There's been a startling development in the 2016 campaign over the last day or so: Jeb Bush is trying to display what you and I might call "an emotion."
The former governor of Florida had clearly planned to do without the pesky things during his run for the presidency, but that was before Donald Trump came in and messed everything up. Trump saw a big target on Bush's back and has been shooting arrows into it remorselessly, so Bush has decided to lead an angry, forceful counterattack.
Never mind that "Jeb Bush on the attack" does not exactly bring to mind Henry V at Agincourt. The man is trying. His main method is to point out that Trump has been all over the map ideologically. He's released a video full of clips where Trump says he's from (gasp!) New York and praises Hillary Clinton. He's put a "quiz" on his website where he asks you if you'd rather have a super-cool dude who hates Iran and stuff as president or someone who loves abortions and "is a germophobe when it comes to shaking hands." (If you couldn't guess, Trump hates shaking hands. Jeb Bush wants you to know that he will shake your hand so much that it detaches from your wrist if you ask him to.) And Jeb's got yet another video of himself telling Sean Hannity—subtle, Jeb, real subtle—how right-wing he is.
But Bush isn't just going after Trump on the digital front. He's also having something of a raging public breakdown about his rival. Take this jaw-dropper of a kicker from a story in Wednesday's New York Times:
On Saturday, after remaining with the congregation for a singing of the hymn “Adon Olam,” set to the tune of “God Bless America,” Mr. Bush walked out of the synagogue toward his waiting S.U.V. He was asked by a reporter if he was frustrated with Mr. Trump. Mr. Bush shot back, “I don’t think I mentioned his name.”
But he did not leave it there. After climbing into the passenger seat and closing the door, Mr. Bush lowered the window and, as the vehicle edged out of the parking lot, three more times demanded: “Did I mention his name?”
Can you picture Jeb Bush shouting "Did I mention his name?" over and over at you like a crazy person talking to himself on a park bench? This is what Donald Trump has wrought.
It's no wonder Bush is going to pieces. Trump isn't just getting away with murder. He's like a serial killer running amok and paying no price at all. Meanwhile, Bush could probably blow up a hospital and still struggle to get CNN to turn away from a phone interview with the Donald.
However, while Bush is absolutely right to be frustrated about the media's pathological obsession with Trump, that's actually not his biggest problem. His biggest problem is that he's just a pretty horrible candidate.
Watching Jeb Bush, you really understand why George was the one who became president. For years, we've been told that Jeb was the Bush who got away: the brainy brother, the sober wonk who put his dimmer sibling to shame, the really dazzling politician whose talents had been overshadowed.
There's been precious little evidence of any of that so far in the 2016 campaign.
Let's put aside the fact that nobody gets a prize for being smarter than our 43rd president. It's sort of what we should expect from people. Let's also put aside the fact that both Bush's record as governor and his personal history are riddled with some major problems, to say the least. Republican voters aren't turning away from him for any of those reasons.
They are turning away because he is clearly so bad at politics.
We're talking Mitt Romney, John Kerry-level bad here. You could see it at the first Republican debate—Jeb looked like a man who'd never met a feeling he couldn't suppress.
Say what you will about Dubya, but he knew how to work a crowd. Jeb, meanwhile, has lost the plot completely. He's clearly at a loss to figure out how to connect with an electorate that wants something so different from what he's offering, but it's equally clear that he doesn't have any basic political skills to fall back on. He can't even make his racist gaffes stick. Meanwhile, Donald Trump shuffles out there like a fascist, Vegas-era Frank Sinatra and runs rings around him.
At this point, all Jeb Bush can do is wait for Trump to implode, or hope that every other person in the race drops out and throws their support to him. It seems like it will be a long wait. Until then, may I suggest that he bring a therapist with him on the campaign trail? That might help him deal with the nightmare he's gotten himself into.