DERRY, N.H. – During his first campaign stop Tuesday as an official presidential candidate, Jeb Bush took issue with a leaked document authored by Pope Francis in which the Catholic leader calls for a global effort to combat climate change.
“First of all, Pope Francis is the most extraordinary leader. He speaks with such clarity, speaks so differently. He’s drawing people back in the faith, which as a converted Catholic now of 25 years, I think is really cool,” Bush said.
But Bush disagreed with the sentiment Pope Francis expressed in the document. “Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity,” Pope Francis wrote in the encyclical, a papal letter to bishops.
“I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” Bush said. “And I’d like to see what he says as it relates to climate change and how that connects to these broader, deeper issue before I pass judgment. But I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”
At a town hall-style event at the Adams Memorial Opera House here, Bush tried to separate himself from the large and growing field of Republican presidential hopefuls by highlighting his time as governor of Florida. Bush spoke in front of an audience of over 200 people alongside his youngest, son Jeb Bush Jr.
“People knew that I was a conservative when I started and when I ended,” Bush said, emphasizing the diversity of his state. “I don’t know if you saw the rally for my announcement. It’s a different kind of crowd! … It’s reflective of the diversity of the state, because they know that I care. Because I was a governor that cared.”
Bush continued, “For us to win, I think we need to lay out a much different approach and then go campaign in places Republicans hadn’t been seen in a while.”
Bush took more than a dozen questions during the event, ranging from his brother’s attempt to reform Social Security to cyber security, recalling the time the AOL email account of his sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, was hacked while the family was discussing funeral arrangements for his father when he was sick.
Bush visited the first-in-the-nation primary state a day after Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton made her first public appearance in the Granite State.
Earlier in the afternoon, during a taped FOX News interview, Bush called Clinton a “formidable candidate” but said she needs to answer questions like he has done. Bush said that he’s not going to hide from the press or tell reporters “sorry, you can’t come”
“It’s ridiculous, that’s what she’s done,” he continued.
But after the town hall event, Bush did not hold a press conference, as Clinton had done the day before. Reporters shouted questions at Bush while he was taking pictures with supporters. and was asked about the difference between the two candidates.
Asked to draw a contrast between himself and Clinton, Bush said, “I was a governor for eight years, I built a business. I’ve lived overseas, I’ve lived in Miami.”
He continued, “I’ve reformed government. I have a record of accomplishment. Secretary Clinton, when she was a senator, was there for eight years. She passed three, her name is on three bills that became law. And it’s hard for her even to describe what her records of accomplishment were as secretary of state. You really have to stretch to find out. She has a hard time doing it! … I would match my record of accomplishment as a reform minded conservative against my worthy opponents in the primary and certainly against Hillary Clinton.”
Another reporter shouted a question to Bush about increasing new voters, including Latinos. He responded in Spanish and was then asked for a translation.
“Did you see my speech yesterday? That’s the beginning of a campaign that’s for everybody,” Bush said.