“Jeb!”

The presidential campaign of Jeb Bush has not been helped by his logo – especially not by that ridiculous exclamation mark, which is completely out of keeping. Jeb is not, decidedly not, an exclamation mark sort of guy.

I can say this now with a modest measure of authority. For not only have I watched him on the campaign trail, I saw him live and in the flesh yesterday, speak at the Council of Foreign Relations. It was weird. He was not weird, but the experience of watching and listening to him up close and personal was.

In almost every respect, he was everything I thought Jeb Bush would be – only more so. He really was tall and handsome. His really did have a deep, resonant voice. He really did have no more than an embryonic sense of humor. He really was more serious and socially awkward than his older brother, 43rd president of the United States. His really did have a slight problem with the English language.  And, as advertised, he really was strong on substance. Jeb is known as a policy wonk and he did not disappoint.

But here’s what was weird. The part about substance. Jeb was not only substantive, he was very substantive, highly substantive. His familiarity with both domestic and foreign policy was impressive. He spewed facts and figures without missing a beat. He knew whatever there was to know about public policy. And he demonstrated a feel for governance that was powerful and persuasive. It’s easy to see why the early money was on Jeb Bush. It’s easy to see why for so many months he was the establishment favorite.

What’s striking then about this presidential campaign is not only the rise of men like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, but the fall of men like Jeb Bush. Of course they are inseparable, two sides of the same coin. But our focus is on stars in the political firmament, not so much on stars that have fallen from favor. So what was weird about seeing Jeb in the flesh was the palpable response, including my own. Regret that we live in a time in which a candidate like Jeb can’t get no satisfaction or traction. Which, of course, says much more about us than it does about him.

 

 

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