Right now Jeb Bush’s campaign could be called the Dominoes campaign. Not as in Dominoes Pizza, although he has lots of dough. But as in collapsing dominoes. And let’s just say that it now appears that if Jeb Bush gets that night call, it’d be a wrong number. The biggest question is: is Jeb Bush morphing into the 2015 Fred Thompson or Rudy Giuliani?
What has become a trend is now summarized by The Washington Post:
When asked to pinpoint where Jeb Bush’s presidential effort began running into trouble, many confidants utter a single word: Dallas.
Mike Murphy, Bush’s political alter ego, decided early on to hold regular senior staff meetings at an unusual location: a Hyatt hotel inside a terminal at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The idea was that it was a central and relatively inexpensive gathering place for a team scattered from Los Angeles, where Murphy lives, to Miami, where the would-be candidate resides.
It went fine at first but quickly became an awkward routine. Donors and other Republicans found the setup ungainly for a campaign-in-waiting that was supposed to be based in Florida.
“Awkward” is the motif here. Not that GWB was Mr. Smoothie, but so far Jeb in his 2015 political incarnation is to smoothness what Sarah Palin is to intelligence.
Older Bush hands also grew unhappy with rapid hiring by new advisers, and relationships frayed, according to Bush associates. And as the former Florida governor began to founder on the trail and in the polls, the discussions flared into arguments about how to divvy up money and resources between Bush’s allied super PAC and his official campaign.
…The airport huddles were just one sign among many of a political operation going off course – disjointed in message and approach, torn between factions and more haphazard than it appeared on the surface. Bush’s first six months as an all-but-declared candidate have been defined by a series of miscalculations, leaving his standing considerably diminished ahead of his formal entry into the race on Monday.
In interviews this week, dozens of Bush backers and informed Republicans – most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to comment candidly – described an overly optimistic, even haughty exploratory operation. Strategic errors were exacerbated by unexpected stumbles by the would-be candidate and internal strife within his team, culminating in a staff shake-up this week.
But it got worse.
His big roll out was supposed to come when he visited Europe.
He came. He saw. He didn’t exactly conquer.
On Tuesday, Bush arranged to speak before…about 1,000 suits at the annual business conference organized by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party. Bush also referred to his father. George H. W. Bush was no goatherd, but he is respected in Germany for helping to bring about the country’s reunification. For Bush senior’s second son, however, talking about the 41st U.S. president was a way of not bringing up the 43rd, his older brother.
“The Bush name now stands for loutishness and amateurism, as well as for the world where might makes right,” the business weekly Wirtschaftswoche wrote in advance of the Bush visit. Most Germans would agree.
….So the audience applauded politely when Jeb Bush spoke of his father’s contribution to German history – and started drifting away. Recalling Bush’s coquettish remark at the beginning of his 30-minute appearance that he knew people had come to hear Merkel, not him, the daily Die Welt wrote that after he finished answering questions “more Christian Democrats came back into the hall. So Bush was right: The chancellor is perhaps more exciting.”
To anyone familiar with Merkel’s sedate, sensible public-speaking style, that line drips with sarcasm. Bush managed to outbore her. In the words of Hubertus Volmer, political commentator for the N-TV station, “he clings to the written text, which he reads hastily, and is anything but charismatic – a stark contrast not only with Obama in 2008 but also with Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, who spoke before him.”
And then there was the content of the speech. “The U.S. has to lead, and we have to do it in partnership with our allies,” Bush said. That’s different from Obama’s message of “building bridges,” and it’s hard to find people in today’s Germany, even among the safely conservative audience that Bush chose, who would publicly agree that America should lead and Germany should follow.
There were other things Bush said that grated. The audience murmured disapprovingly at his remark that one can “combat climate change a lot by hurting the economy.” His compliment to Merkel for her toughness on sanctions against Russia sounded like faint praise, once he warned against “tepid” reaction to President Vladimir Putin’s “bad behavior.” And his argument that the U.S. doesn’t do industrial espionage, because it doesn’t have state companies, fell on deaf ears. There’s a strong feeling in Germany that U.S. spying has gotten out of hand.
Bush can flatter German conservatives about their fiscal responsibility – something he said the U.S. could learn from – but he is well to the right of the political spectrum in Germany’s parliament. Because of that, coming to Berlin was probably a mistake for Bush. This may be a freedom-loving city, but it’s an awkward photo op for a U.S. conservative, even with a smiling Merkel in the frame. She manages a smile for Putin, too, after all.
Bush’s biggest problem:
He could soon start coming across like Teddy Kennedy who seemed to blow it by seemingly not articulating a clear reason why he was running for President, except that he could and that he was part of a respected political family. Teddy had other baggage but he never recovered from his poor performance in an interview with CBS’s Roger Mudd.