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Jeb Bush's Planned Parenthood flub wasn't a gaffe

 Anti-abortion activists hold a rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the US Capitol on July 28, 2015, in Washington, DC.
Anti-abortion activists hold a rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the US Capitol on July 28, 2015, in Washington, DC.
Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

It sounded like Jeb Bush said Tuesday that the US government, which spends about $1 trillion a year on heath care, should direct less than $500 million to women's health care (.05 percent). It sounded like that because that's how Bush shorthanded his argument for defunding Planned Parenthood, the nonprofit that provides for contraception, services related to sexually transmitted diseases and, with non-federal funds, abortions.

Here are his words:

The next president should defund Planned Parenthood. I have the benefit of having been governor and we did defund Planned Parenthood when I was governor. We tried to create a culture of life across the board. The argument against this is, well, women's health issues are gonna be — you're attacking — it's a war on women and you're attacking women's health issues. You could take dollar for dollar — although I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues — but if you took dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinarily fine organizations, community health organizations, that exist, federally sponsored community health organizations, to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues. But abortion should not be funded by the government, any government, in my mind.

The collective digital scream of "Gaffe!" rebounded through the Twitterverse in as little time as it takes to type 140 characters and hit send. Giddy Democrats seized on Bush's remarks to portray him as the loutish avatar of a Republican "war on women." After all, Bush's words were, "I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues."

The irony, of course, is that Bush got tangled up in borrowing the left's language for the range of women's health services provided by Planned Parenthood — terminology intended to ensure that debates over funding aren't focused on abortion. It was also a reminder that Bush is a policy wonk who can get himself in trouble on the stump by shorthanding his impressive knowledge of how government works.

Whatever his position, Bush should know a lot about Planned Parenthood. His grandfather was the treasurer for the group's first fundraising drive, and as a Texas Republican congressman, his father sponsored the Title X family planning program under which Planned Parenthood gets much of its federal funding.

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the federal budget, and of Planned Parenthood's piece of it, could immediately see that Bush was referring solely to the organization's subsidies rather than to the entire government's spending on women's health care.

The $500 million figure is just about exactly what Planned Parenthood gets in public grants and reimbursements each year.

Planned Parenthood 2013-14 annual report

Bush, in a statement issued by his campaign, quickly walked back his remarks.

With regards to women's health funding broadly, I misspoke, as there are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women's health organizations that need to be fully funded. They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don't have the access they need.

I was referring to the hard-to-fathom $500 million in federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood - an organization that was callously participating in the unthinkable practice of selling fetal organs. Democrats and Republicans agree we absolutely must defund them and redirect those funds to other women's health organizations.

He was seizing on a political moment to side with congressional Republicans who are trying to block discretionary funding for Planned Parenthood. His adversaries, including Hillary Clinton, quickly castigated him, and Bush fired back:

Michael Kinsley famously described a gaffe as the moment when a politician accidentally tells the truth about what he thinks. If that's true, then there should be a new term devised for what Bush did. He made it sound like he believes something that he doesn't, appearing to argue that funding for women's health care should be slashed by hundreds of billions of dollars. That's not what he meant, and it should be easy to knock him without mischaracterizing his pretty clear intent.

For Democrats, just defunding Planned Parenthood is a pretty potent issue to use against Bush in a general election. For Republican rivals, Bush's wonkish clumsiness underscores the contention that he might self-destruct if he makes it that far. Neither line of attack requires bending either his words or his meaning.

Here are 9 more things to know to start the day.

1) Say it ain't so, Joe

Now that the folks who want Vice President Joe Biden to run for president have had their say, Biden allies who think it's a bad idea are talking to the New York Times. That's the upshot of a report that buries this potential lede: At one point, Biden considered resigning the vice presidency to take care of his family:

Some of Mr. Biden’s friends and allies worry that he will decide it is a good idea.

Those supporters, in the White House and the Senate, and within the political circles he has moved in for decades, fear that the legacy Mr. Biden has built as an effective partner who took on tough jobs for President Obama, not to mention the deep reservoir of public good will and sympathy he has amassed in his poignant handling of personal tragedies, could be sacrificed in the pursuit of an unsuccessful challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination. ...

In a sign of the conflicting pressures surrounding Mr. Biden, the vice president has told people that the terminal brain cancer of Beau Biden, who died in May, had caused him to consider resigning the vice presidency to take care of his grieving family, though those aware of the vice president’s thinking say that idea never became too serious.

Left unsaid: Resigning the vice presidency and running for president might not have been mutually exclusive impulses. The story doesn't shed any new light on whether Biden will run, but it does show that there's a counterweight to the first crop of Biden allies to whisper into reporters' ears about why he would run.

2) And then there were 10

The field for the first Republican primary debate is set, and there are no surprises. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich got the last tickets by outpolling former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Here's your lineup, in order of recent polling performance:

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Jeb Bush
  3. Scott Walker
  4. Mike Huckabee
  5. Ben Carson
  6. Ted Cruz
  7. Marco Rubio
  8. Rand Paul
  9. Chris Christie
  10. John Kasich

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has the story of the home-state governor who just made the cut:

Turns out that John Kasich is ready for prime time.

Ohio's governor has claimed a spot on stage in Cleveland for Thursday night's Republican presidential debate, Fox News Channel announced Tuesday. ...

Kasich, who declared his candidacy only two weeks ago, appears to have timed his entry perfectly. A relative nonfactor in national polls as recently as early summer, he saw just enough post-launch bounce to leapfrog more-seasoned White House hopefuls, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Sen. Rick Santorum.

"As governor, I am glad to welcome my fellow debate participants to our great state and I look forward to discussing the issues facing our country with them on Thursday," Kasich said Tuesday in a statement emailed by his campaign. "Until then I hope everyone enjoys themselves in Cleveland; it's a great town."

3) Behind the scenes with the moderators

Fox News Channel host Megyn Kelly poses on the red carpet upon arrival at a salute to Fox News Channel's Brit Hume on January 8, 2009, in Washington, DC.

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Politico's Dylan Byers takes a look at the prep sessions the Fox team — Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace — have held to narrow the list of questions and prepare for any wild outbursts:

The pressure is immense: Both Baier and Wallace said they've woken up in the middle of the night thinking about how to better frame their questions. Kelly said that while she never gets nervous on television anymore, "this is the one event where, for me personally, your heart is pumping and there is a nerve factor."

The task -- moderating the first Republican presidential primary debate -- is more difficult than it seems: On the one hand, the three moderators want to ask hard-hitting questions that push candidates beyond their talking points. "There are no wallflowers in the group," Wallace said of the trio. "The reason all three of us were chosen is that we're three of the toughest, hardest-hitting interviewers in the business."

4) FBI looking into Clinton emails

The FBI, perhaps responding to a request from Benghazi Committee Chair Trey Gowdy, is now looking into the handling of Hillary Clinton's State Department emails. The Washington Post, showing good judgment with a just-the-facts tone that contrasts with the New York Times's recent Clinton-story debacle, reports on the new line of inquiry:

The FBI’s interest in Clinton’s e-mail system comes after the intelligence community’s inspector general referred the issue to the Justice Department in July. Intelligence officials expressed concern that some sensitive information was not in the government’s possession and could be "compromised." The referral did not accuse Clinton of any wrongdoing, and the two officials said Tuesday that the FBI is not targeting her.

Kendall confirmed the contact, saying: "The government is seeking assurance about the storage of those materials. We are actively cooperating."

This story won't die anytime soon. There are legitimate questions about why Clinton chose a method of correspondence that circumvented open-records rules and whether that exposed any classified material. Regardless of any legal questions, voters ought to know how someone who wants to be president approaches such matters. That's why sober reporting on it is so important.

5) Flake in? Obama seeks GOP support for Iran deal.

US Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) walks outside the Senate Chamber June 27, 2013, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Barack Obama knows he's facing unified opposition from Republicans on the nuclear nonproliferation deal with Iran. But he's eager to get at least the patina of bipartisan support, and he's courting Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake hard, as Politico's Burgess Everett reports:

Two weeks ago, Flake found himself surrounded by Democrats on Air Force Once headed to Africa, having joined Obama for his first trip to the continent while in office. The in-flight entertainment was obvious from the moment the trip was announced: a long, laborious discussion of the Iran deal. ...

"An agreement this big, this important, you ought to look at all angles. And I'm trying to," Flake said as he trudged to yet another Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iran. "There are certain parts of the agreement that are certainly better than the status quo. You have to look at it in the broader context of our foreign policy options in the region and not try to judge it against the ideal but against the alternative. It's not an easy call."

6) How to succeed in business while really trying, Bush style

Jeb Bush made a lot of money in the private sector after he left office, much of it from big banks, as Justin Baer of the Wall Street Journal reports.

For more than seven years, nearly the length of his two gubernatorial terms, Mr. Bush, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, spent as much as half of his working hours advising Lehman and later Barclays, which bought the collapsed investment bank’s U.S. business. He wasn’t an employee of the firms, said people familiar with the matter, but was paid to attend meetings, dinners and conferences where he spoke to clients and bank executives on such subjects as health care, education, immigration and energy—matters he has started taking up this year with voters.

Mr. Bush earned about $1.3 million a year at Lehman and some $2 million from Barclays, his campaign said.

7) The art of giving to both sides

The Daily Beast, in conjunction with Vocativ, has a nice scoop on the donors who gave to both Bush and Clinton in the last quarter. The common-donor analysis is instructive in understanding the motives wealthy contributors have in giving to campaigns — that is, they're different from the folks who just want to help their chosen candidate win. Jackie Kucinich and Matan Gilat have the story:

More than 60 ultra-rich Americans have contributed to both Jeb Bush’s and Hillary Clinton’s federal campaigns, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data by Vocativ and The Daily Beast. Seventeen of those contributors have gone one step further and opened their wallets to fund both Bush’s and Clinton’s 2016 ambitions.

After all, why support just Hillary Clinton or just Jeb Bush when you can hedge your bets and donate to both? This seems to be the thinking of a group of powerful men and women—racetrack owners, bankers, media barons, chicken magnates, hedge funders (and their spouses). Some of them have net worths that can eclipse the GDPs of small countries.

8) Hillary Clinton is losing ground with white women

Hillary Clinton has lost ground overall, so it's not terribly surprising that she's bled some support from various subsections of the electorate. But it's been particularly bad among white women, according to the Wall Street Journal's Peter Nicholas, who analyzed the results of the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll:

In June, 44% of white women had a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, compared to 43% who didn’t. In July, those numbers moved in the wrong direction for Mrs. Clinton: Only 34% of white women saw her in a positive light, compared to 53% who had a negative impression of her, the poll found.

How different groups viewed Hillary Clinton in July versus June.

The Wall Street Journal

9) The White House micromanages foreign policy, explained

It's an article of faith inside the Beltway that President Obama's White House has an insular approach to foreign policy that has rendered major agencies, including the Defense and State Departments, pretty impotent. The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung gets Ben Rhodes, one of the president's top national security aides, to concede as much in a really deep dive into how the White House's National Security Council staff has metastasized over the course of several presidencies and now controls foreign policy:

It may be too late to change impressions of an NSC bureaucracy whose size has come to symbolize an overbearing and paranoid White House that insists on controlling even the smallest policy details, often at the expense of timely and effective decisions.

In the Defense Department, where mistrust of the White House has persisted since the administration began, Obama is described as resolute and bold when a quick executive action is needed on operations such as hostage rescues and targeted captures and killings.

However, when the president has wanted to move swiftly on some of his most ambitious policy initiatives — the opening to Cuba and the early Iran nuclear negotiations — he has circumvented the usual practice for decision-making and kept a close hold within the White House....

"I’m not saying there isn’t micromanagement at the NSC. There is," Rhodes said. But "sometimes I think the NSC just becomes kind of the boogeyman."

Correction: The $528 million in public funding for Planned Parenthood includes federal, state and local money. Due to a math error, I mis-stated the ratio between all federal spending on health care and public spending on Planned Parenthood.