The Jeb Bush Show (Seriously Inadequate)

Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush waits for his introduction at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, 7 March 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

Consider, please, that while Donald Trump managed to get into a stupid fight with Rick Perry and win, this is actually about Jeb Bush:

Almost immediately after Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) military service, Republican officials denounced the criticism in a specific way. “There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably,” the Republican National Committee said in an official statement.

The problem, of course, is that Republicans appear to apply that principle selectively. In 2004, John Kerry faced ridiculous lies about his heroic military service, and at the time, GOP leaders saw great political value in smearing a decorated war veteran.

Take Jeb Bush, for example. In January 2005, the day before his brother’s second inaugural, the Florida governor wrote a letter to the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” ringleader, expressing his appreciation for the smear campaign. Celebrating the “Swifties,” as Jeb Bush called them, the Republican wrote to retired Col. Bud Day, “Please let them know that I am personally appreciative of their service to our nation. As someone who truly understands the risk of standing up for something, I simply cannot express in words how much I value their willingness to stand up against John Kerry.”

In this case, “stand up to” was apparently a euphemism for “tell lies about.”


And while we might refer to the former Florida governor by his derisive title as the Serious Clown, the question remains as to why anybody thought Mr. Bush was a serious candidate. Maybe he needs another do-over.

For his part, Mr. Bush offers weak tea, rejecting the comparison because, “A thank you letter to Col. Bud Day, Medal of Honor winner and Air Force Cross recipient, twice captured as a a POW, is not in any way analogous to condemning Donald Trump’s slanderous attack on John McCain.”

And while we might call Mr. Bush the Serious Clown, it turns out the guy is seriously clownish. It’s like the adage that all politicians lie; Jeb’s cynicism is such to remind what it looks like when the condemnation becomes the starting point. More precisely, there is a difference between acknowledging human frailty and aiming to exploit it.

Jeb Bush and his staffers can’t have it both ways. When it’s the Republican’s brother on the ballot, Bush thinks the smearing of a war hero is worthy of praise and gratitude. When it’s Donald Trump, leading Jeb Bush in the polls, doing the smearing, the Florida Republican is suddenly outraged.

For Team Bush, the two are not “in any way analogous.” Why not? Because the campaign says so.

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 13 July 2015.Maybe it’s time to openly acknowledge the stupidity of expecting Jeb Bush to be the “serious candidate” in the Clown Car. After all, the title of Serious Clown is more a joke about the press. If we want to be honest about our derision, there comes a point where we have to admit that Mr. Bush is not at all serious, but instead perfectly and viciously inadequate.

It is hard enough in general to figure out why politicians expect to get away with certain sleights. And then people let them, and the question seems, well, about as stupid as Jeb. It’s almost like he thinks there is something heroic about lying.


Image notes: Top ― Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush waits for his introduction at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, 7 March 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters) Right ― Detail of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner, 13 July 2015.

Benen, Steve. “Jeb Bush’s Swift Boat defense comes up short”. msnbc. 21 July 2015.

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