issue, obviously, but where do you stand on this? I mean, how much of a state education system should be driven federally? And how much should be driven from the state?

BUSH: Well, today, it's anywhere from 8 to 10 percent. Historically, it's been 6 percent. And so --

MORGAN: What do you think is the optimum?

BUSH: Where it is today is fine in terms of the relevance of education.

MORGAN: So that's not a big issue, as far as --

BUSH: No, it isn't. I think -- I think Republicans --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Well, what are the keys? You're the guy that fixed it in Florida. Many people laud you as the example, they've copied you.

BUSH: I don't say --

MORGAN: What are the key, simple ways that other states, and therefore America, collectively, can get to grips with this corrosive education system?

BUSH: A focus on early childhood literacy, so the children come prepared to learn. The elimination of social promotion, particularly in third grade, when students are beginning to acquire knowledge, and fourth grade. So you don't just pass them along. More school choice to bring pressure on the system, so that parents are more empowered and engaged in their students' learning and that there's a consequence through greater accountability between mediocrity and improvement and abject failure and excellence.

The embrace of technology, and then rewarding teachers for student learning, rather than longevity of service. And moving away --

MORGAN: That longevity of service is so antiquated, isn't it? The idea that teachers can be useless, but because they've just been there 20, 30 years, you can't get rid of them, and therefore you would get rid of a very bright, dynamic young teacher simply because he came in too late. I mean it's absurd.

BUSH: I was -- I was on another national television show about three weeks ago, and -- with Cory Booker, who's a great guy.

MORGAN: Yes. He's a great guy.

BUSH: And he has two -- he would tell the story of a school he went to visit where the principal was bemoaning the fact that the two best teachers happened to be younger teachers and they had to be laid off to protect the teachers that may not be as good but they had -- you know, they had been there longer, so the "last in-first out" idea is ridiculous.

If you want students to learn, teachers have to be there that are equipped to make it happen, and yet our system rewards longevity. Some longer-term serving teachers do a fantastic job, some don't. Why wouldn't we be more focused on rewarding the best teachers based on learning gains of the students?

MORGAN: Do even teachers' unions get this, do you think, or is this still, again, a very old-fashioned sense of what a union should be doing?

BUSH: This is like one of those fights in the previous segment, I believe, that we're -- that it's the transition from kind of the old '70s way of doing things to the 21st century way of doing things. Some teacher unions get it, a lot don't. They're comfortable with doing what they've been set out to do.

They've been -- they're organized around economic benefits for the adults. Al Schanker, who was a great teacher union leader, said that when children start paying their -- paying me dues, I'll start representing them. So we shouldn't be surprised that they're focused on, you know, making sure that the economic benefits are protected.

On the other hand, though, you know, great teachers don't -- aren't just union members. They're dedicated to making sure that the students learn. And so a lot of states now, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, led by Democrats, Oklahoma, other states have begun to move towards pay for performance, in essence, and eliminating these lifetime protections.

MORGAN: When we come back from the break, more education. I'll also ask you -- since you're the best guy to ask -- how do you win in Florida. It's going to be a big question next year for somebody.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think the major problem is that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, I think the problem is keeping it from becoming a Perry scheme. Because Governor Perry -- Governor Perry says that it's unconstitutional. And we should end it as a federal program and give it back to the states.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Governor, obviously, the presidential race heating up. Election within a year. They say all roads lead to Florida, in the presidential election, and that normally involves you at some stage. So for the last, you know, 20, 30 years, you've been at the forefront of Florida politics. What's the trick to being successful in Florida, if you're a Republican candidate right now?

BUSH: Well, Florida's an incredible -- it's purple, it's very purple. It's not red or blue, it's right in the middle. It's transitional, so people are moving in and out more than most states. And it's unique. I mean, it's a diversity. It's a mirror image of the country. So there's not one thing that you can do, but you can't ignore it. You can't ignore it because, you know, it will decide, probably, who the next president will be.

It's been that way now for three or four elections. So my advice to Republican candidates is to be there, to listen, and to persuade people about what you want to do. I don't think there's any specific issues that are unique to Florida. We have a disproportionately high elderly population, but, you know, my experience has been that our elders are interested in the future, perhaps even more than younger people. They really do care about what the future looks like for the country.

MORGAN: I've got to ask you, because I can't ask anybody else in the world. What's it like having a brother and a dad who have both been president of the United States?

BUSH: It's different. I mean it's --

MORGAN: Only about four people can answer that question, in history.

BUSH: I had -- I don't know if John Quincy Adams had a son, but -- or a brother, excuse me. It was -- it's been interesting to have a front row seat, watching history unfold. It's been painful to see people that you love being attacked when you know it's not fair or true or --

MORGAN: Yes, I mean it must be, occasionally, just almost unbearable pressure to be in a family where not one, but two of them have been president. I mean hard for everybody.

BUSH: Hard personally. Hard to watch it and know, you know, love your -- I'm not objective. I'm not like some kind of objective analyst, a talking head on television, about my mom -- about my dad or my brother. So that part was hard. But it was fantastic to see them up close, making decisions, and see how focused -- my dad, particularly, because, you know, my children were his first grandchildren, and they -- even though, you know, he was in the midst of preparing for Operation Desert Storm, for example, he would not miss the opportunity to be a great granddad. So he's just an extraordinary guy, and so is my brother.

MORGAN: Is that key to being president? Do you have to have that ability to cope with huge pressure, but also have the family, the balance?

BUSH: Absolutely. I remember, we were gathered right before Operation Desert Storm in whatever, '91, that was I guess? And he had made the decision, and no one -- we couldn't talk about it. This was during Christmas at Camp David, and you could see the weight on his shoulders.

I mean, it is not an easy thing to send young men and women off to war. And it was clear to me, at least, I didn't talk to him about it, I think I thought he'd already made the decision. And so, it was just a time of love, and I think he got a lot of strength--

MORGAN: Well, that's an extraordinary thing to witness, isn't it?

BUSH: And we didn't talk about it. So on like -- you know -- MORGAN: And talk about elephant in the room, my god, on Christmas. Put on another cracker, dad.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: It's just the way it is. It was about -- it was about our faith and about the grandkids and about our children. It was -- and we, you know, we worked out and we played volleyball, which with the Marines. We did stuff like that. Camp David is a wonderful place to take the stress out, but you can't take the stress out of making that kind of decision. And I know George went through the exact same thing. So family was --

MORGAN: What was the hardest -- what was the hardest moment for you with George's presidency? Because it became very divisive, but he was -- I recently read his book, "Decision Points," and what was fascinating was just how much huge things he was hit with, I mean not least 9/11 and so on, but massive decisions to take, huge pressure.

BUSH: Yes.

MORGAN: What was the toughest things for you to do?

BUSH: I would say in the second term, the turning against him because of the war was difficult. And the pounding he took and the resolute nature of staying the course, and really, almost as though the White House stopped trying to defend and just said, we're going to grind it out, which made it really hard.

MORGAN: Was that the right thing to do?

BUSH: No. My personal belief is, you've got to fight for your beliefs. You have to communicate. You have to persuade. And you know, again, I'm not an objective political observer here. I wanted someone to be doing that on a regular basis, because my brother was taking a proudly, personally, that, you know, from a poll perspective, he never recovered from.

And it wasn't justified. Because when he stayed the course, and then implemented the surge, the policy was effective. So it was hard to see that. I don't know why it was that there wasn't -- maybe it was just -- you know, it was not possible to even make a difference, so they just decided to execute on a policy that would work.

MORGAN: He's very smartly, I think, avoided too much media. Let his book do the talking. It was very specifically done, the book. It was about decision points. And I think this was clever of him to do that. And actually, you can tell that, already, his legacy and the reputation is beginning to improve. I mean, people are beginning to review those decisions in a better light.

BUSH: Yeah. And I think it's a memoir that's not a memoir. It's a -- it's a more humble way to present your life, to be able to say, I had these points in my life where I had to make a decision, and here's how I made it, rather than, me, me, me, I, I, I, big long book about what a wonderful person I am. There's a lot of people that do that. This was an interesting book, because it was more a book about how to make a decision and how to lead. And also, a book where it wasn't all revising the results. I mean, some things work, some things didn't.

MORGAN: Is he happy now? Does he miss being president?

BUSH: I'm sure he misses the White House, misses the service. But he's very happy. And he's got unbelievable discipline to keep his mouth shut and to stay out of the way, let -- as you said, let history be the judge.

MORGAN: When we come back after this break, I'll ask the question that if I asked your brother and your father this question, I suspect that they would both say yes. And that question is should you, Jeb Bush, become the third Bush to run for president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

G. BUSH: Members of Congress, the No Child Left Behind Act is a bipartisan achievement. It is succeeding. And we owe it to America's children, their parents, and their teachers to strengthen this good law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: The No Child Left Behind Act was just on paper such a good idea. And you know, hard to argue against the theory behind it. And yet it hasn't been pursued. It hasn't been developed. Of course, one way of making sure it was -- and your brother's legacy in education enhanced -- would be if you, Jeb Bush, chucked your considerable hat into the ring.

BUSH: Well, that's not going to happen. But No Child Left Behind played a key role -- first of all, something that's so unusual now, it was supported on a bipartisan basis. It wasn't that long ago where actually Democrats and Republicans voted in support of things in the interest of the country. And this was one of them.

It helped states that were really not on the path of accountability to begin to get on it, and create a sense of urgency for particularly children in the lowest performing schools. And the lowest performing students got more attention than ever before because of it.

Now it needs to be modified, I think, to reflect the new realities. And President Obama's trying to do that. But there's a -- you know, there's this disconnect in Washington that is troubling. It's not just education. It's across the board.

So education policy, there is a role for the federal government. It's limited. It's to provide carrots and sticks for the kind of policies that will yield a good result. Clearly, we don't want Washington becoming the superintendent of the schools or dominant in education policy. That would be an abject failure.

MORGAN: Does it have to have a kind of ethical and moral lead, don't they? There has to be, from the top, a view of this is the kind of education I want every American to strive for. That's what I'm not sensing at the moment.

BUSH: Yeah, I would say that education should be of national purpose, not a national program.

MORGAN: It should be a national priority.

BUSH: It is a national priority, and something of huge importance, that -- the president, I think, has a role to shake the complacency about why this is important. It's important culturally. It's important economically. It's important for our own national security interests.

MORGAN: Both your brother and your father have hinted that they would have no objection to another Bush in the White House. And a lot of your fans out there say, well, why wouldn't you run for president? You've got all the credentials the Republican party could possibly wish for.

One of the reasons no one has so far emerged as the standout candidate is because everybody's been waiting for somebody just like you to say, you know what, my country needs me.

BUSH: Well, I'm not presumptuous to think that I'm the solution to anything. And I think we have great candidates. And my expectation is that I'll be working for the re-election of a Republican incumbent four years from now.

This was not the time for me, personally, for reasons that don't relate to politics. It may have been the time for me politically to do it, but not personally. And so I made the decision --

MORGAN: Why not personally?

BUSH: Well, because it's personal.

MORGAN: That's a good answer.

BUSH: And it is personal. And so that's what it is. And I made that decision early.

MORGAN: But politically, you accept that it could be you --

BUSH: It would have -- I've already made up my mind. So it would have been a time -- look, this is a time to serve. There's no question about it. But it's just not in the cards for me personally. It had nothing to do -- a little. But it had nothing to do with my brother's legacy or anything like that.

That's the standard -- you know, the talking heads in Washington generally say, well, it's because of George that Jeb can't run, what a shame. And that's just bogus. MORGAN: Can you see yourself running in the future?

BUSH: I can --

MORGAN: Isn't it like a calling for you Bushes now?

BUSH: No, it isn't. I'll tell you, my dream was to be governor of the state of Florida. I ran in '94 and --

MORGAN: You've done that.

BUSH: -- came in second.

MORGAN: That's done.

BUSH: But those were where my ambitions were. And I don't feel like there's some weird part of the DNA of a -- of the Bush family that you have to be compelled to run for president.

MORGAN: Could you imagine a scenario -- this is purely hypothetical.

BUSH: It is. And that's the problem with it.

MORGAN: Say Barack Obama wins the next election, and you come under ever-more pressure to run, because there are -- all the other candidates have already put themselves through this campaign. Could you see the situation where the personal reasons, which I won't press you on -- but where those would go away enough for you to consider running perhaps in 2016?

BUSH: That's pure -- that's just hypothetical, so I can't answer.

MORGAN: You're not implacably opposed to running for president?

BUSH: No, I'm not. So that creates that little opening that all the bloggers will all say stuff on. But the fact is that the Republican -- the conservative cause, the Republican party has a huge bench with a lot of talented people. And my guess is should that hypothetical situation take place, which I doubt it will happen, that there will be a whole new group of energetic, young leaders that will lead the party.

MORGAN: You don't just imagine one day just walking into the Oval Office?

BUSH: Let's move to digital learn.

MORGAN: And like everybody else who happened to walk in there, you can say, dad, brother, I made it.

When we come back after the break, we're going to bring in your partner in all of this, who is West Virginia Governor Bob Wise. And he's been helping you with this whole schools initiative, particularly in the area of digital. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're also honored to be joined here today by another champion of education reform, somebody who championed reform when he was in office, somebody who is now championing reform as a private citizen, Jeb Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I'm back with the former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, and former West Virginia governor, Bob Wise.

You two are partners in crime -- and forgive the phrase, in this...

BOB WISE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF WEST VIRGINIA: Partners in progress, we hope.

MORGAN: Partners in progress. That was the phrase I was looking for. Yes.

Tell me about this. There are a few initiatives that are going on right now. Tell me what the -- the big game plan is here with this.

MORGAN: We partnered together. He created the Digital Learning Council, which was 100 leaders across the country. We came up with ten elements of a high-quality digital learning system, a road map for every state, made it easy to understand. And of course, now, the governor is getting ready to announce his road map as well.

But between what he has done, his road map for reform, the digital learning principles, the ten quality element -- ten elements of a high-quality digital learning system. And we've all now come to a point now where we've able to have, for the first time ever, a national digital learning day. We're announcing it right here, but this will be February the first.

MORGAN: Is this a scoop?

WISE: This is a scoop.

MORGAN: Tell me all about it.

WISE: Educational exclusive. The first National Digital Learning Day, February the 1st, 2012, where we're encouraging teachers and educators across the nation to either showcase what they're already doing in digital learning, online learning, software application, whatever it is that's working, as well as those schools and teachers and educators that aren't using digital learning, what can you do that day to promote it.

MORGAN: Some of this, Governor Bush, does modern technology help kids learn better and faster than the old-fashioned technology?

BUSH: I believe that passionately. And I believe that you can customize the learning experience. So the old way was a teacher in front of 25 students. Seat time dominated the experience, 180 days and you're out. Now, using technology, you can learn at your own pace, in your own way. And you can maximize and customize the learning experience.

So a teacher then becomes kind of a partner in this, a manager. And there's greater accountability for students to learn.

MORGAN: Let's talk about competition in schools. Because I have a big thing about this. In Britain, they banned egg and spoon races one day, which I found utterly disgusting. So you couldn't have an egg and spoon race, because some poor child might lose. And they have to come to terms with not winning everything.

What is your view about competition, whether it's sporting or academic, in schools in America?

BUSH: I think --

MORGAN: Are you in favor of egg and spoon races?

BUSH: I am. I think we need to import that from wherever it comes from --

MORGAN: It's actually good. You have a boiled egg on a spoon and you race each other. And if you drop it, you're out.

BUSH: We should have competition. That's what life looks like after you get out. Schools ought to be about preparing students for the world they're moving into.

MORGAN: Governor Wise, let me ask you about bad teachers, because a lot of parents say to me, you know, we need to get rid of bad teachers, particularly if they can't move with the times. You know, when you watch China, India, Brazil, emerging big, potential superpowers now, they're driving, driving, driving. They have the best teachers.

Students are rising to this new challenge. But in America, still, as in many European countries, there's this quaint, old- fashioned notion that you're a teacher for life, however bad you are.

WISE: We ought to focus on getting rid of the bad teacher. And I think some prohibitions against doing that have gone away. But what is even more significant right now is we have to recruit and train a lot of good teachers.

We are going to lose a million teachers over the next few years. Almost half of our teachers that start are leaving the classroom within five years. And a lot of those could have been good teachers.

So what is it that we can we build into the system that truly elevates the profession? Get the bad ones out. But I'm very interested in making sure we bring the good ones in. So when we look at those national rankings of high-performing nations, we see a real emphasis on recruiting from the very beginning teachers into the profession, and them bringing in and then supporting them.

MORGAN: Let's take another break, a final break, and come back and talk about competition in more detail, the death penalty and Warren Buffett, not necessarily linking all three, before you get too worried.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: You are both looking at me rather apprehensively. Trying to work out what the link is between competitiveness, Warren Buffett and the death penalty. Allow me to explain. One of the key people involved in all things budgetary and taxation, in terms of newspaper headlines recently and media headlines, has been Warren Buffett.

Today, he has finally revealed his income for 2010, 62 million dollars, of which 39 million was taxable income. Going to his point, which is that he wants to pay more tax, A, is he right? B, would that help directly with things like your initiatives in education. What do you think, Governor Bush?

BUSH: I think he's wrong. First of all, state funding is what drives state education plans, in the great majority. So -- and if Warren Buffett believes that he's under taxed, he can voluntarily give money to the federal government. There's nothing that stops him from doing that.

My fear is that we create a society where there aren't going to be anymore Warren Buffetts. There are 30 Warren Buffets in Omaha, Nebraska, that haven't quite made it. But they have the drive to do it.

If you put -- if you make it more difficult for the aspirational people -- I'm not worried about Warren. I'm worried about the next generation of Warren Buffetts. I think it is the wrong policy. That's my own view. But it won't impact -- digital learning actually can be done at a lower cost, at a higher value. That's ultimately where I think we'll see this work out.

MORGAN: Governor Wise?

WISE: I happen to think -- I agree with Warren Buffett on the taxes. Having said that, what the other thing that Warren Buffett has talked eloquently about, and where Governor Bush and I come together and agree, is on the importance of education. There are 30 more potential Warren Buffetts out there in Omaha and across the country.

And just as a recent study showed that if you cut the dropout rate in half, you would save from the federal Treasury 45 billion dollars a year, the best economic stimulus package in this country is a diploma.

In terms of state budgets, state budgets have been stagnant for years. They're going to stay that way for the next several years. We can't continue doing business the same way.

I think what Warren Buffett would say is I'll buy this company. But what I'm going to do, I have to turn it around and I've got to introduce the technology that will truly make it productive.

MORGAN: Let me ask you, Governor Bush, this question has nothing to do with education. I struggle to find any link with it. However, it is an interesting story of the day. And you have both been governors. So I want to ask you this.

Do you know how many people you both executed?

BUSH: I think during eight years, I've probably -- I'm going to be off a little bit, probably 50 people.

WISE: None, because West Virginia does not have the death penalty.

MORGAN: So an interesting question then for both of you. Today a CNN poll has came out that says Americans are moving toward not wanting executions, following all the Troy Davis exposure and so on. What's your view? You have had to go through this.

BUSH: This is the hardest thing a governor has to do, at least in my mind. It is in conflict with my faith, as well. I sorted it out because I had a duty to uphold the Constitution. But I wasn't happy about signing death warrants and participating in the process.

And I took that part of my job really seriously. Having said that, I also met with the family members of these -- the most heinous crimes were given the death penalty. And the family members wanted justice. In our system right now, because of the clogging up of the courts, justice is being denied. So it is a very frustrating situation.

MORGAN: If you had the decision, if you were the president of the United States, would you try now and stop the death penalty?

BUSH: No. That's a state by state issue. I don't think that there's a constitutionality question at that federal level for this.

MORGAN: As somebody who's never been in that position.

WISE: I feel fortunate. I never had to be in that situation. We had life without parole.

MORGAN: Seventeen people on death row in America have been released after fresh DNA evidence proved they had nothing to do with the crime. When I hear statistics like that -- another -- over 100 more have been released after new information.

WISE: The former governor of Illinois, if you recall, a number of years ago stopped all executions because of that. But if I could get back to -- maybe we can get back to education, because the DNA --

MORGAN: How are you going to link it to education? WISE: Because DNA is modern technology. And it is making a difference in improving how it is that we are able to judge or to determine something or to implement. And so it is that we need to make sure that we recognize technology in all aspects, including education.

MORGAN: It's been a fascinating debate about education with both of you, actually, over the last hour. Let me ask you finally, in five years time, if we were to reconvene, what's the one thing you would most like to have achieved with all the initiatives that you are doing? Let me ask you first, Governor Bush?

BUSH: Consistently higher graduation rates. Greater focus on the fundamentals of education, so that young people are prepared to be college and career ready.

WISE: I agree totally. That's why we work together so much on this. But with -- and also with the ability for low-income students and any student to be able to truly to advance and to have access to the education that every other student has. That's why digital learning offers much of that opportunity.

MORGAN: You are doing a great job. I salute you both. May you long continue to do it. Thank you very much, governor.

WISE: Thank you.

BUSH: Thanks.

MORGAN: That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts right now.