Sorry Jeb. I’m not sure if your advisers didn’t prepare you correctly or you flubbed this one yourself, but you stepped it in it. Big time. We are not the overreact to the 24 hour news cycle types here either. But we seriously believe you may have lost your shot at this thing, or at the very least did substantial damage to it.
Jeb Bush’s number one liability is his brother. Everyone knows this. George Bush himself has said it. Thus, any question about anything that happened during the George Bush years has to be prepped, rehearsed, and nailed down. Especially on Iraq.
It is nearly universal Iraq is perceived as a mistake. (By 75% of the public in a June 2014 CBS News/New York Times poll). Any defending of the decision to go into Iraq or even how the war was conducted will lean right into Jeb’s number one liability, the thought that he would follow the same path again.
A gaffe isn’t catastrophic if it doesn’t hit square in the eye of your largest liability. This did. It may be terminal without some quick fixing.
Jeb is trying to walk back the comment with the classic “misheard” maneuver and “clarify” his position. Probably the best he can do at the moment, but he better get right on a substantive fix. We would suggest a few more things.
- First, lay out a foreign policy that is clear, succinct, and differs from George Bush. It doesn’t need to completely repudiate his brother, but it needs to come darn near close. People want concrete assurance we aren’t going to get the act first think later method of the Iraq war again. Take some shots at the NeoCons drumming up war against Iran. It’s a bit hard to say you’ll create another Iraq when you hit hard against the NeoCons looking for a war with Iran.
- Second, dump the NeoCon advisers. More Baker, less Wolfowitz. Putting aside the fact anyone who got us into the war in Iraq should never be qualified to lead a presidential foreign policy again, it’s a huge liability. Imagine Hillary Clinton saying:
I’ve learned from my mistakes, has Jeb Bush? Just a few months ago he said he still would have gone into Iraq knowing what we know now….and then he misheard the question. Why hasn’t he fired all the same advisers who lead his brother into the war in Iraq who now make up his team? Sorry Jeb, we heard you loud and clear, you are not different than your brother, if you want four more years of a Bush president, vote for George Bush 2.0.
That’s sticking a shiv straight into the heart of his campaign. We just wonder if it’s going to already be off life support by then. He better get moving to fix this mess.