Jeb Bush got up Wednesday and wondered, “What can I do to complete my slide toward total irrelevancy?”
And he answered, “I know. I’ll endorse Ted Cruz for president!”
Talk about terrible timing. His endorsement, which echoed the earlier backing of Cruz by Mitt Romney, came just as Cruz had uttered one of the stupidest remarks concerning the horrible terrorist attacks in Brussels.
Cruz said that in America, “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
Really? This after Jeb’s own brother, George W. Bush, spent a considerable amount of time and political prestige during his presidency trying to make the point that America is not at war against Islam or Muslims. President Bush understood what Cruz apparently does not. Not only shouldn’t we declare war on Islam, doing so — or appearing to do so — will only create new Islamic extremists to wage war on us.
Granted, Jeb already had slipped into near total irrelevance. He was the GOP candidate who fell the farthest and spent the most — by far — before doing a Wile E. Coyote splat.
After dropping out before the Florida primary, Jeb failed to endorse before the Florida primary, when his backing might — might — have done some good.
Jeb didn’t even think to do his me-too-Mitt act before the Utah primary. Instead, he waited until afterwards, giving him zero chance to claim any credit for Cruz’s victory in that state.
Or was Jeb simply trying to avoid any blame for Cruz’s loss in Arizona? After all, Jeb’s moderate stance on immigration — copied and then rejected by fellow-flameout Marco Rubio — has become anathema in the Republican Party, and particularly in Arizona.
Even Jeb’s legacy in Florida has faded to near nothingness. He did not leave the office of governor stronger — both Charlie Crist and Rick Scott have foundered in their relations and influence with the Legislature.
And don’t forget that Jeb’s most pervasive impact — the thing he championed that has affected more Floridians and their families than any other — has been in education. Specifically, Jeb introduced the kind of high-stakes, centralized testing that has become anathema — there’s that word again — in his own party.
What should Jeb have done rather than endorse Cruz? He could have stayed quiet, which at least would have been dignified. He could have waited until the GOP convention and, if it is brokered, backed a candidate then. If he’d had a time machine, he might have bailed out of the race earlier and backed Rubio to the hilt in Florida.
Or, if he wanted to endorse the best remaining Republican candidate, Jeb could have thrown his support (such as it is) to Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Bush claimed that his experience as governor made him a better candidate for president than either Cruz or Rubio, both of whom are just first-term senators like a certain Barack Obama was when he ran.
So why didn’t Kasich’s pedigree make him a more qualified candidate than Cruz? Add to the mix Cruz’s unsavory personality and history of dirty tricks, and Jeb’s endorsement makes even less sense. Does Jeb, in the end, have no principles? (At least he comes out better in that regard than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has demeaned himself by shining Trump’s shoes.)
What will Jeb’s lingering influence be? Well, he has provided the GOP and other friends of the Supreme Court’s awful Citizens United ruling with eye-popping proof that money cranked through political machines does not necessary turn out votes on the other side.
Oh, and one more thing. It is unlikely that any campaign will perform as poorly as Jeb Bush’s attempt to win the White House. He was a spectacular failure. Forevermore, failed candidates will be able to console themselves, their fleeced donors and their few voters with this fact: “Hey, at least I didn’t do as badly as Jeb.”
Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post and former editor of Context Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.