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No love here: Why Jeb Bush is losing the conservative pundit primary

Justin Duckham explains if news outlets are being critical of his possible run for president


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Photoshopping women (con't.)

No love here: Why Jeb Bush is losing the conservative pundit primary 

Jeb Bush has achieved his goal: he’s got the chattering classes yakking about him as a presidential candidate.

Unfortunately for him, the chatter is mostly negative, especially on the right.

And maybe that’s what the former Florida governor wanted to find out.

Bush seems a reluctant candidate, at least compared to Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and many other Republican wannabes. So he was using the media spotlight the other day in Texas, including a Fox News interview, to essentially dare his party to accept him.

Here, according to my handy-dandy pundit psychoanalyzing machine, is the subtext of his comments.

So you think you want another Bush on the ticket? You’d be getting a guy who believes in compassion for illegal immigrants. I’m not going to play the self-deportation pandering game. Message: I care, as my dad used to say. You’re also getting a guy who believes in education reform, including Common Core, the program that Republicans love to hate. If I do this, I’m going to run a hopeful campaign, not a slash-and-burn operation. And if you don’t want me, fine. I don’t need this gig.

If I’m right, this was a rather shrewd testing of the waters by a man who recognizes the steep obstacles to his candidacy. Who else plays up his disagreement with the GOP base on one of the most divisive issues around?

Bush’s comments about not treating illegal immigrants as hard-core criminals because they’re coming here to feed their families did not exactly draw a standing ovation. The mainstream pundits may want him to run, but conservatives are another story entirely.

“I mean, that statement he made about illegal immigrants being an act of love is kind of bizarre,” said Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer. “I grant him the complete sincerity and honesty of his view, he’s always had that kind of approach. But that’s leading with your chin.”

Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor who worked in George H.W. Bush’s White House, said there’s “no way” we will see a Jeb-Hillary race.

“He’s a good man; he hasn’t been involved in any of the fights of the Obama years,” Kristol said on “Morning Joe.” “Republicans are kind of worked up about ObamaCare, about the federal policy failures, that like someone who is either engaged in those fights in Washington or a governor who’s governed successfully in real time. i.e., now, so a Scott Walker or a Mike Pence, or a Ted Cruz or a Marco Rubio or a Paul Ryan.”

Then he got to the dynasty question: “If it’s Bush against Clinton, it’s two people who have been around an awful long time, two people who sort of inherited the mantle. And then Hillary gets to say, ‘I’m the first woman president.’ And Jeb gets to say, ‘I’m the third Bush president.’ That’s not a good match-up for Republicans.”

In fact, Rush Limbaugh trumps my theory with his own psychoanalysis, telling a caller:

“I’ve got a guy who think Jeb is trying to disqualify himself, right now just because he doesn’t want to run and he doesn’t want all these people trying to draft him, so say something he knows is not going to be accepted and get it out of the way.”

Then couldn't Jeb, you know, just not run?

Karl Rove, the former George W. lieutenant, was more sympathetic toward the immigration comments. “This is a kerfluffle over an inartful way of saying something,” he said on Fox.

Jonah Goldberg examines the so-called Bush brand:

“For years conservatives have quietly spoken of how we elected ‘the wrong Bush’ in 2000. Jeb’s national reputation on the right was always better than George’s, at least outside of Texas. But Jeb lost his first bid for Florida governor and that ruined the timing for him. As a result, George W. was able to successfully trade on the value of the Bush brand first.

“The trouble is, fairly or unfairly, that brand is tarnished. Among the rank and file of the GOP — particularly among Tea Party types — no one wants to see another Bush on the ballot. It’s not unimaginable that a Bush nomination would spark a significant third-party movement on the right.”

And the moment has pop-culture resonance as well. Even Stephen Colbert got into the act, lecturing Bush for his heresy on immigration: “It is not an act of love, sir. It is an illicit, filthy act of border penetration.”

What’s striking in the media coverage is that few are making the positive case for Bush: He’s seen as a grownup, had a solid record in Florida, can easily raise big bucks, and the GOP usually nominates the establishment candidate (McCain, Romney) over the insurgent.

Instead, there’s a lot of focus on how he hasn’t run for anything since 2002 and doesn’t know how to compete in today’s hyper-fast media environment.

Jeb Bush knows the ordeal of running for president, having seen it up close with his dad and his brother. No wonder he's not in a rush to make up his mind.

Photoshopping women (con't.)

I mentioned Tuesday that posters for the Breitbart website had turned Nancy Pelosi into a twerking, tongue-wagging Miley Cyrus, and Democrats are upset. “Disrespectful to all women … A disgusting new low.”

But I haven’t seen much reaction from conservatives — with the notable exception of National Review’s Jim Geraghty:

“I’m sure one justification will be, ‘Look, you have to do something shocking to get people’s attention!’ That’s true, but at some point the shocking image defines the institution and sets the expectation for the publication. What is it that the publication really wants to say? Ultimately, our objection to Pelosi, Jerry Brown, Zuckerberg, etc., is with their ideas, philosophies and policies, not how they look, right?...

“The second justification for the Pelosi image will be, ‘The Left does it too!’ And indeed they do. But when do efforts to expose the Left’s double standard reach the point where the Right doesn’t have a standard?

“At some point we’re going to have to decide what we want: a political culture in which Sarah Palin, or, say, S.E. Cupp etc. can be depicted in sexist, humiliating and derogatory ways, as well as Nancy Pelosi and Hillary and anyone else, or one in which that’s considered out of bounds. We can’t say it’s only wrong when they do it.

“I know, I know, I’m a stodgy old-school traditionalist who doesn’t understand how to fight the Left with its own tools and expose their hypocrisy and double standards, and I’m a dry, boring inside-the-Beltway insider.”

But you’re a guy who’s willing to criticize his own side — and it would be nice to see more of that across the political spectrum. 

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.