I ask that question not to goad you into clicking on my article, but pretty seriously. After his early lead, buoyed largely by (last) name recognition, evaporated in the face of Trump’s meteoric rise to the top, Jeb’s campaign has lost any and all authenticity, energy, and momentum it might once have hoped to claim. He’s stumbled from high-profile gaffe to high-profile gaffe, punctuated only by poor debate performances. It says mountains about his campaign that the high point was saying that his brother “kept us safe” when asked about the Iraq War by Trump during the 2nd debate, as that’s A.) not about him and B.) not really true, given that evidence seems to be mounting about how invading Iraq destabilized the region and directly led to the rise of ISIS. His lack of energy (commented on by the Donald and counteracted from here on out, as elsewhere, by putting an exclamation point after his first name) and seeming total incompetence probably mean that his faltering presidential bid should really be put out of its misery sometime soon.
A Brief History of Jeb!
Mid-May: Jeb! screws up a series of questions in back-to-back interviews about the Iraq War, first seeming to indicate that he would go back in if he knew what we know now about their lack of WMD’s and real threat to the U.S., before reversing course and settling on a position that it was a mistake, but one anyone could have made. Demographics offended: vast majority of Americans who think the Iraq War was a mistake, advocates of political honesty, George W. Bush
June 15: Jeb! officially announces his candidacy, after months of fundraising an exploratory committee-ing. Not remotely surprising, but comes off as dishonest given that the only reason he delayed so long was so he could continue to fundraise for his “totally unaffiliated” Super PAC, Right to Rise, before he has to “break all contact” as a presidential candidate. Demographics offended: mainly Hillary Clinton, who wishes she were able to be that transparent with her corporate connections.
Early July: Jeb! is, for the first time, passed by Donald Trump in a series of national polls. We shouldn’t be too hard on Jeb! for this, though. After all, who wouldn’t want a self-obsessed, orange-haired, xenophobic, and uncouth billionaire who’s constantly saying how much better than you he is? Demographics offended: Papa Bush, who’s not angry, just disappointed.
July 8: Fresh off of that rousing success, Jeb! outlines how his plan for improving the economy includes having people “work longer hours.” In a rare moment of unity, everyone nationwide simultaneously wishes they’d thought of that earlier. Demographics offended: the unemployed, the working poor, the urban poor, the middle class. Some say Bernie Sanders’s hair still hasn’t recovered.
August 4: Jeb! makes waves again, this time saying that he’s “not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” While he later clarified this as talking about specifically federal funding for Planned Parenthood, this isn’t exactly something you can say when every word is under serious media scrutiny. Demographics offended: women’s health groups, women’s advocacy groups, doctors not named Ben Carson, the RNC people who’d been working really hard to make inroads with women only to have Jeb! come along and fuck it all up.
August 6: In a riveting two and a half hour performance, Jeb! masterfully demonstrates how to disappear completely in front of dozens of TV cameras and 9 bloodthirsty opponents. Demographics offended: Harry Houdini.
August 25: After spending months railing against Trump’s use of the controversial phrase “anchor babies,” Jeb!, who has spent months trying to build up his more immigrant-friendly credibility, manages to both use that phrase then use it to refer to such immigration as “frankly, more related to Asian people.” Demographics offended: Legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, Asian Americans, and Rick Perry, who really wishes he’d been given this much leeway to say whatever he wants.
September 16: At the second Republican debate, Jeb! has a strong showing, by his standards. By that, I mean he had one good line (see above) with “a good night” includes failing to have any of your attacks actually work, being forced to suck up to your biggest rival, and receiving a lesson in how to sound like an effective ruler from a woman who ran HP into the ground. Demographics offended: himself, mostly.
September 24: During a speech in South Carolina, Jeb! touts his own plan for minorities as superior to that of Democrats, as it does not rely on “free stuff.” Bold choice of words from a man who’s only taken seriously because of the accomplishments of his family members. Demographics offended: most people who don’t have a shrine to Ayn Rand in their bedrooms.
October 21: Tossed a softball question when asked about his favorite superhero, Jeb! manages to get even that one wrong, by saying that he saw an ad for Supergirl and “she looked pretty hot.” Demographics offended: Women, comic book fans, Marvel fans, DC fans, anyone somehow still surprised that the GOP objectifies women.
October 28: Again, given a relatively easy topic to deal with in Marco Rubio’s extensive absentee record, Jeb! screws up his attack, giving Rubio his biggest applause line of the night and demonstrating that Jeb! just wasn’t the right Florida moderate for the job. Demographics offended: Can it still be offensive when it’s so damn predictable? Food for thought
The fact that, while many are calling for Jeb! to quit the race in light of his marvelous campaigning abilities, we’re still talking about him as a candidate has some dire things to say about our political process. Why do we consider Jeb! qualified? He has money, and people know his name. Talk about privilege. In fact, given the mixed legacy of the Bush brand, his enduring support is mostly down to the Super PAC money he spend the first half of this year begging for. The very sense of entitlement that his entire campaign demonstrates is a little jarring, especially for someone who talks all the time about being his own man. In the end, I don’t think he’ll be exercising his Right to Rise (poor choice of slogan, given just that sense of entitlement) anytime soon.