After reading numerous reports on Jeb Bush’s campaign launch, I can’t help but think that this is about as good as it’s going to get for him.
With all the hoopla and enthusiasm you see at the taping of an infomercial, with all the family he could get to stand with him — except for the former presidents in his family (I’ll give Poppy Bush a pass; he’s 91 and has limited mobility) — what we heard from him was a very nicely delivered package of platitudes and quips that could have been delivered by any candidate from either party: long on generalities, completely lacking in substance, touting a record in Florida that bears little meaning on the national stage (of course he balanced the budget eight times; the law requires it), and trying to sound like he’s the Republican who can reach out to everybody… unless you’re gay and want to marry your partner or a woman who wants to control her own body, or a husband who wants to allow his brain-dead wife to reach the end of her life with dignity and without absolute strangers like Mr. Bush interfering with the most intimate and torturous choice a person has to make.
The nicest thing I heard anyone say about Jeb’s announcement was that he came across as articulate and sincere. Given that he’s a Bush and public speaking was a challenge for both his father and brother, that’s at least one bar he gets over, but it’s not exactly the one you want to have as the selling point: he talks good.
He took the requisite shots at this fellow primary crowd and at Hillary Clinton, and showed that he either has a lack of a sense of irony or self-awareness when he chided her for her apparent entitlement to the main event. And no amount of manufactured enthusiasm at a suburban Miami college campus can make up for the fact that so far his “exploration” of his study in foregone conclusions has generated about as much enthusiasm from the base of the GOP as a Fred Thompson reverse-mortgage commercial. Even his allies had to reassure the press:
“The operative word inside the campaign is patience,” said Al Cardenas, a former Florida Republican Party leader and longtime ally of Mr. Bush’s. “As people get to know him, things will get better.”
Not exactly a rousing send-off, is it?