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Jeb Bush says he’s going to see the pope when he comes to the U.S.

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Although he expressed some criticism about Pope Francis earlier this summer, Jeb Bush said at at town-hall meeting just outside of Orlando that he’s a “huge fan” of the current Pontiff, and says he hopes to be “part of the flock” when His Holiness comes to the United States in September.

“He’s impressive beyond belief,” Bush said today while speaking to approximately 150 people at the Longwood Events & Rentals center, the second of his three stops in the Orlando area. “And I think he makes a great contribution to the world, and he has every right to have his views on climate change and economics and all the rest.”

That’s a slightly different tune than what Bush said in June, when he was quoted as saying that, “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.”

Other Republicans appealing to the evangelical vote like Rick Santorum and Mike  Huckabee have been critical of the pope for his views on climate change. In his recently published encyclical, the pope blamed blamed human selfishness for global warming in his long-awaited encyclical calling for action on climate change.

Bush, who is Catholic, said he himself has “deeply held views on economic growth,” and said he didn’t believe they were in conflict with the belief that the truly needy in our society need to be taken care. But the former Florida governor says the way to alleviate poverty is not by taxing “everything that lives or breathes,” but through “high sustained, economic growth,” which he has said throughout the campaign season can be achieved by having 4 percent growth in our county.

Of course, that’s a higher growth rate than either Presidents Bush 41 or Bush 43 ever achieved in office, and this particular Bush has never quite said how he’ll accomplish that burst of economic activity.

But back to the pope.

“I do think Pope Francis is an extraordinary man, and I told Columba that we’re going to figure out a way to be a part of the flock when he comes to either Philadelphia, New York or Washington because I believe he has a huge role to play.”

Bush continues to play the happy warrior on the campaign front, and called himself “the happy tortoise” when describing this “extraordinary journey” that is running for president of the United States.

Like Barack Obama in 2007-2008, Bush is campaigning on being able to bring Washington together. He spent considerable time as the town-hall was about to wrap up to discuss how he could go about bringing Democrats and Republicans together to change public policy. He said our current politics is defined as demonizing, personalizing and attacking opponents in a personal way. “I want to have a conversation that persuades them,  but I don’t ascribe bad motives” to his opponents he said.

He then discussed how he even thought he could make common cause with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a famous bete noire for Republicans nationwide. Bush admitted he didn’t believe he had a single thing in common with her, but —

“Give me an hour, I bet I could find one. Focus on that first,” he said. “Don’t ignore if you had one. Let’s have a small celebration and work on that and build on that.”

Like nearly every Republican in the race save John Kasich, much of what Bush says on the trail is criticism of Barack Obama and the job he has done. Regarding our handling of Russia, Bush said that Vladimir Putin will never act the way we want him to by being weak.

“They’ll respond to a position of strength, far more than a position of weakness,” he said, adding that the United States needed to stress that NATO is an organization it is committed to, and that “we need to isolate Putin from his own people,” though he did not lay out how that would be possible.

On China’s influence, he said that the United States had been ignoring Latin America for far too long. “We’re way too passive and the Chinese have become much more aggressive,” he said, but have done so by “blunt forces,” by extracting minerals for example.

He also blasted the Venezuelan government, saying that “they’re making Cuba a good run for their money in terms of failed economic policies.”

Bush will be back in Florida on Friday, speaking at the National Urban League meeting in Fort Lauderdale, where he’ll be joined by Hillary Clinton, Ben Carson, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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