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Jeb Bush Made The Ted Kennedy Mistake

May 14, 2015

As I watched the Jeb Bush train wreck take four days to play out this week I thought back to November 1979.

At about the same time the Iranian hostage crisis was starting to happen CBS newsman Roger Mudd sat down with Senator Ted Kennedy who was planning a race for the White House.  Mudd had a question that anyone with a day of experience in politics should have been able to expect and then answer.

“Why do you want to be president?”

The rambling and quite remarkably awful answer from a man I admired and always felt had the makings of presidential leadership left many stunned.  There was no one to blame other than Kennedy for the embarrassing performance.

Speed forward to this week’s awful attempts to answer a most basic question that was posed to potential GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush.  In short the question was how would you have acted regarding the invasion of Iraq, what would you have done?

There is no way in heck Bush did not know this would be one of the first questions he would have to deal with when running for the presidency.  With any level of political experience a person this many years removed from the war, along with the mood of the nation in relation to the decision to go to war, meant it would take a real effort to screw up the response.

But Bush did screw it up royally.

Not once.

Not twice.

Not three times.

If took Bush four days and four different times at bat to finally address the question and move the answer past his lips.

This whole event over the past days has been bizarre because we are not talking about a political novice who made the errors.

I am stunned because I think Bush is the most capable of the people running or planning to run for president from the Republican Party in 2016.   I am stunned too because I did not buy into the narrative from many who think Bush has not been on the political stage for so many years that he is out of practice and therefore will stumble and make mistakes.  I did not subscribe to that view and have stated he would ultimately become the GOP nominee.

I still hold to the nominee prediction but am re-thinking how tough the nomination fight might become.  Not only were his answers way off base but there seemed not be any safety net of advisors who could blunt the mistakes or quickly guide him to answering coherently in short fashion.   Instead Bush was left to flounder for four days, and it looked awful.

What played out this week was what one might expect from a novice.     All Bush can be thankful for today is that the primary contests are many months away.

  1. May 15, 2015 12:10 PM


    By many accounts I have read/heard–the latest this morning on Morning Joe–Bush is trying to do to much himself in the campaign and not relying enough on staff.

  2. Tom permalink
    May 15, 2015 10:45 AM

    I understand the point that Bush responded poorly to this gotcha’ question. But the question is stupid. How should a candidate respond when answering the question would mess him up one way or another. His mistake is that after he answered once he should have shut up. It is the exact presence of advisors and consultants which caused the debacle here.

    If we were more honest, we would be most concerned with our current climate of sanitized candidates We need to see more of the candidates themselves and less of the “advised” Scott Walker who goes to Iowa and panders to the ethanol lobby, for example. The other problem is the insane media asks questions like this. After all, which headline does he want: “Jeb disrespects his brother.” or “Jeb claims he would still send people to die even though public opinion has turned against it.” Public opinion? At the start of the Iraq war, public opinion was for it. Despite this the media will run with this for days and the candidates will burrow more deeply into their advisors.

    Meanwhile, Hillary has been asked 13 questions since she announced–if you listen to NPR. Only four of them were about actual policy matters or her email problems. Perhaps someone in the media might ask her why she passionately took to the floor of the Senate and noted how like all New Yorkers she had been through the fires of hell and, therefore, understood the danger Iraq posed and then later turned–almost entirely in line with public opinion–against it. Does she think the American people need a leader or a slave to public opinion?

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