In an epic rant on CNN Monday afternoon, Donald Trump went after former Florida governor Jeb Bush, calling him “desperate,” “sad and pathetic” and an “embarrassment to his family.” The tirade, delivered via telephone almost immediately after the network broadcast an interview with Bush, suggested that Bush’s attacks are starting to get under the billionaire presidential frontrunner’s skin.
Bush, who has been one of the few members of the Republican presidential field willing to criticize Trump directly in the party’s televised debates, tweeted an uncharacteristically harsh statement about Trump Monday morning:
.@realDonaldTrump, you aren’t just a loser, you are a liar and a whiner. John McCain is a hero. Over and out.— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) February 8, 2016
The last line was a response to Trump’s past criticism of the Arizona senator and 2008 GOP presidential nominee.
When asked about the tone of his tweet by CNN correspondent Dana Bash, Bush replied, “Well, he is a whiner and I’m defending the honor of people I respect. I think that’s more than appropriate. I do this with joy in my heart because I do believe that this country is the most extraordinary country on the face of the earth.”
Describing himself a “joyful warrior,” Bush said he was not willing to stand idle while Trump is “trying to hijack” the GOP.
Moments after the interview aired, CNN host Wolf Blitzer had Trump on the phone, and asked him to react to Bush.
“He’s a stiff,” Trump began. “He’s not a guy who can be president. He doesn’t have what it takes.”
Trump accused Bush of lying about his positions on various subjects, including abortion and gun rights. It almost seemed as though Trump had compiled a list of zingers he wanted to use on Bush, and was in a hurry to get them all out.
“He’s a desperate person he’s a sad and pathetic person. He doesn’t even use his last name in his ads. He’s a sad person who’s gone absolutely crazy. I mean, this guy is a nervous wreck. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
He added, “He’s spent over a $100 million and he’s a failed candidate. He’s a laughingstock.”
Bush has repeatedly hit Trump for his use of eminent domain laws to take private property for development, and drew some blood in the last debate when the crowd plainly sided with him on the subject.
But on CNN, Trump trotted out a new line of attack: The Bush family used eminent domain to secure some of the land for the home stadium of the Texas Rangers baseball team — once partly owned by Jeb’s brother, former President George W. Bush.
When Blitzer pointed out that Jeb Bush was not part of that deal, Trump said, “He didn’t use it, because he’s not smart enough to use it…but how can he criticize me for using eminent domain when his family used it?”
The parade of insults continued when Blitzer asked Trump to respond to Bush’s calling him a “whiner.”
“I’m not a whiner,” Trump said. “I get things done. Jeb is the kind of guy, if he weren’t in government nobody would give him a job. Couldn’t get a job. You look at what he says — he lies so much.”
He repeated his claim that Bush is running a “failed campaign” and predicted that he would be the “last of the governors” when the votes are counted in New Hampshire tomorrow. (The governors refer to the three current or former governors remaining in the race: Bush, John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey.) “Certainly he’s the least talented of the governors.”
As discussion of Bush wrapped up, Trump hurriedly threw in a few shots at Bush’s decision to bring his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, on the campaign trail over the weekend: “He’s an embarrassment to his family. He has to bring his mother out and walk his mother around at 90 years old. I think it’s a very sad situation.”
Despite his claims to the contrary, Trump is not at all shy about punching down, but he’s most likely to do it when he feels threatened, as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson learned when their campaigns began to gain momentum. While Bush doesn’t appear to be a genuine threat to Trump at this point, especially not in New Hampshire, the billionaire’s over-the-top response suggests that he feels the sting from some of Bush’s attacks.