Oops, he did it again. Jeb Bush had to walk back another dumb comment Tuesday night, after he told the Southern Baptist Convention, “I'm not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women's health issues.”
What he meant to say, Bush now claims, was that Planned Parenthood shouldn’t get that much federal funding – even though the context of the remark made clear that he was talking about futile GOP plans to transfer that funding from Planned Parenthood to other health agencies. That’s when he mused that it might be a tad too much cash to spend on the ladies, anyway. His walk back made so little sense he might have to walk it back.
So far in this campaign cycle, Bush has made Rick Perry look positively presidential.
Look at all the statements Bush has either had to walk back, claim he “misspoke” or contend were the result of misunderstanding a question, in the six months since he began to “explore” a presidential run. He opened his campaign with a foreign policy speech in which he inflated the size of ISIS by 10 and confused Iran and Iraq. He then told Fox’s Megyn Kelly that he’d have invaded Iraq even knowing what we know now, then claimed he misunderstood her question, and then changed his answer several more times.
In March, Bush argued forcefully against a federal minimum wage – “I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this” – then said he just meant the federal minimum wage shouldn’t be raised, not that it shouldn’t exist.
Then Bush jumped into the battle over “religious freedom” laws with both feet – and had to jump out when the Indiana law he supported wound up being amended as opponents asked.
In just the last month, Bush has had to clarify what he meant when he said American “workers need to work longer hours” as well as walk back a comment on “phasing out” Medicare.
Even if you grant Bush the benefit of the doubt and agree that he misspoke in most of those instances – rather than said what he truly believed, which is what I think – he looks fabulously unprepared for a presidential campaign. Would he gaffe his way through the presidency? Or do his mis-steps just mean he’s bored with the process of winning an office he believes he’s entitled to, and he’d do better once he got the job?
Whatever it is, Bush is running a spectacularly terrible campaign. He’s famously been losing weight to get ready for the trail, but as he shrinks in size, he’s also been shrinking in stature. It’s like watching the air go out of an overfilled balloon.
His advisors tell reporters that Bush is feeling good about the race, counting his campaign money while Donald Trump makes it impossible for less well-funded GOP rivals to get the attention they need. I find that hard to believe. The guy hailed by pundits as “the smart Bush” isn’t looking that way anymore. I expect him to white knuckle his way through the debate Thursday night, trying to avoid more flubs. That could leave room for one of those rivals – John Kasich, perhaps – to make a bid for establishment support, given how badly Bush has stumbled.