As Jeb Bush sinks to “margin of error” territory in Republican primary polls, the former Florida governor is finding it harder and harder to keep a straight face about his chances, and so are mainstream media figures. In an interview with This Week‘s George Stephanopoulos Sunday, that sad reality was on comical display, as the host couldn’t hold back an amused exclamation when Bush insisted that his message is working:
BUSH: He’s just a gifted politician that is appealing to people’s anger and frustration that is quite legitimate. Look, Washington is broken. And the good news is that I have a proven record in Tallahassee to disrupt the old order there and I can tell that story and I do it each and every day all across the early primary and caucus states. And it’s working. And so I have —
STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s working?!?
BUSH: It’s working. George, come on out with me. It’s working. And it’s going to show — it’ll show at the time that it matters, which is February 1st in Iowa and New Hampshire beyond that. We’re making good, steady progress.
That’s as close as I’ve ever seen a political host come to doing an actual spit-take on camera, and if Bush’s insistence that it is indeed working seemed unconvincing, it’s because it doesn’t even seem to have convinced him. Later in the interview, Stephanopoulos asked Bush flat-out if he can win in the early states:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you get to March if you don’t win one of those first three, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina?
BUSH: Don’t forget Nevada.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Nevada?
BUSH: Yes. I think I can. But I’m going to do well in those.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you going to win?
BUSH: I’m going to work as hard as I can and I think that people are going to be drawn to our message that is more hopeful and optimistic and by a messenger that actually can do the things that he says he wants to do.
I’m not sure what my favorite part of that is, but I think it’s Jeb reminding George of yet another state he’s going to lose badly in.
My sadness for Jeb Bush is, of course, feigned, but the thing that genuinely makes me sad is that out of the entire GOP field, Jeb Bush is probably the nicest guy running, and yet he thinks the problem with our ISIS strategy is that we’re not killing enough civilians:
BUSH: We have to take the lawyers off the war fighters’ backs and let them go do the job and do it in concert with the neighborhood, Arab leaders, of course…
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does that mean, take the lawyers off the war fighters’ backs?
BUSH: Well, the president has created directives from the White House that — that creates all sorts of bureaucratic challenges for — for airstrikes. Up until recently, 75 percent of all the sorties that left the base came back without dropping their ordinances, because there was such a concern about making sure that there were no civilian casualties.
The United States will always adhere to the international standards of war, but this administration has imposed even greater challenges.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So would you go as far as Ted Cruz, carpet bomb?
BUSH: No. No, I — that’s a — we need a strategy. Carpet bombing is not a strategy.
And he’s the nice one. God help us.