Roger L. Simon

The Night Before: Hobnobbing with Jeb

It’s not quite the Oscars, but all L.A. is abuzz tonight in anticipation of the Big GOP Debate tomorrow at the Reagan Library.  SoCal’s own Hugh Hewitt — when he isn’t asserting his Ohio roots — is one of the panelists set to pitch questions to eleven, count ’em, eleven presidential candidates Wednesday at 5 p.m. heure locale. (An earlier second-tier debate will go off at three.)

The whole  proverbial ball of wax will be broadcast live on CNN and Salem Radio and commented upon ad infinitum by PJ Media and everybody else in the Great Commentariat.

Of course,  the excitement only extends to the minority Republican segment of the population (which is still bigger than you would assume — this is a giant place, after all). But not to worry. Lalaland’s yet more gigantic progressive population always has something to divert itself.  This time it’s Matt Damon.  Not to be outdone by partner Ben Affleck, who was last seen embarrassing himself on PBS by trying to hide his family’s slaveholding roots, 44-year old film star Matt has sparked outrage by asserting that diversity only counts “in front of the camera.” Oh, my.  Naturally black directors are upset. Didn’t Damon get the memo on black lives?

Never mind.  Back to things that really matter like presidential politics.  In the run-up to the great event tomorrow, I was invited to a small media meet-and-greet with Jeb Bush.  You know — that guy who is the son of one president, brother to another and now is having trouble getting a word in edgewise on the Grand Donald Trump Reality Show that dominates the airwaves from here to Kuala Lampuur and beyond.

I know — that’s mean.  But it’s the reality, show or not.  And Jeb knows it, of course.  I had never met him before but had heard from people who had that he was personable, bright and wonkish.  He was all those things, perhaps even more wonkish than that wonk of wonks Bill Clinton.

Jeb loves to talk policy, but unlike Bubba, the policy he talks makes sense.  It should — it’s conservative.  Yes, Jeb is a genuine conservative, I suspect more so than his father or brother.  One of his problems, perhaps his greatest in a way, is that others don’t see this. He loves to tout his conservative record as Florida governor — and he certainly has a solid one — but it doesn’t seem to get through.  People don’t appear to care, at least not yet. So far this has been an election about anger, not issues. The problem for Jeb is that the anger is largely justified, even if it’s not his fault. He was in Miami, not D.C.

It was clear to us media-types standing with him in the patio of a swank Westlake Village hotel on Tuesday night that we were in the presence of a frustrated man. He’s a guy with a sense of humor who seems on the brink of losing it. Not good.  His misfortune (and fortune) is his name. Yes, there are millions, probably billions, of people with a considerably tougher row to hoe in life than Jeb Bush, but I have to say I have some sympathy for him.  He’s been blindsided.

It’s clear — he said as much — that he is itching to run against Hillary Clinton.  Who wouldn’t be? I don’t think at this point she’d be a challenge for anyone, assuming she even avoids the reckoning with the law she so deserves.  But I also have to admit that, like many, I do not find yet another Clinton-Bush rerun appealing.  No more of that, please.  It would be easier to deal with Bush-Sanders, as at least one candidate would not be a dynasty and the aging Vermonter could use a basic economics lesson. Jeb could probably give him a good one.  (Bush-Biden might send me reaching for my dog-eared copy of Freud’s Analysis Terminable and Interminable.)

But that’s waaaaay ahead at this point.  “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,” as one wag once said.  And tomorrow’s pace — or is it already today’s — will be the Reagan Library where Jeb must go mano-a-mano-a-mano-a-mano-a-mano-a….  Well, I’m sure Jeb understands.  As Donald Trump would no doubt tell you, “El habla español.”


I will be at Reagan Library all day Wednesday with pre-debate updates and maybe even some gossip.  (Marco Rubio can throw a pass, but does he ever deflate the ball?)  Stay tuned.


Co-founder and CEO Emeritus of PJ Media and PJTV, Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter.  Among other publications, he was written for The New York TimesThe Los Angeles TimesCity JournalNational Review and Commentary. His memoir Turning Right at Hollywood and Vine: The Perils of Coming Out Conservative in Tinseltown was published in 2011. He covers the election of 2016 at Diary of a Mad Voter.