The Corner

Jeb’s Roger Mudd Moment

Roger Mudd moment, in this context, refers to Mudd’s August 1979 interview with Ted Kennedy that blasted his challenge to Jimmy Carter before it even began.

Carter it will be remembered had a very bad term; by the summer of ‘79 every Democrat not on the White House payroll looked to Kennedy as the savior. Roger Mudd televised an enormous interview with the senator, replete with slow strike zone pitches, among them, Why do you want to be president? In print, Kennedy’s answer was long and empty. On screen it was far worse, marred by umms and gaps. 

Something similar happened to Jeb Bush in his failed attack on Marco Rubio Wednesday night. As with Kennedy, Bush seemed not to know what he was doing; as with Kennedy, he seemed not to want to be doing it.

Each man was the third of his family to run for president. There are obvious differences between the two candidates and clans: JFK won and was murdered, RFK was murdered before ever being nominated, whereas Jeb’s father and brother both won the big one, and are both now happy and healthy. But each third guy seems to have felt an enormous pressure to run–to satisfy his family, to satisfy his sense of himself within his family. And each third guy resented it.

NB: Teddy, after his disastrous start, got better and fought Carter all the way to the 1980 convention. Jeb too will no doubt stay in as long as he possibly can. These are politicians and competitors. But inside each we heard a small voice saying, No mas.


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