The Jeb Bush Show (Edgy)

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)

“We have the benefit now of all of this philosophy of offering free things to people not working. I think the better message is, let’s disrupt Washington. Let’s create a little bit of a recession in Washington, D.C., so that we can have economic prosperity outside of Washington.”

Jeb Bush

Two brief points:

(1) Jeb Bush is doubling down on the “free stuff” argument that did Mitt Romney no good, yet remains popular with Republicans into this cycle.

(2) What was that about a recession?

No, really. What the hell, Jeb?

Olivia Nuzzi tries her hardest to explain the inexplicable for The Daily Beast:

Asked if Bush really meant that he would like to create a recession in Washington, D.C., the country’s fourth-largest metropolitan economy, his spokesman, Tim Miller, responded, “We should shrink D.C. so we can grow the economy of the rest of the country.”

But Bush said recession.

Asked “yes or no,” does Bush believe D.C. should be hit with a recession, as the country as a whole continues to recover from the Great Recession, Miller said, “He certainly wants to shrink the size of D.C. as laid out on his plan to reform Washington.”

And you know, this is the part where we usually shake our heads and mutter that it only goes downhill from there.

And, you know, it does.

We might take a moment to wonder about the idea of tone deafness, a political term that ranges somewhere between insensitivity unto others and being insensate toward oneself. But before we bother picking apart the frequencies within the greater harmony Mr. Bush’s seemingly stupid joke might be missing, we should also probably note that Mr. Miller, the campaign spokesman, would not say it was a joke, and has every appearance of confirming the argument without explicitly saying so.

There is a legitimate concern about cutting government jobs. At a local level, say, in the Pacific Northwest, we might not notice certain service cutbacks until minor wind brings blackout to several hundred thousand people; it’s astounding what happens if the trees aren’t well attended around transmission lines. But when we start talking about slashing jobs to the point of economic damage, and this is actually part of a sales pitch, it seems reasonable to wonder by what metrics the Bush campaign is measuring the marketplace; that is, How does this even begin to sound good to whom?

Was a time when it seemed quite possible Mr. Bush’s troubles came from trying to swim in such turbulent, supremacist-driven conservative waters. As he struggles to find his footing and hang on into the voting year, it seems more and more as if the former Florida governor simply isn’t suited to the presidential stage.

It is an interesting dynastic comparison, too. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s biggest weakness so far would seem to be that she is of a former generation of politician; even in spontaneous moments she reads like a well-rehearsed, tightly-canned routine. But she is very, very good at the routine, and this older generation of political mannerisms by no means precludes strong and even excellent leadership. Hillary Clinton would be a fine president with remarkable potential. Mr. Bush, by contrast, might be of the same political generation, but nothing about his execution of a presidential campaign suggests he has a clue what he’s doing. It is hard to see how he could be anything other than a caretaker at best, or, more likely, a stooge puppet. And while there is, in fact, merit in the prospect of an administrative president who simply affirms advisors, what about the advisors? We’ve seen what his foreign policy team can do.

But it’s like a bad nineties comedy sketch, you know, the kind where all the young consultants are using words like “edgy” and the befuddled older politician or spokesman or whoever can’t figure out what that actually means, and ends up embarrassing himself.

To the other, just how gruesome can Jeb Bush get? It’s not like he’s going to throw down an N-bomb, or something. Right?

We’re not getting through this primary preaseason without more Republican strangeness. Perhaps Mr. Bush should set a personal goal to raise his poll numbers by trying to not sound insane. Like, you know, for the rest of the cycle.


Image note: 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)

Benen, Steve. “Echoing Romney, Jeb reflects on black voters, ‘free stuff'”. msnbc. 25 September 2015.

Nuzzi, Olivia. “Jeb Wants a Recession in D.C., Having Forgotten That Real People Live There”. The Daily Beast. 15 October 2015.

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