early and often

Jeb Bush’s Risky Plan to Take on Donald Trump

Jeb Bush Speaks At Iowa State Fair Soapbox
Jeb Bush speaks at the Iowa State Fair Soapbox on August 14, 2015. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After sparring with Donald Trump during the first GOP presidential debate this month, Rand Paul switched his strategy: While he initially ignored the reality star, in recent weeks Paul repeatedly attacked him. “What do you do to a bully? You stand up to him,” Paul explained. That plan makes sense for Paul, who needs the Trump-related media attention and knows a thing or two about trolling. However, now Jeb Bush is trying the same strategy, and the initial results aren’t promising. The Trump jabs Bush made during his appearance in New Hampshire last week didn’t get much attention, but the media noticed that he picked up the term “anchor baby” from his rival. And on Monday Bush made the gaffe worse by explaining that it’s Asians, not Latinos, who should be offended.

“This is ludicrous for the Clinton campaign and others to suggest that somehow I was using a derogatory term,” Bush said during a visit to a Texas border town. “What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there’s organized efforts — frankly, it’s more related to Asian people coming into our country, having children in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship.”

Bush noted that he supports the 14th Amendment and added, “I think we need to take a step back and chill out a little bit as it relates to the political correctness that somehow you have to be scolded every time you say something. It’s not fair to be taken out of context.”

There have been reports that the federal government is cracking down on “maternity tourism,” which tends to involve wealthy Chinese women arranging to have their babies in the U.S., and “anchor baby” may have originally referred to Vietnamese immigrants. But Asian groups still weren’t happy about being dragged into the fight. On Monday the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans condemned “the use of the derogatory term ‘anchor babies,’” saying, “Asian American and Pacific Islander communities continue to be discriminated against as part of larger anti-immigrant rhetoric.”

The New York Times reports that Bush’s plan is to repeatedly counterattack Trump “with force and creativity” in the coming weeks. But unlike Trump, Bush is not a master of insults. On Monday he called Trump’s immigration plan “unrealistic” and suggested “he might want to read my book, Immigration Wars, which I published four years ago.” He also released an ad on Monday that highlights conservative opposition to Trump’s immigration plan:

Trump has been targeting Bush for some time — Team Jeb is reportedly particularly irked by his description of Bush as “a low-energy person” — and so far it looks like Bush’s counterattack is only further provoking him. (As New York’s Gabriel Sherman reported, there’s a personal component to their feud.) The businessman told the Times that Bush’s complaint about political correctness “sounds a little familiar,” and said of his reading suggestion, “That would be exciting.”

“He is doing so poorly in the polls that he is now starting to spend some of the money that his ‘bosses,’ special interests and lobbyists have given him to attack me,” Trump added in a statement on Monday. "… The last thing this country needs is a low-energy President without any substance or any ideas on how to Make America Great Again. Even this video is boring.”

Trump also lashed out on Twitter, retweeting a comment about Bush speaking “Mexican” and using his own mother’s words against him:

Since he’s positioned himself as the “grown-up” in the race, Bush can’t get that personal in his fights with Trump. And if he isn’t willing to fight as dirty as Trump, getting in the mud with him is probably a bad idea.

Jeb Bush’s Risky Plan to Take on Donald Trump