“I’ve got a few questions for you, then I’d like to make a statement and have you respond to the statement.” So began a lengthy back and forth between Jeb Bush and a man at his Alton, New Hampshire town hall Monday night.
Bush’s questioner, who identified himself as Joe Castagnaro from Gilford, New Hampshire, had some preliminary questions on term limits, taxpayer funded elections and ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) but his deepest focus was on Wall Street “crimes” and the repealed Glass-Steagall Act. His description of asking Hillary Clinton whether she “would she reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act that her dirtbag husband repealed” drew some giggles from Bush and the audience.
Castagnaro passionately described the 2008 financial crisis as not a “bubble … crisis … [or] meltdown” but a “crime” that bankers should be in jail for. He also declared that “when you’re president you’ll take your orders from” Wall Street.
Bush demonstrated some political deftness in the exchange, engaging his questioner and somewhat adopting the questioner’s concerns, but the moment also illustrates why Bush has had such a rough time. He’s more naturally attuned to the financial services industry goal of deregulation than to the visceral anger and distrust of a man who has had his home foreclosed on. That anger is the dominant pulse of the 2016 race and it’s just not Bush’s. It’s also the case that Bush and his questioner fundamentally disagree on increasing financial regulation. While both appear to want credit to be more readily available to borrowers, in reality they represent fundamentally different approaches. Bush seeks a freer market, believing that will allow banks and other lenders to flourish with a resulting bounty of credit. His questioner appeared to believe that stricter regulation and control of banks, accompanied by increased criminal prosecutions, is the path to easier credit. While those views share a rejection of the recent past and current market, they’re ultimately dramatically divergent.
His town hall was well done in a nice setting with solid production and a crowd that perfectly packed the modest sized room to capacity, but this exchange ultimately demonstrates that he’s trying to grab onto the current Zeitgeist, not generating it.
Toward the end of their exchange Castagnaro said there’s “nothing I would rather do than vote for you”, but that the only two candidates tuned in to his view of “taking down the Wall Street banks” are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.