Jeb Bush. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Former Bush administration aide Nicolle Wallace interviewed Jeb Bush on Monday, talking to the former Florida governor about his own failed presidential campaign, his struggles to understand the Donald Trump phenomenon and his ongoing sad feelings about the 2016 race. Using Genius, I annotated it. You can, too! Sign up for Genius and annotate alongside me! To see an annotation, click or tap the highlighted part of the transcript.

JEB BUSH:

I'm disappointed I didn't break through. This would have been an extraordinary time to serve as president. The country is desperately looking for leadership, and I think it requires someone who is not always trying to win but to solve problems. And um, the way it turned out, it didn't work out for me. So I wish I was in the game still for sure.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Exactly a year ago this week, you were taking incoming from Hillary Clinton, who was sure you were going to be the nominee, and from Donald Trump, who was behind you in the polls but gaining ground, and I wonder if you went back. … The strategic assumption that you made, that Rubio made, that establishment Republicans made was to win that lane first and then take on the outsider bracket, which I guess you could put Carson and Trump and Fiorina in. Was that assumption wrong?

JEB BUSH:

Well, in retrospect it's always easier to be brilliant about this. At the time, I'm not sure it was wrong. I had to be who I am. I can't change. I'm not going to be going to a town hall meeting and spewing venom. It's not who I am. It's not why I wanted to run. If I had to be something different than I was, I wouldn't have run.

//

JEB BUSH:

I'm not sure that in the environment we were in in 2016 -- partially created by this larger-than-life character, partially created by the media's coverage of him, that blocked out the sun effectively for anybody else. I spent most of my time doing press interviews commenting on what Donald Trump said. And if you --

NICOLLE WALLACE:

About you. I mean, y-- you were his --

JEB BUSH:

Oh, yeah. Like, my favorite was -- I was in a town hall meeting and Trump was in one of his rallies in New Hampshire, and he called me something I can't repeat. And Dana Bash from CNN was sent, summoned to my town hall meeting and said, well you heard what Donald Trump called you and it's part of your anatomy which you used to not be able to mentioned. It ends in hole.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Thank you for that.

JEB BUSH:

So I'm like, and I knew what he said. And so I said, Dana I can't answer that until you tell me what he said. And she said, well I can't say it. I said I can't answer it.

‘I can't say it.’ ‘I can't answer it.’ We went back and forth and finally she said ‘All right, all right. He called you a ----’ and I walked away laughing. I mean, is that the way we're going to elect presidents?

//

NICOLLE WALLACE:

So there was a moment -- I've worked on winning campaigns and losing campaigns and there's always a moment where you sort of know. …  I think the South Carolina debate was the most extraordinary moment, and I realized how much the party had changed when Donald Trump stood there and essentially blamed your brother for 9/11.

JEB BUSH:

To the left of Michael Moore.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Right. So what were those final days like? And what --

JEB BUSH:

I laugh only because it's, like, wow. That's a sea change where there wa uh, -- look -- everyone else piled on against him.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

But he won. He won South Carolina.

JEB BUSH:

He did win. And -- he won going away. And -- I was focused on back to the, you know, to the conversation about being -- kind of going through the -- getting to the point where the field narrowed. And we had a chance in South Carolina. And that went away for a variety of reasons with --

NICOLLE WALLACE:

You were in a three-way tie for second place.

JEB BUSH:

Yeah. Marco and -- and --

(OVERTALK)

JEB BUSH:

-- Cruz.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

And what happened?

JEB BUSH:

Well -- Nikki Haley was a popular -- governor in South Carolina, endorsed Marco. That -- that clearly hurt. The pope intervening in American politics didn't help.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

You're a Catholic blaming the pope.

JEB BUSH:

No, no, I'm not blaming -- (LAUGHTER) I mean, t-- been talking about basically open borders at a time when the whole Trump phenomena was to build a wall and let -- make Mexico pay for it where he goes -- literally goes to the border for a massive mass. And he had every right to preach the gospel there. But I don't think he should be intervening. I don't know if he understood that he was intervening in -- in our political affairs. That -- that generated a lot of news and kind of stopped the momentum, so.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

But -- by -- how, it sort of froze the --

JEB BUSH:

No, the -- the news cycle was dominated by that. And Trump, you know, to his credit was very smart at exploiting these kind of opportunities. He's a master at understanding how the media works. More than anybody I've ever seen in politics. And kudos for him for kind of creating the environment and then manipulating the environment to this effect.

The tragedy of this though is that there isn't going to be a wall built. And Mexico's not going to pay for it. And there's not going to be a ban on Muslims. None of that, this was all, like, a alternative universe that he created. The reality is that's not going to happen, and people are going to be deeply frustrated, and the divides will grow in our country. And this extraordinary country, still the greatest country on the face of the earth, will continue to stagger instead of soar. And that's the heartbreaking part of this is I think people are going to really feel betrayed.

//

JEB BUSH:

Conservatism is temporarily dead. I mean, if you look at it, we have two candidates. Donald Trump is barely a Republican. He's certainly not a conservative.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

And you tried to make that case. You put up an ad about how he's been --

JEB BUSH:

Yeah, like --

(OVERTALK)

NICOLLE WALLACE:

-- why don't you think, the ad talked about his record on abortion which you think is abysmal. He doesn't even speak the language of a culture of life. His record on guns. He's been --

(OVERTALK)

JEB BUSH:

Yeah.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

-- pretty hostile toward Second Amendment rights. And nobody cared. Why -- why, I mean, I agree with you that conservatism --

(OVERTALK)

JEB BUSH:

But they care beyond the here and now, this presidential race. I mean, the -- the conservative cause isn't just about the, you know, a presidential race. It's about core beliefs that, if implemented properly, will lead people to a better life. And so I think outside of the hot presidential campaign, this message still resonates and it's still important. It certainly resonates around the country.

//

NICOLLE WALLACE:

The same people that voted for you twice, picked Trump. I mean, he won Florida in overwhelming --

(OVERTALK)

JEB BUSH:

He did.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Did we -- I mean, it can't all be on Trump. Our voters wanted something else. Did we stop talking to them? Did we stop understanding them?

(OVERTALK)

JEB BUSH:

They're -- the difference is -- no, I don't think so. I think the difference is people don't believe anything anybody says anymore.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Including you?

(OVERTALK)

JEB BUSH:

In politics.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

They didn't believe --

JEB BUSH:

Well, I didn't, I mean, I don't know if they even heard what I said. That's the point. They -- they -- they didn't -- they wanted their voice heard. They still do. They're angry for legitimate reasons. They latched onto the big horse. All of which is logical to me in retrospect. In the midst of it, it wasn't very logical. I mean --

(OVERTALK)

NICOLLE WALLACE:

In the midst of it were you like, "How does this hap--" I mean, what was --

JEB BUSH:

Well, it was, I mean, you talk to people and no one -- no wise person came to me in advance of what happened and said, "This is what's going to happen." Not a single person I know. Not a single person.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Nobody thought it was going to happen.

JEB BUSH:

No. And probably Donald Trump at the beginning didn't either. So, you know, kudos for the guy for his, you know, I think he just -- he plays by his gut. He sensed an opening -- this deep disaffection -- and he played it like a Stradivarius violin.

//

NICOLLE WALLACE:

I wonder if you replay Trump's insult against Mexicans, calling them rapists and murderers and -- and -- in the context of your wife, do you ever think of, "If I just slugged in the jaw in that first debate. And maybe I would've gone down. But maybe I would've done my party and my country a service by taking out the schoolyard bully." I have a 4-year-old, I live in fear of --  he cyber-bullied you --

(OVERTALK)

JEB BUSH:

Yeah, I don't care about that. That's totally irrelevant.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

But you've got kids. I mean, what he did in the context of the candidate would get any kid kicked out of any school in America.

JEB BUSH:

Well, it's not -- it wasn't me that -- it didn't bother me a bit. It was disparaging Hispanics, women, POWs.… I found it deeply troubling. And I think if you check the record -- if someone actually takes the time, I doubt they will -- if you look at the campaign, I spent most time pushing back on all that nonsense.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

I know it was you.

JEB BUSH:

By far and away. Everybody else was in the witness protection program for a while.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

I mean, so how did we get here? We now are in --

(OVERTALK)

JEB BUSH:

This is the environment of reality TV. It's a cultural --

NICOLLE WALLACE:

It's the Kardashians' fault?.

JEB BUSH:

No. It's us. It's not the Kardashians. The Kardashians wouldn't exist if we didn't enjoy watching them, right?

//

NICOLLE WALLACE:

I just wonder what this loss felt like in contrast to your father's, very noble --

(OVERTALK)

JEB BUSH:

Yeah, well, he was -- yeah, and he was a president losing reelection after accomplishing things that under normal circumstances would've probably allowed him to be reelected. In my case -- I'm -- I'm not taking therapy, I'm not seeing anybody.

You know, I gave it my all, gave it my heart. I worked my tail off. And I'm not sure anything I could have done would have changed the outcome. There is some weird solace in that I guess that I don't have to think about it that much. … Looking back on it, I'm not sure what I could've done. Having a conservative record, offering conservative solutions, hopefully giving people a sense that I could've done the job wasn't -- wasn't enough. And it may not have ever been enough -- given the circumstances.

So what -- kudos for Trump for winning the nomination. It was extraordinary. And you can't -- can't take that away from him. He's the presumptive nominee and he earned it. Now he needs to run for president. There's a difference. And we'll see how that works.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

This has been an election where the Republican establishment has been mightily and spectacularly bludgeoned. And so I feel like your decision to not vote leaves me without a northern light. How did you arrive at the decision not to vote?

JEB BUSH:

Well, having watched history unfold kind of with a front-row seat, I had, as you might remember, I had a brother who was president, a dad who was president --

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Yeah, I know him a little bit.

JEB BUSH:

-- worked for Ronald Reagan. The simple fact is there's a threshold past which anybody that steps into the Oval Office must go past. And I don't think either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump pass that threshold. In terms of temperament, character, trustworthiness, integrity. So what do you do? I mean if you believe like I do the presidency is sacred ground and you want a president that uphold the Constitution, and I don't believe that either one of the candidates fulfills that primary kind of objective, uh, I can't vote for either one of them.

There's other people running. There's the libertarian ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld. I don't know. They don't get a lot of airtime yet.

I can't vote for Donald Trump, and I can't vote for Hillary Clinton. It breaks my heart.

This is my first time in my adult life I'm confronted with this dilemma.

//

NICOLLE WALLACE:

I didn't vote in 2008, and I think you only get one of those a decade. If you are a single-issue voter. If you care about security. If you are a security mom; that's what we called them in 2004 -- your brother's reelection.

JEB BUSH:

You didn't vote in 2008?

NICOLLE WALLACE:

I didn't.

JEB BUSH:

What's up with that?

NICOLLE WALLACE:

It's memorialized in an HBO movie. Well, why aren't you voting?

JEB BUSH:

Huh?

NICOLLE WALLACE:

I didn't like my choices. Exact same reason you're not voting this year. You know, Sarah Palin gave me serious pause. I thought if she were --

JEB BUSH:

John McCain.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Well --

JEB BUSH:

Come on, man.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

How --

JEB BUSH:

Come on, woman!

NICOLLE WALLACE:

How is it any different?

JEB BUSH:

It's very different.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

How? 

JEB BUSH:

John McCain to Donald Trump.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Sarah Palin was his running mate. How is it any different to say I couldn't vote for Sarah Palin but you can't vote for Donald Trump?

JEB BUSH:

Because the vice presidency and the presidency is different. And we had 17 candidates running this time, or 18, and I would have been, I would gladly supported any of the candidates --

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Ben Carson?

JEB BUSH:

I don't know. You know if Ben Carson ever got to the point where he was tested, but a lot of the governors, I would have been very comfortable with. John Kasich I thought ran a great campaign. And Rubio. Cruz. There are a lot of people. The bar's not that high for me. I'm not suggesting that you have to be a perfect candidate. I'm not a perfect candidate for presidency of the United States, and I wouldn't have been a perfect president. I'm not suggesting that. But you got to get past a certain threshold, and John McCain got over that hurdle in flying colors. That's just my own view.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

What if nobody votes? I mean that's not what you want. You're the son and brother of two commanders in chief. We live in extraordinary times. I mean if ...

JEB BUSH:

I respect people going through the process and saying this is a binary decision. I've heard that term, fancy language.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Curtain number one, curtain number two -- chicken or fish, as Obama said.

JEB BUSH:

Yeah. I can't do it. I can't do it.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

What should I do?

JEB BUSH:

You need to sort it out yourself. If you have a different way to approach this and it's a binary choice for you, fine.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Commander in chief test. What is the choice? Chicken or fish?

JEB BUSH:

Neither for me. And you're not going to get me to change that. This whole last two weeks with Hillary Clinton where she was indicted, effectively by the FBI director, you know, everything but the indictment took place, basically said that she lied. And there's a pattern there that is something that I can't get past. And Donald Trump does the exact same thing in a different way. We're in perilous times in our country, and we need principled, centered leadership. So as for me, I'm back in the private sector, and my free time will be involved in education reform and helping principled, centered conservatives get elected.

//

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Can you understand and give a pass to Republicans who would say Hillary Clinton better understands this portion of the --

JEB BUSH:

Yeah, again, I -- I've reached my conclusion after deep thought and prayer about this. And I respect other people's views on this. I'm not passing judgment on how they reached their conclusion.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Is it a reasonable place to end up, though?

JEB BUSH:

It's a reasonable place to end up as a conservative supporting Trump because you can't stand Hillary. And I could see why people would take the opposite and say on foreign policy issues, you know, I can't -- this is my life calling, this is what I've been involved in. But in my case I -- I don't trust Hillary Clinton. I don't think she'd be strong --

NICOLLE WALLACE:

You can't get there on either one.

JEB BUSH:

I don't think she'd be a strong leader in the -- on the world stage. She is -- her involvement in foreign policy has been disastrous. The reset button, Libya and other things, and she's not been held to account yet. 

NICOLLE WALLACE:

All right. So it -- one week from today starts the Republican convention. You can watch?

JEB BUSH:

Yeah, I'll probably watch. Sure.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Will you be pulling for any outcome? There's sort of a last (UNINTEL) Trump (UNINTEL) plans have one more runner (UNINTEL). So you -- do you have -- are you pulling (UNINTEL) about whether they (UNINTEL) fail, or do you hope that they make a statement that maybe makes him change the way he supported (?) himself.

JEB BUSH:

That'd be great if they could influence his -- his views on things. But then the question is can you trust it? Can you trust what he says, because his views change at a drop, you know, drop of a hat.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

You think it'll be good if they had some sort of final hold-off about -- at the convention to get maybe concessions on Muslim ban or on some more conservative, I mean, what's it like to (UNINTEL), I mean, I don't know --

(OVERTALK)

JEB BUSH:

Yeah, I -- I think we need to defend and protect and advance the conservative cause, so.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Cheer at the TV if there's some sort of organized --

(OVERTALK)

JEB BUSH:

I'll cheer at the TV if there's a platform that is talking about high-sustained economic growth, about calling a constitutional convention of the states if we can't get term limits and a balanced budget and then -- the things that are necessary to kind of restore the proper role of the federal government in our lives.

//

JEB BUSH:

It's about nominating Donald Trump as president, and that's likely to happen, for sure. But it's also about giving a voice to the conservative cause, allowing people to remind themselves of what it -- what it is to be a conservative 'cause right now I think people have their doubts.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

And if that's their narrow purpose (UNINTEL) convention (UNINTEL) and whatnot, that would be another opportunity to say -- that would be a good --

JEB BUSH:

Yeah.

(NICOLLE WALLACE: UNINTEL)

JEB BUSH:

I think so. And to how I -- the next generation of talented people that are out there.

//

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Who do you think Trump will pick as a VP? Who should he?  Who do you think?

JEB BUSH:

I hope he picks someone that has some experience -- that knows how to make a tough decision in the political realm. It's not -- not the same thing. I've -- I've been in business a lot. You -- you-- there are tough decisions to be made in business.

But in, you know, you don't have -- you have stakeholders. You have a variety of different people, you got constituents. You've got -- it's -- it's three-dimensional chess, not one-dimensional chess. And leadership there is a little more complex. It's important to be a leader. But having made tough decisions in the public -- and ha-- I mean, made mistakes. I mean, my best learning experience wasn't the ones where I got it right, it's where I got it wrong, so.

(OVERTALK)

JEB BUSH:

-- could be Christie, Chris has gone through the whole ringer of -- of making good decisions and probably a few bad ones along the way. He -- he has -- he's earned Trump's respect, it looks like. And someone who has a good personal relationship's important.

But the -- I don't know. Who else is being con-- Mike Pence -- governor -- governors are safe 'cause they've, you know, you really have to -- you've learned a lot when you're out there being and doing. There are no guardrails as governor. There's no -- can't get into little protective bubbles. You're out there amongst people. And you have to defend your views and -- accept responsibility when you make a mistake and move on. That kind of experience I think will be helpful for Mr. Trump.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

So is it a scam?  Has Trump scammed our voters?

JEB BUSH:

I think it's --  there will be ample time to talk about that after the election.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

It sounds like you think he scammed our voters. 

JEB BUSH:

I don't think we're going to build a wall beyond what's already been planned, and Mexico's not going to pay for it. I don't think we're going to ban Muslims. I think we need to reform our entitlement system.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Stop right there and tell me (inaudible). 

JEB BUSH:

(LAUGHS)

NICOLLE WALLACE:

No, but seriously -- "scammed" might be too provocative a word, but you know "The American President," Bob Rumson, is running his campaign telling you who to be afraid of and who to blame. Is that what Donald Trump is?

JEB BUSH:

He's not been specific about how he's going to fix the things that are broken.  He's been quite articulate about saying that things are broken.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

But you were the guy saying here's how to fix them and --

JEB BUSH:

Yeah. So at some point, over the long haul, when conservatives get back in the game and win the presidency, we need to not just say how bad things are, we need to offer compelling, a compelling path and a completely different direction. And I'm confident we'll do that. But um, it's not going to happen in this presidential election year.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

He loses in a landslide, will any of you feel vindicated or --

JEB BUSH:

I'll feel sad.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

If he wins, will you feel --

JEB BUSH:

I'll be worried.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

So there's no good outcome for you?

JEB BUSH:

No. That's why I can't vote for either candidate. It's not -- this is a decision that's painful for me.  I love my country like everybody else does, and I see us languishing at a time when we should just be leading the world.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

You think your parents are going to vote for anybody?

JEB BUSH:

I don't know. I'm not really asking them. I don't want to ask.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Because you don't want to know or --

JEB BUSH:

I don't want to know. Some things, parents just need to be doing their thing without knowing. I don't want to know because I don't want to say.