When it came to Donald Trump, Jeb Bush’s strategy heading into August was simple: lay off the billionaire loudmouth and let other candidates fight losing rhetorical battles with him while Jeb rose above it all and played the part of responsible statesman. Heading into September, that strategy has been completely abandoned. Jeb is in attack mode, going after the stubbornly popular Republican frontrunner as he tries to do what no else has yet accomplished: take down Donald Trump.
Jeb’s team has put out a series of videos and policy statements attacking Trump and casting his draconian plans for immigration as electoral poison. Their latest offering is a video that purports to expose “The Real Donald Trump,” which is actually impossible given that there is no “real” Donald Trump. There is only the character known as Donald Trump who inhabits in the blurred plane of semi-consciousness in between nightmares and the cold reality of dawn.
Anyway, Jeb’s brilliant strategy to destroy this phantasmagorical horror is to point out that he lives in New York and is friends with Bill and Hillary Clinton.
This is a bizarre attack on Trump, mainly because Trump has already demonstrated that these attacks don’t really work on him. The abortion stuff and the single-payer business came up at the Fox News debate, and Trump explained that he’d changed his mind on both issues and is now a pro-life champion who wants health insurance sold across state lines. Republican voters didn’t really care and Trump’s numbers continued to improve.
But the most ridiculous part of the video is the amount of time it devotes to quoting Trump describing Bill and Hillary Clinton as his close friends. The message Jeb’s team wants to send is simple: Hillary is an evil, liberal, devil woman and Trump’s free, open association with her and her husband should disqualify him in the minds of conservative voters. Even if that attack had merit, Jeb is the absolute worst candidate to make that criticism, given his own family’s storied friendship with the Clintons.
George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton famously buried the hatchet and became close buddies after participating in relief efforts following the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami. Since then the two families have taken to describing themselves as so close that they’re basically related. George W. Bush describes Bill Clinton as his “brother from another mother.” Barbara Bush told C-SPAN last year “I love Bill Clinton. Maybe not his politics, but I love Bill Clinton.” Clinton, for his part, jokingly refers to Barbara Bush as his “mother.” Even Jeb got in on the fun earlier this month, telling reporters that “Bill Clinton is not my step-brother, OK?”
In fact, Jeb’s own association with Hillary has come under fire from derpy conservatives who think he’s disqualified himself from the presidency because he presented Hillary with an award for public service in 2013. “I want to say thank you to both Secretary Clinton and to President Clinton,” Jeb said at the awards ceremony, “thank you for your service to our country. We’re united by a love of country and public service.” Obviously it’s stupid to attack Jeb for saying a few nice things about Hillary, but if Jeb is doing the same exact thing to Trump, he’s legitimizing conservative suspicions about himself and giving his critics an opening to attack his own family’s Clinton connections.