Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Thursday condemned his rival Donald Trump for making incendiary remarks about illegal immigration.
“I think candidates ought to lay out proposals to solve problems rather than basically prey on legitimate fears and concerns,” Bush told reporters after speaking at a technology company.
Recent national polls showed Trump tied with Bush in the lead for the Republican nomination. Since entering the presidential contest last month, the businessman and reality-television star has taken heat for characterizing Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists.
Bush pointed to the killing this month of a woman on San Francisco’s waterfront, allegedly by an immigrant who had felony convictions and had repeatedly been deported to Mexico – a case that Trump has repeatedly highlighted on the campaign trail.
“The system broke down for her and her family, and you can see why people are upset about that,” Bush said. But “I don’t think it’s appropriate as a potential president to prey on that fear, and frankly, it’s not a winning message either…. I have a big disagreement with Mr. Trump about his tone and what he’s saying because it’s not accurate.”
Bush spoke to reporters after addressing workers at Thumbtack, an online resource that connects consumers with local businesses. He said the government needed to shift from an antiquated, hierarchical approach and emulate the tech sector’s dynamism.
“The government of the future needs to look more like Thumbtack – lower-cost, higher-quality, focused on outcomes, really committed to the citizens,” Bush said. “I think we can get there. It’s going to be hard, though, because monopolies don’t go quietly into the night.”
Bush arrived and left in an Uber, a company he likes to highlight as an example of the new economy. He was not fazed by Wednesday’s judicial recommendation that the ride-sharing giant be fined $7.3 million and suspended from operating in California.
“There is going to be big tension between companies that are disrupting the older order,” he said. “If they’ve done something wrong, they should pay a fine. I’m sure they will appeal it.”
He also dismissed reports that Uber’s chief has said Obamacare allows the company’s drivers to obtain affordable health insurance. Bush, who wants to repeal President Obama’s signature healthcare law, said a smarter approach would allow consumers to select portable, low-premium insurance policies on insurance exchanges that don’t have mandates.
“What I’m envisioning is a 21st century set of rules,” he said.
This being San Francisco, one of the most liberal places in the nation, he faced some challenging questions from Thumbtack employees.
Jake Poses, who is gay, said in parts of the country, including Bush’s home state of Florida, it would be legal for employers to discriminate against him. He asked Bush whether he would support legislation that would bar such hiring practices.
Bush replied that he was against such discrimination, and that such legislation ought to be handled by the states. But he also turned to religious freedom, arguing that business people of faith who do not agree with gay marriage should not be forced to participate.
Poses, 31, was not satisfied by the response.
“I appreciated the governor said I should not be discriminated against,” said the San Francisco resident, who leans Democratic. “What I was hoping he would have said is if I am elected president, I will take it upon myself to push through legislation that would at the federal level ban discrimination in the workplace against gay Americans.”
Bush was also asked what qualities of Obama’s he would seek to emulate, and responded with some kind words about the man he is seeking to replace.
“If I could speak like Barack Obama, if I could light up a room like he does. Charisma is not a bad thing; it’s a pretty effective tool to be able to take a message to a broader audience. He is gifted beyond belief in that regard,” Bush said, adding that he doesn’t agree with much of Obama’s ideology, though he believes the president is well-intentioned. “I think his heart’s in the right place. I think his policies are wrong.”
Later Thursday – the final day of Bush’s three-day California visit – he met with former secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz before speaking to about two dozen scholars and economists at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He also held a luncheon fundraiser at the Village Pub in Woodside.
He spent most of his time in the state raising money. He held fundraisers in San Francisco, Pasadena and Santa Barbara on Wednesday and in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Bush and his supporters announced this month that they had raised $114 million.
Midway through the trip, Bush was shaken by news that his father, former President George H.W. Bush, was hospitalized with a broken neck bone.
“He fell and he cracked the second vertebrae – the bone, thankfully, not the nerve ending. So he’s in some pain and discomfort,” Bush said, “but I think he’s in pretty good shape.”
Follow @LATSeema for political news.