Tired of Substantive Presidential Campaigns? The GOP Can Fix It!

Which it? What does fix mean? Can Jeb fix it, or does he want to fix it? Who thought this was a good idea? Can Jeb fix terrible campaign slogans, too?

Which it? What does fix mean? Can Jeb fix it, or does he want to fix it? Who thought this was a good idea? Can Jeb fix terrible campaign slogans, too?

This morning, the flailing Jeb Bush presidential campaign attempted to rebrand with something called the “Jeb Can Fix It” tour of the first three primary states. This, obviously, is a bad name, because that unspecific “it” in the catchphrase leaves us with the conclusion that the “it” Jeb is out to fix is his own campaign. And of course, Twitter has responded with its usual unsubtle sarcasm:

So. Why should we care that Jeb can fix his own campaign? He’s driven it into the ground by himself. They might as well call this the “Jeb Can Clean Up His Own Messes” tour. So the new motto fails the thematic test. And on a substantive note, Jeb Bush’s record argues that he can’t fix anything. He’s the same deregulating, tax-slashing politician that his brother was, the kind of hypocrite who wants a tiny government for business but a huge government when it comes to a woman’s right to choose, or military spending, or anti-immigration policy. If George W. Bush couldn’t fix “it” during his presidency why would Jeb be able to fix it with the exact same policies?

In other news, the Republican presidential candidates are staging a revolt. They’re upset about the way their debates have been handled, it seems, and they’re not going to take it any more. Which, frankly, strikes me as a little weird. Sure, the CNBC debate was an unstructured mess, but part of that problem falls in the collective lap of the candidates, who rode roughshod all over the moderators. They whined about Democrats being lobbed softballs during their debate, which is categorically untrue. Here’s Anderson Cooper’s first question of the Democratic debate:

But I want to begin with concerns that voters have about each of the candidates here on this stage that they have about each of you. Secretary Clinton, I want to start with you. Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency. You were against same-sex marriage. Now you’re for it. You defended President Obama’s immigration policies. Now you say they’re too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozen of times. You even called it the “gold standard”. Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it. Will you say anything to get elected?

When Clinton tried to push back, Cooper came back even tougher. This is the sort of question that would have left Marco Rubio whimpering about shoddy treatment before pivoting to some issue he wanted to discuss.

So what do the Republican campaigns really care about? They don’t want lightning rounds. They care deeply about the room temperature in the debate venues. And they don’t want the cameras to “Show an empty podium after a break (describe how far away the bathrooms are).”

Look, I get that you can score easy points in a Republican debate by complaining about the media. Newt Gingrich built a whole polling bubble on top of anti-media rants, back in 2012. But this has continued long past the debate and now it’s launched itself into the realm of pedantry. Republicans look like big whiny babies by dragging this anti-debate debate on for so long, and by arguing over what moderators can and can’t say about how far the bathrooms are from the debate stage. Anything to detract from the fact that their policies are the same stale trickle-down concepts that they always run on, I guess. But this nattering about non-issues isn’t a good look for the party.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.