This story has been updated.
With voters headed to the polls in New Hampshire, there’s a chance we’re watching the end of Jeb Bush’s campaign. Bush might just have been the single worst major presidential candidate of all time.
As of this writing, Jeb Bush and his associated super PAC groups have raised a whopping $150 million, and out of that spent $84 million. But it seems all that money has really done is to build up a really big target — a walking vessel of everything that people hate about politics. (Indeed, this author has argued that Jeb’s existence as a candidate has done a lot to help advance Donald Trump as the new GOP frontrunner.)
Whatever else it’s done, the money certainly hasn’t gotten Jeb votes. He came in a very distant sixth place in the Iowa caucuses, and the latest polls have him running at 5th place in the New Hampshire primary.
So let’s take a look at this chronological history — though it’s hardly exhaustive — of moments that illustrate just how terrible a candidate Jeb Bush has been.
1. Jeb’s Iraq War Shuffle
One of the biggest shadows over Jeb Bush’s campaign has been the presidency of his brother, George W. Bush, and the administration’s many errors in both starting and waging the Iraq War.
And so in May, soon after he launched his candidacy, Jeb sat down on Fox News with Megyn Kelly, who practically offered him the chance to back away from that disaster — to which he responded by just digging in further.
Kelly asked: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?”
“I would have — and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody,” Jeb said, “and so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”
“You don’t think it was a mistake?” Kelly replied.
“In retrospect, the intelligence that everybody saw — that the world saw, not just the United States, was faulty,” Jeb explained — seeming to actually lay out all the reasons that he had just stated the wrong position. “And in retrospect, once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn’t focus on security first. And the Iraqis, in this incredibly insecure environment, turned on the United States military because there was no security for themselves and their families. By the way, guess who thinks that those mistakes took place as well? George W. Bush.”
Except of course, George W. Bush has never said the Iraq War was fundamentally a mistake from the get-go — which Hillary Clinton has, regarding her vote to authorize the invasion.
Soon afterward, Jeb backed off: “If we’re all supposed to answer hypothetical questions, ‘knowing what we know now, what would you have done?’ I would’ve not engaged — I would not have gone into Iraq.”
2. Jeb: “I’m Not Sure We Need Half A Billion Dollars For Women’s Health Issues.”
In August, Jeb spoke about the conservative effort to strip government payments for Planned Parenthood health services:
“The argument against this is, well, women’s health issues are gonna be — you’re attacking, it’s a war on women and you’re attacking women’s health issues. You could take dollar for dollar — although I’m not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” he said, wit a smile.
“But if you took dollar for dollar. There are many extraordinarily fine organizations, community health organizations that exist, federally sponsored community health organizations, to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues. But abortion should not be funded by the government — any government, in my mind.”
Note: A figure of just $500 million dollars for women’s health care issues — which Jeb said we didn’t need to spend — comes out to roughly $3.06 for each woman and girl in the United States.
Later that day, he released a statement: “With regards to women’s health funding broadly, I misspoke, as there are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women’s health organizations that need to be fully funded. They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don’t have the access they need.”
3. Jeb Fails To Defend His Own Wife From Donald Trump’s Insults
At a debate in September, Donald Trump was called out for having said of Jeb: “If my wife were from Mexico, I think I would have a soft spot for people from Mexico.”
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.”
After Trump even refused to apologize, Jeb retreated into an almost apologetic set of talking points.
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?
During a separate question later on in the debate, he even gave a friendly low-five to the man who has seriously insulted not only him, but his entire family.
4. “We Were Attacked And My Brother Kept Us Safe.”
At the same debate where Jeb failed to stand up for his wife’s honor, he actually did manage a forceful defense of his brother against The Donald’s jibes: “He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong and fight Islamic terrorism — and he did keep us safe,” Bush said — a line that actually got applause.
Trump gave a belated response to this a month later, when the subject of George W. Bush and 9/11 came up in an interview: “When you talk about George Bush — I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time… He was president, okay?”
Jeb responded with this indignant note on Twitter:
How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) October 16, 2015
There are, of course, a few problems here — most notably the sentence, “We were attacked & my brother kept us safe.”
The real question: Why did it take 14 years after 9/11, and a presidential candidacy by Donald Trump, to get this rather obvious message out into the open of our political debates?
5. Jeb Likes Supergirl — No, He Really Likes Supergirl
At a forum in October, Jeb got asked for his favorite superhero. And let’s say this turned into a rather awkward outreach to the youth vote. “I saw it when I was working out this morning, there was an ad promoting Supergirl. She kind of — she looked pretty hot,” he said, smiling. “I don’t know what channel it’s on, but I’m looking forward to that.”
Soon afterward Supergirl herself, actress Melissa Benoist, was asked to respond during a promotion for the show on CBS This Morning. “I heard about it — I don’t know what to think about it!” she said, laughing somewhat comfortably. She could only say: “I’m glad he’s excited to watch the show!”
Note: Jeb is 62 years old, while Benoist is 27. (They are also both married — to other people.)
6. Jeb Accuses A U.S. President Of ‘Getting Us Into A Quagmire’ In The Middle East
This past November, Jeb appeared on Fox & Friends to criticize President Obama’s handling of ISIS.
“We don’t have a strategy right now,” Jeb said. “This president is incrementally getting us into a quagmire, without having a strategy to defeat ISIS. This is a threat to Western civilization, a threat to our own country. We need to be merciless in this effort.”
This comment was made without any seeming awareness that it was Jeb’s brother, President George W. Bush, who actually got the United States into a quagmire in Iraq.
7. Jeb Is For Taking Refugees — If “You Can Prove You’re A Christian.”
That very same week, Jeb was busy explaining his thoughtful stance on refugees, in contrast to Republicans who said we should not be taking in any from Syria and the Islamic State conflict: Yes, take in refugees — but just the Christians.
The question, though: How do we know which refugees are Christians, and which are Muslims?
“Well you’re a Christian,” Bush started telling reporters. “You can prove you’re a Christian. It’s—”
“How?” a reporter interrupted.
He shrugged, and responded: “I think you can prove it — if you can’t prove it then, you know, you err on the side of caution.”
Wait, so how exactly would we be able to easily tell if a Middle Eastern refugee is a Christian or a Muslim? Let’s just say it might be a very pointed question…
8. Jeb Jokes About Hurricane Katrina
As the year 2015 was coming to a close, Jeb managed to get in yet another awful statement that would simultaneously make people detest him, and remind them of his brother’s failures in office. It happened at a campaign event in South Carolina, where he praised a local official who supported him, state senator Katrina Shealy.
“I don’t know why your great state senator reminds me of a hurricane, but she does,” Jeb said. “She’s strong, and she’s fierce, and she is solving problems for you at the state capitol. You should be honored to have you as your elected official, I hope you agree with me.
“That’s your new nickname — the Bush family always gives out nicknames. Yours is now ‘Hurricane Katrina.’”
Note: Well over 1,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Katrina, with the highest estimates going all the way up to 1,800.
9. “Please Clap.”
Just last week, Jeb spoke to a town hall in Hanover, New Hampshire — and tried to get a little energy from the crowd.
“I won’t be out there blow-hardin’, talkin’ a big game without backing it up,” he said, inconsistently dropping his G’s — perhaps in a robotic effort to seem folksy. “I think the next president needs to be a lot quieter, but send a signal that we’re prepared to act in the national security interests of this country — to get back in the business of creating a more peaceful world.”
After a short pause, he said in a quieter tone: “Please clap.”
10. Jeb Brings In His Mom
When all else fails, nothing exudes the kind of strength and confidence that the public wants in a president quite like asking your mom for help against the schoolyard bully. And in recent weeks, Jeb has done exactly that.
First, there was this TV ad, starring former First Lady Barbara Bush, with language clearly meant to distinguish her son from Donald Trump:
“When push comes to shove, people are going to realize: Jeb has real solutions, rather than talking about how popular they are, how great they are. He’s doing it because he sees a huge need, and it’s not being filled by anybody,” Mrs. Bush said. “Of all the people running, he seems to be the one who could solve the problems. I think he’ll be a great president.”
Yes — even Jeb’s mom only said that he “seems” to be the one to solve the nation’s problems.
Then there came this TV appearance on CBS This Morning, where Barbara Bush explained what a good boy her son is:
“He’s almost too polite. I don’t advise him, but if I gave him advice: I would say, ‘Why don’t you interrupt like the other people do?’”
“I’ve gotten better at interrupting, mom,” Jeb said. “Come on.”
Jeb’s mom kept on going.
“He’s so polite. We brought him up that way,” Mrs. Bush responded. “And he does not brag like some people we know.”
You know what else Jeb isn’t doing, “like some people we know”? Getting people to vote for him.
Photo: Jeb Bush gestures while holding a town hall at Woodbury School in Salem, February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif