Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Jeb Bush vs. Donald Trump: a Tale of Two Audiences

A number of pundits thought Jeb had a good night. Chris Cilliza for one. He had Jeb the big winner of the night. His other winners are coincidentally most of the Establishment candidates-along with Jeb, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie.

He also thinks Trump was ok the first hour-when he didn't say much- but was a 'loser' in the second hour when he fought back when Jeb again sniffed 'he gets his foreign policy advice from the shows.'

"He just couldn't keep it up for the whole debate. Trump showed his thin skin when, under attack from Jeb, he dismissed the Florida governor with this polling slam: "I'm at 42 and you're at 3." Later in the debate, Trump clearly had no idea what the nuclear triad was and, in a transparent attempt to cover his tracks, resorted to his "we need to be so strong" crutch."

First of all, I'd guess most people don't know what a nuclear triad is. Ok, you can say 'Well he's running for President, so he should know' but the problem is a 'gaffe' is only really a gaffe if it's a case of a candidate not knowing something that's common knowledge among the public-and how much common knowledge among the ?

You know me-I try to keep up pretty well-but I didn't know what that was off the top of my head and I suspect that few did. Indeed, before the debate last night, a CNN pundit suggested that Wolf Blitzer should ask Trump who the five neighboring countries of Syria are. But then another pundit asked him to name the countries in his own gotcha question and it took him a little bit to come up with the answer.

But as for the 'I'm at 42 you're at 3' comment by Trump I didn't have the reaction of such a delicate serious flower as Cilliza. Or Frank Brunni:

"Actually, the Bush-Trump crossfire was welcome and satisfying, because Bush more than anyone in any of these debates effectively called Trump out for his galling recklessness, and Trump’s responses were as naked a display of his adolescent narcissism as he’s engaged in yet. That’s saying something."

“He’s a chaos candidate,” Bush said when asked to elaborate on a tweet in which he’d called Trump “unhinged.” “And he’ll be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.”

Trump shot back that Bush’s whole candidacy had been a disaster."

"Bush shook his head pityingly. “Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency,” he said.

"He twice derided Trump’s comment a while back that he got his foreign policy advice from television shows, saying, “I don’t know if that’s Saturday morning or Sunday morning.” Saturday morning is cartoon time."

I find that interesting because watching that last night I didn't score it that way. Evidently, this is not how Frank Luntz's focus group of the Republican base took it either.

This tweet from Frank Luntz said it all.

"The crowd may be applauding, but my focus group is laughing at Jeb. 22 of 26 members said Donald Trump won that exchange"

"My #GOPDebate focus group's words to describe Jeb Bush: "weak," "desperate," and "whiny." It's over for him. Sorry."

Yes, that was my takeaway too-that Jeb looked whiny and entitled when he started lecturing Trump. As Chris Matthews said, he sounded like a schoolmarm and it's not clear who these lectures were for the benefit of. He may say Trump is not a serious candidate but how does he explain that so much of his own party does? By dismissing Trump he dismisses them. The audience  who was cheering his sanctimonious speeches is largely Establishment but in the real world I doubt many find Jeb sympathetic in these confrontations. To me he looks like a man who's sense of entitlement has been offended. Vox puts it the same way:

"In a sense, every day that Jeb Bush continues to pretend that he might be president is a day he's losing. But this was a particularly sad showing. Bush clearly thought that attacking Donald Trump as unserious, as a "chaos candidate" who'd be a "chaos president," was what he needed to do to make inroads. His campaign even blasted out a pre-cooked "chaos candidate" meme during the debate:"

"It sort of worked the first time, but the second time Bush tried to tell Trump he couldn't "insult his way" to the presidency, Trump saw the situation for what it was: an opportunity to insult this whiny, entitled WASP who thinks the presidency's his birthright and that Trump, and implicitly his supporters too, are unserious and unworthy of influence. So Trump pointed out that he's beating the living shit out of Bush under every conceivable metric and left it at that. He even added some sarcastic mocking of Bush's macho posturing: "Oh, I know. You're a tough guy, Jeb. I know."

Look, I know the Beltway has this thing where it's indelicate to mention someones poll numbers but when you have a guy at 3 percent lecturing a guy at 42 percent that he will never be President it is kind of question begging.

Jeb thinks this job is his by birthright and is offended every moment he has to compete for votes along someone like Trump. Sorry, Jeb this is actually America where you have to earn people's votes.

By the way, while we're on the subject of Jeb, we ought to hope and pray Luntz is right. A Jeb Presidency really would be, as Trump would put it, a disaster.

"Indeed, beneath the glossy exterior of his public profile — that of the compassionate conservative, the happy warrior, the good-natured reformer — Jeb possessed a hard-edged, often ruthless political style that ran through his entire rise and reign in the Sunshine State. “He’s been the big, bad kid,” Chris Smith, a leading Democrat in the Florida House, complained to a reporter toward the end of Jeb’s term. “And he’s wielded that power mercilessly.”

"In Florida the line on Jeb is this: He is the smart brother, the better brother, the one who should have been president. "If Jeb had been the one who was president, a lot of decisions would have been different," says Lucy Morgan, the grande dame of the Florida press corps. "He is significantly more intelligent than his brother," agrees Martin Dyckman, who has covered Florida politics for nearly fifty years. "My private belief is that he would not have been suckered into a war in Iraq." If Jeb were president, I was also told, we wouldn't have a national deficit, wouldn't have given away the ports, would have saved New Orleans. Under Jeb, the story goes, everything would be different."

"In reality, this is almost certainly false. Jeb Bush shares nearly all of his brother's political ideas and many of his methods. They are much more similar to each other, for example, than either is to his father—and on issues like Iraq, Jeb's commitment to the war may even predate his brother's. As early as 1997, he was a founding member—along with Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz—of the Project for the New American Century, which authored the now-famous letter to President Bill Clinton advocating a unilateral strike on Saddam Hussein. As a former trustee of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, he stands among the most rarefied echelon of the Republican guard, along with far-right stalwarts Grover Norquist and Ed Meese. And in Florida, his record has been unfailingly, unflinchingly, unhesitatingly conservative on virtually every issue he has touched, from the first statewide school-voucher program in the country to the privatization of the state's Medicaid system to the tax cuts he has proposed, promoted, and signed every year since taking office. This is a man who told voters in 1994 that his contribution to black citizens would amount to "probably nothing" and who fantasized in his 2003 inaugural address about a government so choked for tax revenue that state office buildings would be "empty" and "silent monuments." On the surface, Jeb may seem like a kinder, gentler, more centrist version of his older brother, but seem is the operative word. In all probability, if Jeb Bush were president right now, the world would look about the same as it does."

This piece was written way back in 2006, but I think it's a must read for anyone who seriously wants to understand who Jeb Bush is. If you liked W, you'll love Jeb. He also somehow seemed to turn Florida into his own GOP dominated fiefdom. Dems literally became second class citizens during his tenure-when this had not at all been the case historically. Then there's the help he gave his brother in becoming President.

"What makes Bush's ascendance even more significant is that prior to his election in 1998, the office of the Florida governor had been notoriously weak. Forced to share power with six other cabinet officials, each of whom was elected independently, a governor could very well find himself outnumbered, outvoted, and overruled by his own cabinet. For all practical purposes, he was just another member of the staff."

"Until 1998, there was no state except North Carolina where the governor was weaker," says Martin Dyckman. "He was first among equals in the cabinet."

"Today the Florida governorship bears little resemblance to its impotent past. Almost from the moment Bush arrived in Tallahassee, he began to accumulate influence and transform the balance of power. He started with the state's educational system. Since the 1960s, Florida's universities, community colleges, and public schools had always been managed by a slate of boards overseen by the cabinet. In 2000, Bush decided to seize control of them all himself. First he abolished the existing boards, including the board of regents at state universities; then he replaced them with a single seven-member "megaboard" that he handpicked himself. With the stroke of a pen, he consolidated the entire educational system under his direct control."

"Next, Bush took the same approach with the state's judicial system. Since 1972, judges in Florida had been nominated by commissions of nine members—three of them chosen by the Florida Bar, three by the governor, and the final three by a vote among the first six. In 2002, Bush decided to dictate them all. Working with allies in the state legislature, he designed, promoted, and then signed a bill granting himself the authority to appoint all nine members of the state's judicial nominating commissions. When the bar association protested, Bush reluctantly allowed its members to suggest four of the nine, but he reserved the right to reject their suggestions as often as he wanted, for any reason he liked, until he got a suggestion he liked."

"Now that he picks all nine members of the commission, the members have become much more partisan," says Dyckman. "They are suddenly, preponderantly, Republican."

"In recent years, both of these power grabs have been challenged, but even after some modification, the essence remains the same: Today, every member of the board that oversees state universities has been appointed by Bush, every member of the board that oversees public schools has been appointed by Bush, and every member of the state's judicial nominating commissions is appointed by Bush."

"But nowhere is Bush's dominance more apparent than in the presence of Florida Democrats. Once the reigning power in state politics, with majorities in both houses, the Democratic machine has sputtered in recent years, then stalled, and, finally, fallen out of service entirely. What struck me the most when I met with Democratic leaders in Tallahassee earlier this year was not their lack of power so much as their willingness to own up to it. Most politicians have a knack for turning out hopeful platitudes and optimistic banalities even in the face of hideous defeat. Not so in Florida, where the crush of history is simply too great to spin."

"I found the outgoing House minority leader, Chris Smith, tucked away in a minuscule office on the third floor of the Capitol building, a room so small that it might as well have been a cubicle, with bright fluorescent lights and walls so thin that I could hear shouting and laughter in the next room. (By contrast, when I met with his Republican counterpart, Speaker Allan Bense, I waited in Bense's expansive sitting room, with dark wainscoting and crown molding, soft recessed lighting, and large green armchairs, not to mention a plush sofa, a model of a three-masted ship, and two enormous wooden desks staffed by secretaries, all of which was dwarfed by Bense's personal chamber, with its thirty-inch state insignia on the carpet, large bronze eagle on the wall, and massive wooden conference table with a sitting area nearby.)"

"But Smith was unfazed by the accommodations. He had other things on his mind. A black man in his mid-thirties with an easy smile and a cherubic face, he motioned for me to sit down beside the state's Democratic communications director, Tara Klimek, and he spoke in a calm, disappointed voice."

"The legislature is not its own branch of government anymore," Smith began. "We're Jeb's workroom. Because of the Republican numbers, they can do whatever they want. They don't really negotiate with us. And once Jeb became governor, they laid down for him. They have bent over backward to give him more and more power. They gave him the power to appoint the secretary of state. They gave him the power to appoint all the trustees for the universities. Before, members would tell a governor, 'Screw you, you're out in eight years, and I'll be here for twenty,' but now that we have term limits, members think, 'I'm gonna be out of here in a few years. I don't want to have the governor mad at me.' So term limits have got him in a real good spot."

Indeed, that was 2006 but the languishing of the Florida Dems has continued.

"Demoralized after their brutal midterm election losses, Florida Democrats are again battling one another and now face an even tougher challenge of rebuilding."

"It's hard. It's rotten. It's depressing," said the chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, Allison Tant, who promises to press ahead and finish her four-year term. "But I'm not going to walk away just because it's gotten harder. I don't have that in me."

"Democrats' explanations are many: not enough money, not enough good candidates and an unfocused message, especially to independent voters."

"Tant on Thursday announced a task force headed by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to attack the party's most glaring weakness: a failure to recruit capable and well-funded candidates for the Legislature, Congress and statewide offices."

"But rather than unite, some Democrats are pointing fingers and seeking scapegoats."

"Their target is state Rep. Mark Pafford, a soft-spoken lawmaker from West Palm Beach already chosen by his colleagues to lead the 38-member House Democratic caucus for the next two years. Humiliated by last week's losses, some Democrats want to replace Pafford with Rep. Dwayne Taylor, of Daytona Beach."

Tant is furious at what she calls a "circus" and is calling out Pafford's critics as "bed wetters" on the eve of a public vote Monday in Tallahassee."

"I'm pretty tired of this whole circular firing squad thing," Tant said as she pounded her fist on a conference table in an interview with the Times/Herald. "I'm ready for the bed-wetting to stop."

"Gleeful Republicans are enjoying the Democrats' latest episode of divisiveness."

"Talk about a fistfight in a phone booth," said Republican strategist and lobbyist J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, who has been on both sides of epic political battles. "When there's just a handful of you, you need to stand back-to-back."

"For Florida Democrats, things can't get much worse."

Yes, this Mac Stipanovich is one and the same with the one who worked with Katherine Harris to stop the 2000 Florida recount and get the state to Jeb's brother by any and all means necessary.

You might just dismiss my claim that Jeb and friends stole that election for W, but Stipanovich himself admits the same implicitly if you look at his recent interview with CNN.

Of course, what is also notable is that the roles are reversed-in Florida the GOP gets to enjoy Dem divisiveness but nationally it's the reverse.

So, bearing all this in mind-the legacy of Jeb-with apologies to my good friend and reader extraordinaire-I'd like to think I'm a pretty good writer, but Tom is a very good reader of this blog and best of all commentator LOL-but I am going to double down on my claim that putting me in the either/or of a Jeb or Trump Presidency, I'll take Trump any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

And a new comment by Tom underscores my point:

Mike, do you think President Trump would appoint Ted Nugent to the Supreme Court? How about Gary Busey? Why not both?"

Right. Exactly, I'd rather have those two gentlemen than the two Jeb would put on the Court. Again, look at what he did to the Florida judicial system. No way, compared to this, the idea of a President Trump can scare me.

So a President Jeb seems off the table and we should all be grateful about that one. Quite a bullet we seem to be dodging.


  1. So you agree that Nugent and Busey are possibilities. :D

  2. Sure I don't find that hard to imagine at all in the rather tough to imagine scenario that Trump wins the general. LOL