The Jeb Bush Show (Anticlimatic)

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waits backstage before speaking at the Iowa Agriculture Summit, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“The climate is changing. I don’t think the science is clear on what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted. And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it even.”

Jeb Bush

Could someone remind me again, just why did we think Jeb Bush would be the “serious” candidate?

The Washington Post account of a New Hampshire fundraiser really does make the former Florida governor sound petulant:

The issue of climate change came up as the host of the house party asked Bush to comment on a speech given Wednesday by President Obama, who said that climate change is a “serious threat” to national security.

“Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security,” Obama told Coast Guard graduates in their dress white uniforms at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut, “and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act— and we need to act now.”

In response, Bush said that climate change should be just “part of, a small part of prioritization of our foreign policy.” He suggested that the United States should encourage countries that have higher carbon emissions rates to reduce them.

But, he added, “We’ve had a pretty significant decrease and we’ll continue on, not because of Barack Obama, but because of the energy revolution.” He credited hydraulic fracking, horizontal drilling and an increased use of natural gas for helping cut American carbon emissions.

Just a hint for the Most Serious Clown in the Car: Pulling it out of the ground has nothing to do with reducing the exhaust.

Kind of like the whole Underpants Gnomes thing:

Step One: Get more oil and natural gas out of the ground.

Step Two: [???]

Step Three: Reduce carbon emissions.

And that’s what we get from the (ahem!) “serious” clown.

The same guy who needs, what, five, maybe six swings at a softball question? Whose quest to establish himself as his own man results only in reminding us just how much of a dynastic scion he really is?

There is a certain amount of stupid ritual in American politics; no matter how much we disdain the answers, we still ask certain questions. And some of it is ritualistic insofar as part of the point of the proverbial horserace is to watch how the candidates run. Where some might rely on misinformation overload, Jeb Bush seems to have rambled on according to the notion of simply including the talking points. Like the desperate effort to blame Barack Obama for decisions made by the previous administration; the other day, Mr. Bush blamed his own brother for what he was trying to pin on the current president, and it is not clear the former Florida governor understood that he did so. But he did manage to work in the point that what happens in Iraq is all Barack Obama’s fault, which was the talking point, so blaming President Obama for something President Bush did is exactly the talking point. In other words, he responded to a voter by telling her, “We respectfully disagree”, before lying to her face. This is not exactly what we would otherwise call respectful, but Mr. Bush is a Bush, so the only real recourse we have is to redefine how we show respect in order to pretend that petulant dishonesty is the height of human respect.

With the climate question, the talking point is simple enough: Sell hydraulic fracturing!

And in the end, Jeb Bush finds himself standing there asking that science reopen a settled issue, and mostly so the people who are wrong don’t have to acknowledge their mistakes.

And given the stakes―that Mr. Bush was governor of Florida has some symbolic irony worth noting―changing the subject in order to plead on behalf of bad ideas that will impress donors and potsherds alike just doesn’t seem particularly useful.

Still, though, even in the context of lowering the bar so more Republicans can pretend to be presidential, a striking result emerges. As we watch how these candidates set about their ritual dishonesty, it would seem Mr. Bush is not the most adept clown in the car. Then again, he is up against a customized standard. Just as no Republican candidate could withstand the sort of scrutiny Hillary Clinton faces, none of Mr. Bush’s opponents for the GOP nomination have to meet the standard he must surpass. Jeb Bush is certainly no Hillary Clinton, but he does answer to a higher standard than, say, Ben Carson or Ted Cruz. Yet Mr. Cruz’s misinformation overload, for all we might disdain the method, seems better prepared than rushing through the talking points like a breathless, petulant schoolboy. It is one thing to suggest that expectations have hurt Jeb Bush, but even still, he’s doing a lot of this to himself.


O’Keefe, Ed. “Jeb Bush: ‘The climate is changing'”. The Washington Post. 20 May 2015.

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