At an event this week, Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush not only went after Planned Parenthood for reasons he couldn’t explain, he also said publicly, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” The GOP candidate realized soon after this might be a problem.
As part of the walkback, Bush said on Twitter that he “absolutely” wants to defund Planned Parenthood – again, he still hasn’t explained why – and he’d then “redirect those funds to other women’s health” organizations. This approach, the former governor added, would be “in line with my Florida record.”
Except, that’s not quite true. The Huffington Post reported yesterday that as governor, Bush “redirected Planned Parenthood money to abstinence-only education programs rather than to other women’s health organizations.” The piece noted this report from the St. Petersburg Times (which is now the Tampa Bay Times), published in January 2003:
Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida lost $124,000 last year from its family planning division. Bush diverted the funds to abstinence-only educational programs. Now teens who use Planned Parenthood have a $15 co-pay and must pay $7 for birth control. “We do charge the teens now,” said LaWanda Walker, public affairs coordinator for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “That we really, really hate. You need to be able to have services and make it convenient.”
Abstinence-only education, of course, is notoriously ineffective, and is a ridiculous substitute for actual investment in women’s health care.
Could this entire line of argument be any worse for Jeb Bush? First, he went after Planned Parenthood – a health organization championed by his father and grandfather – for reasons he can’t explain. Second, he questioned the value in investing in women’s health generally, which Bush acknowledged was a mistake.
And third, trying to climb out of the ditch, the Republican made a claim that was demonstrably untrue – he said Planned Parenthood was caught “selling fetal organs,” which isn’t even close to being accurate – which he then followed with another claim that was demonstrably untrue.
Is it any wonder even some Republicans are getting annoyed his with Bush’s stumbles as a candidate? Politico reported late yesterday:
Democratic critics of Jeb Bush’s ad-lib Tuesday about cutting women’s health spending were joined by conservatives, who are annoyed that the inartful statement may undermine their efforts to finally score a win against Planned Parenthood. […]“Every time Bush has stuck his foot in his mouth, it’s been a ‘Clean up on Aisle 3’ moment,” said Craig Robinson, a longtime GOP operative in Iowa. “I think it shows a real lack of message discipline with Bush. We’ve seen more errors out of Jeb Bush this campaign than most of the other candidates.”
We’ve all seen instances of good presidential candidates who’ve struggled with weak operations, but Jeb Bush appears to be an example of the opposite – his team is perfectly capable, but it’s the candidate who seems incompetent.
Disclosure: My wife works at Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece and her work is unrelated to the controversial videos.