The Texas governor and current frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination roundly rejected that label in an interview with The Early Show Co-Anchor Jane Clayson on Tuesday morning.
Clayson pointed out to Bush that some people call him the GOPÂ's version of Bill Clinton. "Well, I wouldn't call that a great compliment," he countered. "I hope people call me a breath of fresh air and someone who knows how to lead America to an optimistic tomorrow."
In the interview, Bush touched on issues including education, the economy, and campaign fund raising. But he once again refused to answer questions about his alleged drug use, and the interview did not end without a dig at President ClintonÂ's marriage.
Bush was back on the campaign trail Tuesday in Dixville Notch, N.H., in spite of a minor accident Monday in which Bush, out for a jog, dove into the road to avoid a tractor-trailer that was dumping refuse. He told Clayson, "IÂ'm sore but feel greatÂ….I appreciate you recognizing the braveryÂ…it takes for me to be here."
So far, Bush has raised almost $60 million in campaign funds, raising concerns that his ability to raise so much money has shut out of the race other candidates before they have had a chance to be heard.
"I think the ability to attract over 150,000 people to a campaign represents a groundswell of support," he said.
"I'm humbled and I am grateful for the fact all these folks contributed to my campaign. Nobody has given more than $1,000, and people have given small amounts in every state in the unionÂ…. Other candidates have had the same opportunity, and some are doing well and some aren't," he said.
In New Hampshire Tuesday, Bush is giving a speech on education. While he backs the idea of local support for schools, he told Clayson that when federal money becomes involved, he would demand more accountability.
"I gave a speech in California a while ago that said if a school receives Title I money, and that's the money for the poorest of the poor, we should expect the school and the state to establish standards," said Bush.
"If the poorest of the poor meet those standards, we'll give them a bonus. If not, after a reasonable period of time, we ought to free the parents to make other choices. I can't tell you how strongly I feel that any level of government ought to demand accountability for money spent," he said
Citing the unprecedented economic growth that Americans have enjoying during the Clinton administration, Clayson asked if a George W. Bush administration could hope to do better.
"Well, I think it's important for America to understand that prosperity is not a given. It just doesn't happen and requires a government that creates an environment with which entrepreneurship can flourish," he replied.
He called himself "a strong free trader [because] it leads to productivity and higher pay and higher quality jobs. We need a president who is willing to fight for tort reform and ease the burden on entrepreneurs that risk capital. I'm going to be that kind of president. I know governments do not create wealth, but they create [circumstances in which] small businesses can flourish."
But, he added, all of the economic success in the world will not mean much if children are not taught to believe that the American dream is accessible to them.
"It should be greater than just prosperity," said Bush. "I want to make sure the American dream touches every willing heart, which means we better have a society that teaches children right from wrong, as well as one that educates every single child, if they're to access the American dream."
When Clayson questioned Bush about his alleged drug use, she was roundly rebuffed.
"You get to ask the questions, and I get to answer them, and I've answered that question all IÂ'm going to answer," said Bush, adding that "the American peopleÂ…don't like the politics of gossip and neither do I. I made the decision not to be talking about this, and I'm not going to."
Clayson pointed out the Bush that some people call him the GOPÂ's version of Bill Clinton.
"Well, I wouldn't call that a great compliment," he countered. "I hope people call me a breath of fresh air and someone who knows how to lead America to an optimistic tomorrow."
But, then, many Americans donÂ't know very much about Bush, and Clayson asked him what they might find most surprising about him.
"I hope they understand I love my family more than anything in life," he replied. "I've got a great wife, and we've got two wonderful 17-year-old twin daughters."
As the son of a former U.S. president, Bush said he is especially sensitive to the difficulties faced by his children, and the No. 1 piece of advice he gives them is: "Don't believe what they read in the press about their dad."
He added, "It was much harder for me, when I saw my dad running for president, than it is for me to be a candidate."
The candidate faced criticism last week when he did not participate in a debate with his opponents for the Republican nomination. Bush told Clayson he plans to participate in debates in the future (including one in New Hampshire on Dec. 2).
He said he missed the one last week because he wanted to be with his wife, Jane, when she was honored a her alma mater, Southern Methodist University.
I wouldn't have missed that event for anything," said Bush, adding, in a scarcely veiled dig at President Clinton, "And I hope, I'm confidentÂ…the people in New Hampshire appreciate a husband who is willing to honor his wife. After all, that's what's life is all about."