Tim Miller, who was Jeb Bush’s communications director, dismissed Donald Trump’s candidacy for two months until the New York developer got out of his helicopter at the Iowa State Fair to lash Bush as a “puppet.”
“We had kind of a monster on our hands and we had to deal with him differently,” Miller said in a podcast on Channel 33. with former Obama administration aides Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer.
Miller admitted that Bush’s team was frustrated when Trump announced his presidential run in mid-June — one day after Bush officially announced — which made it difficult for him to get media time.
“I was getting into very heated arguments with the guys you want to do interviews with — the morning shows, the Sean Hannity’s of the world, Jake Tapper — about how they need to take Jeb and not Trump, and how Trump’s a joke,” Miller said, admitting that he was “chastening” reporters for lowering their journalistic standards to interview Trump over Bush during his announcement week.
“Three months later with my tail between my legs, I called them back and said ‘All right, well I guess Trump was a real deal,’” Miller recalled.
He said that he and many political operatives didn’t take Trump seriously, because he had already previewed a run for president multiple times before choosing against it.
But that began to change when Trump appeared at the mid-June Iowa State Fair and began attacking Jeb Bush for being a “puppet” controlled by lobbyists.
I remember sitting in front of my computer watching a livestream of him land his helicopter and do a press conference for a thousand media members at the Iowa State Fair where he was just unleashing into Jeb in the kind of personal terms that no other candidate would feel comfortable doing, and you know at that point we kind of realized we had kind of a monster on our hands and we had to deal with him differently.
Miller admitted that Bush was perhaps the imperfect messenger to attack Trump, pointing out that he was always going to be seen as a spokesman for the Republican establishment.
“I honestly don’t think that’s Jeb … there’s no way to brand him in any sort of authentic way as not kind of part of the establishment,” he said. “So his attacks on Trump in a lot of ways built Trump up.”
Miller said that the other Republican candidates in the race should have challenged Trump from the beginning of the campaign, stopping him from rising so quickly.
“If people had been challenging Trump from the start, I think that would have helped put a cap on him,” Miller said.
Miller is now a spokesperson for the anti-Donald Trump group, Our Principles PAC, that is trying to stop Trump from winning the Republican nomination.
“There was a collective action issue, and I think that had people recognized earlier, you know that Trump was going to be a threat, had there been a collective effort to stand up to him — particular in the first debates,” he said.