Speaking on Bill Bennett's conservative radio show "Morning in America" Wednesday, Bush went as far as using the derogatory term "anchor baby" to describe his support for tighter enforcement on children born in the U.S. to immigrant parents. "If there's abuse, people are bringing -- pregnant women are coming in to have babies simply because they can do it, then there ought to be greater enforcement," Bush said in the interview, which was written about by POLITICO. "That's [the] legitimate side of this. Better enforcement so that you don't have these, you know, 'anchor babies,' as they're described, coming into the country."
Chris Hayes noted yesterday that the term "anchor baby" is "disgusting and dehumanizing." He added, "I can't believe anyone in 'mainstream' American politics uses it."
For quite a while, there was some consensus on this point. We'd occasionally hear far-right congressional Republicans like Tom Tancredo and Louie Gohmert using the phrase, but most avoided the label as overly crass and offensive.
But Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has embraced it, and as MSNBC's Amanda Sakuma noted last night, even Jeb Bush is now using the phrase.
An audio clip of Bush's comments, recorded by American Bridge 21st Century, is online.
It wasn't long before Hillary Clinton, responding to Bush on Twitter, replied simply, "They're called babies." Ouch.
Given the reaction, I have a hunch the former governor will probably avoid using the phrase again, but that brings us back to the larger concern about Jeb Bush's clumsiness as a candidate. The Weekly Standard's John McCormack, a conservative writer, two weeks ago asked the question on the minds of many: "Isn't one benefit of an establishment candidate supposed to be that he's not going to make gaffes like this?"
McCormack's comment came earlier this month when Bush, unprompted, said, "I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues."
As we discussed soon after, the Florida Republican seems to have a bad habit of saying things he regrets soon after. For example, Bush recently said he wants to “phase out” Medicare, adding soon after that he didn’t really mean it. Bush also said he wants Americans to “work longer hours,” only to say he didn’t quite mean that, either.
After the Charleston massacre, he said, “I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes,” even though the racist motivation was obvious, and aides quickly had to clarify these comments, too. When he tried to talk about ISIS and clumsily got the relevant details wrong, campaign aides scrambled to clarify once more.
Asked in the spring about his position on the war in Iraq, the Florida Republican gave four different answers over the course of four days, prompting Gail Collins to write, “Wow, Jeb Bush is awful.”
And really, these are just some of the more important examples. Jeb has also gotten the retirement age wrong while talking about Social Security; he’s complained about President Obama using “big-syllable words”; and he’s argued the U.S. economy hasn’t improved since the 2008 crisis.
Now, "anchor babies" is added to the list.
I can appreciate the fact that Bush hasn't run for elected office since 2002, so it takes time to shake off the rust and become more disciplined. But at this stage in the race, things aren't going his way, and Bush isn't helping his cause.