“When The Applause Dies For Jeb Bush”: He Misjudged The Depth Of The Anger And Division Within His Own Party
“Please clap,” Jeb Bush wryly told a subdued crowd in New Hampshire last week, a moment that epitomizes his problem.
The pundits call it lack of traction. Among too many voters it’s lack of interest.
If Jeb bombs in New Hampshire, he’s done. Even if he doesn’t quit the race, it’s over.
A year ago this scenario was unimaginable. He had more money, more brains, more connections and more governing experience than any other Republican wanting to be president. Like many people, I thought his nomination would be a slam dunk.
The gaseous rise of Donald Trump upended everything, but not only for Jeb. The other candidates had to scramble, too. Some did a better job.
Sure, Iowa is a silly place to start a presidential campaign. Its demographics are freakishly white, and the GOP electorate is anomalously dominated by evangelical Christians.
Still, Jeb spent plenty of time and money there, and wound up with only 2.8 percent of the vote. That’s miserably weak, and there’s no positive spin.
What’s happening? The answer is, for better or worse: Not much.
Jeb hasn’t made any huge, embarrassing blunders on the campaign trail. He’s not obnoxious or unlikable. True, he’s not an electrifying personality, but in most election cycles that wouldn’t disqualify him.
Obviously, he misjudged the depth of the anger and division within his own party. He isn’t the only candidate to get caught off guard.
But he is the only Bush on the ballot, and that’s probably hurt him more than it has helped. Jeb isn’t the one who invaded Iraq and basically exploded the Mideast. He isn’t the one who jacked up the deficit with war spending and then left the U.S. economy teetering on a cliff.
That was his brother, but seven years later lots of voters haven’t forgotten. Before committing to Jeb, they need to be convinced that he’s way different from George W., that he’s wiser and more careful, and that he doesn’t have a Dick Cheney blow-up doll riding shotgun.
So far, there is no sign of a grass-roots pro-Jeb frenzy. The fact he was Florida’s governor for two terms isn’t wowing the masses — even in Florida.
Polls here show Jeb trailing Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. He is only slightly ahead of the sleepwalking Ben Carson.
How is this possible? That question is echoing among the heavy hitters who gave more than $100 million to Jeb’s super PAC. They’re running out of patience.
Jeb’s new strategy is tag-teaming with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to tear down Rubio, who surged impressively and finished third in Iowa. Christie is playing the Don Rickles role, insulting Rubio in public, while the Bush team bankrolls a flurry of anti-Marco ads in the media.
The New York Times reports that Jeb has already spent $20 million attacking his former protege. I guess this means no more workouts together at the Biltmore gym.
It’s a grim battle for the sane wing of the Republican Party, which means placing at least third in New Hampshire.
The positioning is crucial because Trump’s vaudeville act is starting to fray, and the icy zealotry of Cruz scares many conservatives.
If this were a script, you would now write in a timely entrance by the seasoned, well-credentialed Jeb Bush.
Except, wait — there’s baby-faced, inexperienced Marco ahead of him. Way ahead.
Here’s a guy who has accomplished zero in the Senate, flip-flops when he feels the heat and can’t even manage his own credit cards. How is he beating an old pro like Jeb?
By successfully casting himself as a fresh and electable alternative. Rubio’s only got one speech, but he’s good at it. Ironically, he grew up to be slicker and more calculating than his mentor.
Such is Jeb’s desperation that he has a new campaign commercial using a photo of Terri Schiavo. She was the brain-dead woman whose husband and parents were locked in a legal fight over the continuation of life-support procedures.
As governor, Jeb inserted himself into the case, ultimately involving his president brother and Congress in the effort to keep a feeding tube in Schiavo, who’d been comatose for 13 years.
Eventually the courts put a stop to the political meddling, and she was allowed to die.
The episode was Jeb’s worst mistake in office, an obscene governmental intrusion into a private family tragedy. Now he’s dredging up the memory in hopes of attracting extreme right-to-life voters.
If he asks you to clap, you know what to do.
By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, February 8, 2016
“The Governors Exact Their Revenge On Marco Rubio”: Governors Against Callow And Outrageous Candidates
There was a time when Republican governors were not all that different from Democratic governors.
The politicians from both parties who ran the states tended to be a pragmatic lot. They were pro-business because they wanted their people to have jobs, but they championed government spending in the areas that contribute to economic development, starting with education and transportation.
Democratic governors still largely behave that way, but many of their Republican peers have followed their national party to the right and now run far more ideological administrations. North Carolina, Kansas and Wisconsin are prime examples of this break from a longer GOP tradition.
But in a pivotal debate here on Saturday night, the old solidarity among Republicans in charge of statehouses made a comeback of convenience. Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio and former Florida governor Jeb Bush are competitors, but they had no qualms about creating an ad hoc alliance that might be called Governors Against Callow and Outrageous Candidates.
They took on both Donald Trump and, indirectly, Sen. Ted Cruz. But their central target was Sen. Marco Rubio, who had a chance to put all three governors away with a strong performance. Instead, thanks to the pugilistic Christie, Rubio wilted.
In nearly every season, there is a media favorite whose standing with journalists relates not to ideology but to what reporters think a good candidate should look and sound like. For some time, Rubio has been that guy. Fresh and fluent, Rubio seems to bridge the party’s divides. He was nominated for the Senate as a tea party favorite, but was really an insider. You don’t get to be speaker of the Florida House of Representatives by being a mavericky rogue.
On paper at least, he’s the potential GOP nominee who scares Democrats the most. A young Cuban American (age: 44) would presumably have a nice edge on either of the Democratic candidates (ages: 68 and 74), and Rubio loves playing the generational card.
In practice, trying to be all things to all Republicans has often thrown Rubio off balance. His multiple positions on immigration reform make him both a target of the GOP’s anti-immigration hard-liners and the object of (mostly private) scorn from Republicans who were struggling to get an immigration bill passed.
All along, the question about Rubio has been whether he’s too good to be true. After Christie’s clinical takedown during their encounter at Saint Anselm College, this suspicion is now front and center.
“Marco, the thing is this,” Christie thundered. “When you’re president of the United States, when you’re a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn’t solve one problem for one person. They expect you to plow the snow. They expect you to get the schools open. And when the worst natural disaster in your state’s history hits you, they expect you to rebuild their state, which is what I’ve done. None of that stuff happens on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Ah, yes, governing is about running a government, even if Republicans aren’t supposed to like government.
The real shock was that Rubio played right into Christie’s hands by repeating a canned attack on President Obama four times. Christie couldn’t believe his good fortune. “There it is. There it is,” Christie declared, basking in his eureka moment, and chopping five seconds off the prefabricated Rubio sound bite. “The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.”
Of course, none of the three governors is like the moderate (let alone liberal) GOP executives of old. Kasich came closest when he insisted that conservatism should mean that “everybody has a chance to rise regardless of who they are so they can live their God-given purpose.” Bush had by far his best debate, for once taking on Trump without backing off, and he has looked comfortable, even happy, in his final town halls around the state. But over and over, Bush made clear just how conservative he was as governor, and how conservative he’d be as president.
Nonetheless, for one night, positioning, ideology and Obama-bashing wrapped in an attractive new package were not enough for Rubio. It’s not clear what Christie did for his own candidacy, but he performed a service by reminding his party that running a government is serious work and ought to be respected. That this was revelatory shows how far contemporary conservatism has strayed from the essential tasks of politics.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 7, 2016
“Graham Snubs Rubio Over Immigration ‘Cut and Run’”: His Snub Was Personal. Rubio Hung Him Out To Dry
Just a few weeks after ditching the presidential race, Lindsey Graham tried to shake it up Friday by snubbing a close Senate colleague.
The South Carolina senator and Sunday show perma-guest endorsed Jeb Bush this Friday morning, popping into a meeting room in a North Charleston DoubleTree hotel to praise the former Florida governor. And, since no Bush event would be complete without a discussion of Marco Rubio, the governor’s rival came up throughout.
Bush has done little to hide his disapproval of Rubio’s presidential politicking but Graham’s decision to get on board with the Marco-bashing surprised some. After all, Rubio and Graham are cut from identical ideological cloth when it comes to foreign policy, and Graham joined with Rubio in 2013 to push for comprehensive immigration reform.
So why did Graham opt for a low-polling former governor saddled with a problematic last name instead of teaming up again with his Senate ally? There are a host of interesting theories, but immigration was the most prominent issue at the press event where Graham announced the endorsement.
Flanked by other supporters and addressing national media, Bush charged that Rubio’s abandonment of his immigration reform efforts—the Florida senator decided to oppose his own bill a few months after it passed—reflected poorly on his character.
“Marco cut and run, plain and simple, for whatever reason,” the former governor said. “There may be legitimate reasons, but he cut and run. He asked for my support on a bill and he cut and run. He cut and run on his colleagues as well.”
Graham, of course, was one of those colleagues. And when reporters pressed him on the issue, he didn’t have kind words for his erstwhile ally.
“I’m not here to talk about Marco Rubio’s commitment to immigration reform,” he said. “I’ve seen Jeb has been consistent. All I can say is that I worked hard to pass a bill. You can always make the bill better. I never cut and run.”
Graham allies, speaking anonymously because Graham didn’t authorize them to talk, argued that the South Carolinian sustained more political injury because of his consistent immigration stance and Rubio hung him out to dry. They say Florida’s growing Hispanic population means Rubio could have stayed the immigration-reform course without seriously jeopardizing his political future. Graham, meanwhile, won the “Lindsey Grahamnesty” nickname from Rush Limbaugh because of his work on the issue, and faced two tricky primary elections because of his pro-reform stance.
In their view, Rubio’s repudiation of his own bill—four months after he voted for it—didn’t exactly make him a profile in courage.
And it seems to have made Graham’s decision to join Team Bush just a tad easier.
By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, January 15, 2016
“Your Family Has Delighted Us Long Enough”: Bush League; Jeb Has Become A 2016 Nonentity, For Good Reason
It’s universally acknowledged that Jeb Bush has fallen the furthest and fastest of any Republican in the primary race for president. It’s sad the former frontrunner has come to this: calling frontrunner Donald Trump “a jerk.”
Then again, the Bush men – Jeb, his brother George W. and their father George H.W. – can be famously inept with words. That is not the least of their sins and one reason Jeb is a room-emptier of a candidate. (He says he will “campaign my heart out.”) He has not made news in a good way – I mean, with something original, witty, smart or sparkling. Not one laugh has crossed state lines. Perhaps his best riposte came in the last debate, stating Trump can’t “insult his way to the presidency.” We’ll see.
The petulant preppie’s charm deficit has thrust his harsh substance into sharper relief for critics like me. As we know by now, Jeb Bush strongly opposes women’s reproductive rights; that as governor of Florida he dismissed large swathes of state employees; and that he has almost the same list of foreign policy “experts” as his brother, President George W. Bush. He rashly declared early on, “My brother kept us safe,” which gave Trump his first stinging salvo.
The fact is, 9/11 happened on his brother’s watch and defined his stay in the White House as a “war president.” America is still trying to awaken from the nightmare of Bush’s misbegotten wars, especially the Iraq invasion which took a serpentine trail to the birth of the Islamic State group. But Bushes are loyal team players and Jeb would never undermine George’s judgment. That cuts to the core of the Bushes: Winning is in the end about them, not us. It’s like a giant game of horseshoes in Kennebunkport, Maine, site of the waterfront family compound.
Jeb did one surprising thing, though. He made me freshly appreciate his brother George’s political talent, a long time coming. Suddenly, I saw the twinkle in his eye, his carriage, his presence, his range of expression. He is much more compelling as a leader than his brother, never mind (for a moment) his ruinous war record abroad. and on the Katrina front at home.
Ironically, the younger George’s time in office did much the same. I appreciated his father “Poppy’s” presidency so much more than I ever did during the son’s presidency. The elder George, who I thought of as a tonedeaf elitist with a mean streak, suddenly appeared as a wise statesman with the so-called “vision thing.” He had the vision not to start a “kill Saddam in Iraq” campaign after winning the war in Kuwait with a truly multinational coalition. How great was that? He did not cross that line in the sand.
The older Bush also handled German reunification and the end of the Cold War like an old foreign policy hand, which he actually was. Not a shot was fired in anger. The recession happening at home was his undoing in running for re-election in 1992, as he sensed it would be. The governor of Arkansas with the golden tongue, young enough to be his son, proved the man of the people.
But two Bush presidents are plenty, thanks, Jeb. As Jane Austen would say, your family has delighted us long enough.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, December 21, 2015