Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hasn't been coy about the scars he bears from the Republican primary. He won't be voting for his bete noire, Donald Trump, in the general election (although he's not casting a ballot for Hillary Clinton either -- protests have ideological bounds, after all).
But in one of his first interviews since leaving the race, the extent to which Bush sees the Republican Party as teetering toward irrelevance, and Trump as hastening that process, is made clearer. And it punctuates the sense of despair that is increasingly visible within certain panicky quarters of the GOP.
It's "uncertain," Bush told the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, whether the Republican Party will survive as an institution. Bush spoke to the agency this past weekend ahead of a trip he is making to Amsterdam to deliver a lecture on democracy to the Nexus Institute on May 21. "Parties no longer stand for anything, but become a vehicle for the ambitions of their leaders," he said. "Politics becomes a personality show."
Like a batter tipping his hat to a pitcher who struck him out, Bush seems to reluctantly respect Trump's ability to excel at that personality show. But there is also resentment for the media's willingness to allow itself to be manipulated. "Trump played by a different set of rules than anyone else," Bush says at one point. "The press basically became his partner."
Bush's frustration is not just with the press corps. As bruising as the primary was for him personally, he also saw it as doing lasting damage to the party -- forcing it further away from the prescriptions it needs for long-term success. That so few other Republicans seemed to see this was genuinely befuddling for Bush as well. He brought up Trump's Cinco de Mayo tweet from earlier this month, where the business mogul sat behind his desk, praised the quality of the taco bowls at Trump Tower and declared his "love" of "Hispanics."
"What Trump did was so insensitive," Bush told NRC. "First, not all Hispanics are Mexican. Secondly, not all Hispanics eat tacos. Thirdly, showing your sensitivity by eating an American dish is the most insensitive thing you can do. Fourthly, to say this, next to all things he already said, is a further insult. It’s like eating a watermelon and saying ‘I love African-Americans.’"
"This guy," Bush added. "If we lose in November, we Republicans have ourselves to blame."
An English-language transcript of the interview was provided to The Huffington Post by NRC. Requests for comment from Bush and an aide weren't returned.