- - Sunday, March 1, 2015


One thing is clear: The mainstream media loves Jeb Bush.

“Jeb Bush was very, very good at CPAC today,” The Washington Post gushed Friday.

“Bush was energetic — maybe due at least in part to nervousness in facing a testy crowd — and informed,” wrote Chris Cillizza about the ex-governor’s appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “He refused to back down — particularly on immigration — from positions that he knew would be unpopular with the crowd. He insisted that Republicans were good at opposing things but bad at ‘being for things.’ He was composed. He was up to the moment. He looked, in a word, presidential.”

While the reporter noted some boos and a walkout by a couple dozen tea party supporters, the piece was a veritable homage to the third Bush to seek the White House.

“Bush was, by far, the best that I’ve seen him in his just-started presidential campaign. Gone was the somewhat-bumbling, uncertain speech-giver. (He did make a weird reference to campaign finance law and an odd joke about the weather in Miami, for what it’s worth.) In its place was a politician of conviction who had total command of who he was and what he believed. CPAC is a win for Bush — the first one in front of people who might actually vote in a Republican primary he’s had.”

The New York Times also praised George W.’s brother, saying he “appeared considerably more animated and at ease” than previous outings. The paper’s headline was “Bush Confronts Skeptics at Conservative Gathering.”

But the two prominent newspapers failed to see the big picture: At a conference that brings together conservative leaders from around the country, Mr. Bush was soundly booed and heckled. A packed room booed his stance on immigration — he called for “a path to legal status” for illegal aliens — and derided his support of Common Core as the soon-to-be candidate said the program does not amount to a federal takeover of education.

Even though Mr. Bush — as awkward as his brother when delivering speeches from teleprompters — had opted for a simple Q&A with a “friendly” moderator, Fox News’ Sean Hannity, there were plenty of disastrous moments, like when he was asked about his support, as governor, for offering drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens, which drew more boos.

At one point Mr. Bush took the odd tack of criticizing CPAC attendees. “Here’s the deal: There are a lot of — obviously there are a lot of committed conservatives in this room, and this is why it’s such a spectacular gathering. There are a lot of other conservatives who haven’t been asked,” he said, perhaps wishing those conservatives had been invited to the conference.

There were odd moments too. Contrary to The Post report, Mr. Bush actually looked ill at ease, fidgeting as Mr. Hannity asked long-winded questions. And he looked sheepish each time the boos grew loud enough to drown out whoever was speaking.

Weirdly, at another point Mr. Bush borrowed a line from Bill Clinton as he tried to mollify the booing crowd, apparently suggesting their dissatisfaction with his policies had to do with the frigid temperatures outside the conference center on the Potomac River. “I kind of feel your pain,” he said, explaining that he “was in Miami this morning. It was 70 degrees.”

Inside the room, hundreds of people, at least half the crowd, sat on their hands throughout the 25-minute exchange. Reports emerged afterward that Mr. Bush’s backers, “including a group of lobbyists and advisers, worked with former aides from President George W. Bush’s administration to organize a caravan from Washington to the hotel in Maryland where the conference was being held,” The Times reported.

A Republican National Committee source told me that they were brought in to “cheer down” the boos, and it worked, to a degree — at least when there were loud boos, there were loud cheers as well.

Still, it’s always odd when the MSM speaks supportively about a Republican candidate. The MSM loved Sen. John “Maverick” McCain when he was breaking with his own party, but as soon as he was the presidential nominee, they hammered him. Much the same happened with Mitt Romney — the MSM never praised him, but many were somewhat supportive of his candidacy.

The reason for MSM support for both candidates? They were beatable (highly beatable, as it turned out). So the early praise for Mr. Bush at least has to make you wonder: What is the mainstream media up to?

And were they really even at that CPAC conclave, where conservatives heartily booed the man the MSM is suddenly making out to be the Republican front-runner?

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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