"I will not trash talk. I will not be a divider in chief or an agitator in chief. I won't be out there blowharding, talking a big game without backing it up. I think the next president needs to be a lot quieter but send a signal that we're prepared to act in the national security interests of this country -- to get back in the business of creating a more peaceful world," Bush declared to the crowd Tuesday evening. He was met with a long beat of silence. "Please clap," he pleaded, drawing applause and awkward laughter.
The Iowa caucuses didn't go quite as well for Jeb Bush as he would have liked: he finished sixth with about 3% of the vote. Though some spun this as Bush taking the lead in the "governors' lane" -- he finished ahead of other governors in the race -- the problem is that lane is a made-up metric that doesn't actually mean anything.
The Florida Republican is likely to fare better in New Hampshire, where he's invested far more resources, and where polls show him in a more competitive position. But some anecdotal evidence suggests Bush still has some work to do. MSNBC reported this morning on a town-hall event the former governor held in Hanover last night.
Watching the video, I have no doubt the comment was intended to be funny. Bush had just delivered fiery comments about a serious subject, and he was likely looking for a quip to lighten the mood a bit.
But it was equally clear that Bush thought his rhetoric would spark some kind of reaction from his audience, which sat in stony silence. "Please clap" is just a heartbreaking phrase because it comes from a candidate who thinks he's delivering powerful, inspirational rhetoric, but who's also reminded from time to time that in order to get any kind of real validation, he literally has to ask for it.
In all likelihood, Jeb Bush will not be his party's presidential nominee. When his campaign ends, "please clap" will be remembered as an unfortunate, and yet quintessential, phrase.
Last week's "mission accomplished" moment seemed cringe-worthy. "Please clap" seems worse.