I know he’s a prolific fundraiser and I know the media seems to think he’s the inevitable Republican nominee (though for the life of me I can’t understand why), and I know there is this idea out there that Donald Trump’s rise actually helps Jeb Bush (which is similarly confusing to me; Trump’s rise, should it carry into the primaries, would seem to help Trump, and if it doesn’t continue into the primaries his vote isn’t likely to move to Bush but rather Ted Cruz and Scott Walker, who the majority of conservative votes who make up the bulk of the GOP electorate like better than Bush).
But the one thing we can say from watching him run for president is that of all the major GOP candidates Jeb Bush appears to be the worst at capturing a news cycle with positive attention.
Trump is outstanding at winning a news cycle. He’s won more news cycles than any other politician in America over the past three months. Cruz is almost as good. Chris Christie has skills in that regard. Bobby Jindal is a little clumsy in his efforts to get attention, but he’s at least making an effort. Rick Perry has done well at times in making headlines. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have shown some earned media appeal. Ben Carson is good at it. Walker needs more flash but he’s won a few news cycles on his own terms.
It seems the only time Jeb Bush actually makes news is when he’s either pissing off his own voters or opening himself up to get attacked, successfully, by Democrats.
And yesterday was a perfect example of that.
Here was Jeb, weighing in on the Planned Parenthood controversy and the desire to de-fund the largest abortion provider in the country…
Looking to curry favor with religious conservatives at the outset of a competitive primary fight, Bush on Tuesday repeated his call to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood — and then he went even further, questioning the amount of government support for women’s health programs generally.
The Romneyesque unforced error drew a fast and furious backlash from Democrats, causing Bush to backtrack almost immediately and to acknowledge that he “misspoke.”
The controversial comment came as Bush started to acknowledge the importance of federal funding for some women’s health programs, and then stopped mid-sentence to qualify his remarks, asserting that he believes the current amount of funding is likely too much.
“I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars in funding for women’s health programs,” Bush said, before continuing with his point. “If you took dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinarily fine organizations, community health organizations that exist, federally sponsored community health organizations to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues.
“But abortion should not be funded by the government, any government in my mind,” he concluded.
That’s just lousy messaging.
First of all, nobody is talking about cutting off spending for women’s health. Of all the things the federal government is wasting money on, the half-billion dollars it currently spends on Planned Parenthood isn’t the worst of the waste. That money is objectionable not based on its intended purpose but on what Planned Parenthood ultimately uses it for. Money is fungible, and if you pay an abortion provider to do things other than abortions you’re making it easier to do abortions.
But other than Jeb Bush nobody is saying that we should be de-funding women’s health programs. Why go there?
If you were going to take that step into the Land Of Zero Political Benefit, the way to do it is to say that Planned Parenthood is screwing the American taxpayer by overcharging us for the stuff we’re trying to pay them for, and all the community health centers we want to fund instead of Planned Parenthood could perform those services more cheaply. That might have the additional benefit of being true; I can’t say. Even if it can’t be proven, though, why not have one more angle of attack specifically on Planned Parenthood when the goal is to create a political consensus for de-funding that organization and having the funds flow to entities who don’t perform abortions and are a lot more likely to be conservative in political orientation rather than one of the largest Democrat donors extant.
Bush instead opens the entire effort to defund Planned Parenthood up to charges that what it’s really about is the War On Women, and that Republicans don’t care about pap smears and breast cancer and birth control pills. It’s 2012 all over again thanks to him.
His messaging was so bad that even a crooked old lush like Hillary Clinton could score on him…
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 4, 2015
Which reduced Jeb to this response…
.@HillaryClinton what’s absolutely, unequivocally wrong is giving taxpayer $ to an org whose practices show no regard for lives of unborn
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) August 4, 2015
…and a backtracking “I misspoke” apology…
With regards to women’s health funding broadly, I misspoke, as there are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women’s health organizations that need to be fully funded. They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don’t have the access they need.
I was referring to the hard-to-fathom $500 million in federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood – an organization that was callously participating in the unthinkable practice of selling fetal organs. Democrats and Republicans agree we absolutely must defund them and redirect those funds to other women’s health organizations.
Like we said, this really isn’t all that difficult. If you’re going to quibble about the size of the sum spent on women’s health, then make the case that you can procure the same quality of service for less money and that Planned Parenthood is wasting taxpayer dollars in addition to killing kids for spare parts.
Otherwise, shut up about how much the government spends on women’s health.
This guy was a very popular two-term governor of Florida. His family has produced two presidents. You would think he’d be capable of avoiding the obvious rakes on the ground.