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Jeb Bush Makes An Effort To Be More Assertive And Dynamic


At the Republican presidential candidates debate in Milwaukee tonight, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is hoping to show a different side. He has described himself as an introvert, but on stage he's likely to try to be more dynamic and assertive. That version of Jeb has already been on display over the last week on the campaign trail. For a closer look at where the Bush campaign stands, we brought in Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at the National Review. Jonah, welcome to program.

JONAH GOLDBERG: It's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

WERTHEIMER: So Jeb Bush - he's not looking great out on the campaign trail these days. What is happening to that campaign, do you think?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think that they bought into an idea that, you know - it's somewhat unfair to put it in these terms, but they thought it was his turn. And they had this idea about where the electorate was and what his strengths were. And they didn't line up with where the electorate was or certainly where the base of the party is. He's in many ways a sort of pre-Tea Party, pre-Obama Republican in a time where there are a lot of pent-up frustrations and emotions on the base that he just doesn't have the skill set to tap into. And he says as much all the time.

WERTHEIMER: The new book out by Jon Meacham about Jeb's father, George H. W. Bush - Jeb has had to answer questions about his family because of that book. How is that playing for him?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think that this is not great timing for Jeb. Jeb has been trying very, very hard to assure voters that he is his own man. And frankly, I think he is his own man. He has his own accomplishments. He was a great governor of Florida, at least from conservative standards. But at the same time, he's got this dynasty issue that hangs over him. And it wouldn't be nearly the problem that it is if the second Bush presidency was remembered more fondly. But it really isn't, even on the right. And so he runs into this problem of trying to disassociate himself from his political family while not seeming like he's disassociating himself from his literal family.

WERTHEIMER: Now, one change we've seen on the campaign trail is that Jeb Bush has started to curse in a kind of gentlemanly way - I mean, damn it a couple of times. Is that a strategy, do you suppose?

GOLDBERG: Well, (laughter) it is no coincidence that he is all of a sudden salting up his language these days. I mean, at least I don't think it is. I'm not privy to any internal memos, although I would love to see the internal memo that says, what you really got to do is start swearing like a sailor on the stump because that will convey a certain masculinity and alpha dog persona.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter) Do you suppose he's trying to become more down-home, more likable - trying to be outspoken, sort of Trump-ish?

GOLDBERG: I suspect that's part of it. I don't think it's going to work. If you're going to try to prove that you're authentic in an era where everyone's craving authenticity, faking being slightly more ill-mannered than you really are doesn't seem to be the best way to go. And so I don't know that it's going to be nearly as effective as he certainly hopes it will be.

WERTHEIMER: Well, it does kind of makes you wonder that if the campaign continues to slump, what would he do? Would he, like, escalate? Would we get that f-bomb? Would we get a nastier class of four-letter words?

GOLDBERG: I don't know. I mean, at some point, you know, for Jeb to go out and all of a sudden seem like he is Lenny Bruce out there - no one's going to buy it. I mean, Donald Trump could start dropping f-bombs all over the place, and it would seem like, oh, there goes Donald Trump being Donald Trump. But if Jeb starts to try and out-Trump Trump in some way, I just don't think anyone's going to buy it - certainly not people who have already given him a first and second look and have decided he's not their guy. So it has to be an authentic moment. It has to be a real moment, rather than something that's scripted.

WERTHEIMER: Jonah, thank you very much.

GOLDBERG: My pleasure, thanks for having me.

WERTHEIMER: Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor at the National Review. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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