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Notes From New Hampshire, #3: Jeb Bush — Cry for Me, America!

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush addresses guests during a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H., Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush addresses guests during a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H., Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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by Jack Beatty

“I have a servant’s heart.” --- Jeb Bush.

At a Town Meeting held at the eponymous Hanover Inn on Tuesday evening, former Gov. Jeb Bush got a chance to display his servant’s heart. It came in the first question from the audience.  A retired schoolteacher, stricken with cancer, asked it.

“Gov. Bush,” the teacher said. “The drug that’s saving my life cost $270 a day. What would you do as President to help me?”

My notes convey unprintable rage. Because, under the free market jargon (“first dollar costs”), Gov. Bush basically said, nothing.

Evidently his “servant’s heart” pumps blood only after his “conservative” ideology has sanitized the subject of all trace of sentiment. Bush used the political identifier repeatedly, as if anyone listening to the lugubrious litany of things he wouldn’t do as president, could forget he was a “conservative”!

He did ask: “How you feeling now? In recovery? Great. Good luck.” So there’s that.

I imagined a feeling conservative response. What about importing cheaper drugs from Canada? Isn’t price competition what the free market is all about? Yes; but  American conservatism has long since made its peace with the anti-competitive imperatives of  American corporations. And in return, they pay for Bush’s campaign and Hillary’s and all the others except for the Bernie Sanders campaign. So, no drugs from Canada. Only the socialist is for competition.

In his opening remarks Jeb told “the Jeb story.” Born on third-base. Went to Phillips Andover. Fell in love with a Mexican woman (his wife Columba). Went to “U-T Austin, not an Ivy League school,” majored in Latin American studies and lived in Latin America for years. Worked in the "private sector.” Ran for governor of Florida. Lost. Learned. Ran. Won. Cut taxes by $19 billion. Created 1.3 million new jobs. Saved the Everglades. Was the “most entrepreneurial Republican governor’ of the last twenty years.

Got THINGS DONE! Not like these freshmen senators who’re creaming me in the polls. They have never done A THING ! Folks, it’s a scandal what’s happening to my candidacy. (That was  the subtext of the “Jeb story.”) Then it surfaced as  text, when he plaintively asked, “Please clap.”

I clapped. I felt sorry for the guy. Here’s he’s handed in his resume and references. Sterling! Here he’s a member of one of our royal families.  Here he’s the only one to stand up to Trump. Here he’s outraised and outspent the field. Jeepers, creepers, here he’s Jeb Bush!

And he’s getting no love from GOP voters.

The candidate’s self-pity made the 90 minutes feel like 90 hours. “Jeb!” exhausted the excitement in his candidacy with that exclamation mark.

At about the 70 minute mark, I started paying attention to his diction.

Specifically, to the soporific combo of wonk-speak and business argot. I’m talking about:  “first dollar costs,” “high capital requirements,” “incent employees’ “big capital load,” “multiplier effect,” “disrupters,” “animal spirits,” “demographic pyramid,” “120% of poverty level,”   “CPI,”  “base budget, “  “zero-based budgeting,”   “meta data,”  “ FISA court, “ “theSudan.”

Make tough reading?  It made harder listening. “Jeb talks down to us,” a woman I met at a later Chris Christie town meeting told me. Bush must have mentioned “shorter maturities” the time she saw him, too.

Still, after his plea for applause, I felt attention must be paid. He’s done things. His record of public service is a warrant of reliability in the White House. He’s  smart. And knowledgeable!  Try saying “ big capital load” with a straight face. He was by all accounts an excellent “conservative” governor.  And, I thought as I applauded, he stood up to Trump.

Then he shared another episode of “My conservative head is cheatin’ on my servant’s heart again.”

He boasted that he helped persuade the Florida legislature to reject Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. As many as 650,000 Floridians remain uninsured. That makes Jeb happy. After all, the expansion “didn’t have any reform in it.” Right. When he slinks from the race, my eyes will be dry.

Pitiless himself, Jeb Bush is the cause of pitilessness in others.

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On Point news analyst Jack Beatty is sending us dispatches from his home state of New Hampshire, as the 2016 candidates for President make their final pitch to voters in the Granite State. Sign up for Jack’s Notes from New Hampshire Newsletter here!

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