At the debate last night, Jeb Bush challenged Donald Trump for having attacked his wife Columba to rack up cheap political points in the debate over immigration reform.
Trump has said: “If my wife were from Mexico, I think I would have a soft spot for people from Mexico.”
Unfortunately, Jeb’s response was simply awful.
But first, let’s take a look at how presidential candidates are supposed to respond when a hated rival personally attacks their spouse’s honor.
Back in March of 1992, during the Democratic primaries, Jerry Brown tried to score a small victory over Bill Clinton with media reports alleging that the Arkansas governor had steered state business to Hillary’s law firm. At a debate, Bill turned up the outrage.
“Let me tell you something, Jerry,” he said. “I don’t care what you say about me. I knew when [former Democratic pollster] Pat Caddell told me what you were gonna say — that you were gonna reinvent yourself, and you were gonna be somebody else’s mouthpiece — you would say anything. But you oughta be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife. You’re not worth being on the same platform as my wife.”
As their exchange continued, Bill continued to belittle his rival: “Jerry comes here with his family wealth and his $1,500 suit, and makes a lying accusation about my wife.”
By contrast, at Wednesday night’s GOP debate, Jeb delivered this muddled response: “You’re proud of your family, just as I am. To subject my wife into the middle of a raucous political conversation was completely inappropriate, and I hope you apologize for that, Donald.”
Trump refused to apologize, declaring that he did “nothing wrong” — and condescendingly said, “I do hear she’s a lovely woman.” A limp, defeated Bush then seemed to regress into campaign-script mode on immigration. He said:
So, here’s the deal. My wife is a Mexican-American. She’s an American by choice.
She loves this country as much as anybody in this room, and she wants a secure border. But she wants to embrace the traditional American values that make us special and make us unique.
We’re at a crossroads right now. Are we going to take the Reagan approach, the hopeful optimistic approach, the approach that says that, you come to our country legally, you pursue your dreams with a vengeance, you create opportunities for all of us?
Not only did The Donald again refuse to apologize — he continued to pound away at Bush being “weak” on immigration.
And later in the debate — when the candidates were all joking around about the absurd request to come up with their own Secret Service code names — Jeb even gave Trump a friendly low-five.
This morning, during an appearance on Morning Joe, The Donald reviewed Jeb’s showing at the debate: “I thought he did very well. I thought he was going to push me harder to apologize to his wife.”
Indeed, most people would have expected a candidate to do that.
As New Republic‘s Elizabeth Bruenig put it on Twitter:
Jeb: Apologize to my wife Trump: No. Jeb: Well alright then, thanks so much for your time
— Elizabeth Bruenig (@ebruenig) September 17, 2015