Derry, N.H. — “I really didn’t plan on this,” Barbara Bush said, introducing her son Jeb Bush to the crowd gathered for a town hall at a middle school here.
It was the first time the matriarch of the Bush family has hit the trail with her son since he announced his presidential bid, and her appearance — played in by the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” — comes as he is looking to reverse his fading fortunes and score a win in New Hampshire.
“Jeb is the nicest, wisest, most caring, loyal, disciplined, that’s good. Not by me. But he’s not a bragger, we don’t allow that, but he’s decent and honest. He’s everything we need in a president.”
Barbara Bush’s introduction kicked off an hour and a half in which Bush fully embraced the family name. “I’m part of the establishment because I’m Barbara Bush’s son. I embrace that each and every day. I’m proud of my dad, I’m proud of my brother, I’m proud of being a Bush.”
But it was also an hour and a half rife with some of the stranger and funnier remarks I’ve heard at a town hall. Below, the most entertaining moments of Jeb’s appearance in Derry:
- “She’s not as great as everyone thinks she is,” Bush joked of his mom, who was evidently a major draw for attendees. “I jokingly say that when we were growing up in Midland, in Houston, that mom was fortunate not to have a child-abuse hotline available ’cause the discipline of learning right and wrong was her doing.” According to the Bush embeds, this is a regular part of Bush’s remarks.
- “This year, the New Hampshire primary coincides with the Chinese New Year,” a man in the audience informed Bush. Apparently, this was a necessary precursor to asking a question about Bush’s foreign policy as it relates to China.
- The next question only got better. “Our moose numbers are down about 50 percent this year,” a man began. The question, which was about global warming, concluded with the man handing Jeb a small stuffed-animal moose.
- At one point, the smell of cigarette smoke overwhelmed the cafeteria venue. “Someone’s lighting up in the school,” Jeb said.
- “I get home on Sundays and I go shopping and I love to look at all the labeling,” Bush told a woman who asked what he would do to make sure foods were labeled to allow people to avoid genetically modified foods, if they so chose.
- A man declares, “Of the three candidates I’ve heard tonight . . . ” It’s 8:12 p.m. Welcome to the first-in-the-nation–primary state.
- Jeb notices the Flower Man, a hippie-looking guy who has attended a number of town halls for various candidates and hands them flowers. “Flower Boy, welcome back,” Jeb tells him. “It’s nice to see you. I missed you. I feel offended that you haven’t come to any of my events lately.”