In case you missed it, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump have both suspended their presidential campaigns to troll one another. Last week, on Friday, Trump did a soft half-Truther by insinuating that it was fair to “blame” George Bush for 9/11 because he happened to be president. Sort of like Roosevelt was to “blame” for Pearl Harbor and Truman was to “blame” for the Korean War and Kennedy for the Berlin Wall. Bush responded Saturday with a video questioning Trump’s fitness to be a leader. None of this is presidential, it really isn’t even very adult. But here we are.
There is an old saying made popular by George Bernard Shaw, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” You can tell that Bush doesn’t like this kind of slanging match and he’s singularly unprepared for that role. It is causing him to lose control of his campaign’s narrative. Let’s go to CNN’s State of the Nation with Jake Tapper. Bush starts out trying to belittle Trump’s attack:
TAPPER: To play devil’s advocate, do you think it’s at all possible that your loyalty to your brother, while very admirable on a personal level, might be in some ways a political or policy liability blinding you to mistakes he made?
BUSH: No. I mean, so next week, Mr. Trump is probably going to say that FDR was around when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. It’s what you do after that matters. And that’s the sign of leadership. It’s not – it’s not – does anybody actually blame my brother for the attacks on 9/11? If they do, they’re totally marginalized in our society. It’s what he did afterward that mattered, and I’m proud of him and so are a bunch of other people. You don’t have to have your last name named Bush to be able to understand that.
It just calls into question Mr. Trump’s credibility as a commander in chief and an architect of a next – you know, the next-generation foreign policy, which we desperately need in this country right now.
Then Tapper tosses Bush a softball:
TAPPER: Obviously, al Qaeda was responsible for the terrorist attack of 9/11. But how do you respond to critics who ask if your brother and his administration bear no responsibility at all, how do you then make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi?
There are so many points of rebuttal here one doesn’t know where to start. For instance, there is a report from the 9/11 Commission that doesn’t find culpability. There is the fact that George Bush didn’t even have his administration in place because of the Bush v. Gore hanging-chad nonsense while Clinton had been Secretary of State since 2009. There is the obvious contrast between how Bush approached fact finding and Obama and Clinton’s strategy of blaming some internet video and a spontaneous riot when they knew from the time of the attack that it was al Qaeda. In short, it was a pitch Bush should have knocked out of the park. It is a question with which Marco Rubio or [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] would have blown Tapper off the figurative pitcher’s mound.
Let’s go to the tape:
BUSH: Well, I – the question on Benghazi, which is – hopefully we’ll now finally get the truth to is was that – was the place secure? They had a responsibility, the Department of State, to have proper security. There were calls for security. It looks like they didn’t get it. And how was the response in the aftermath of the attack? Was there a chance that these four American lives could have been saved? That’s what the investigation is about. It’s not a political issue. It’s not about the broad policy; issue is were we doing the job of protecting our embassies and our consulates, and during the period, those hours after the attacks started, could they have been saved?
There are some points in there but they are muddled and they neither deflect the Trump attack nor do they draw a clear contrast with Benghazi. He can’t bring himself to mention Hillary Clinton. He doesn’t mention the known lies in the aftermath.
Later he’s asked about his ongoing spat with Marco Rubio:
TAPPER: After campaign fundraising numbers were – were put out this week, your spokesman, Tim Miller, had a rather arch comment about your former protege, [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]. Miller tweeted, quote, “Lying about budgets, guess Marco picked up something in the Senate.”
Them’s fighting words, Governor.
BUSH: Yes, I’m not – I’m not into all that. But he – he kind of misled people about his – about his fundraising results. That’s fine.
Look, the process part of this is not my motivation to run. I believe we can grow our economy at a far faster rate and have a set of concrete plans to do that.
And I think on foreign policy, we’ve done the exact same thing. So each and every day that I campaign, I focus on those things.
You can’t have your spokesman calling an opponent a liar and then just shrug and move on to the disinterested high ground of talking about the economy. It is dishonest and makes Bush seem like a weasel.
If Bush is going to engage in a tit-for-tat with Trump and Rubio and whomever he needs to be prepared for news reporters, especially those on Sunday shows, to make headlines off the fight. If he can’t actually be prepared, or fake being prepared, he needs to stop. Bush is showing that he simply cannot play at the level that today’s game demands.