Was Jeb Bush Really Being “Pedantic”?


Last Thursday, likely GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush found himself the butt of jokes after a 19-year-old college student told him that his brother, former President George W. Bush, “created ISIS.”

Ivy Ziedrich, a University of Nevada student and registered Democrat, confronted Bush following a town hall event:

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You stated that ISIS was created because we don’t have enough presence and we’ve been pulling out of the Middle East. However, the threat of ISIS was created by the Iraqi coalition authority, which ousted the entire government of Iraq,” Ziedrich told Bush as he shook his head in disagreement. “It was when 30,000 individuals who are part of the Iraqi military were forced out. They had no employment, they had no income, yet they were left with access to all the same arms and weapons. Your brother created ISIS!

“Is that a question?” Bush asked.

“You don’t need to be pedantic to me sir,” Ziedrich responded. “You could just answer my question.”

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“Pendantic!?” Bush interrobanged.

By Thursday evening that clip was all over the media. Left-leaning media, in particular, made Ziedrich into a hero for walloping Bush. Whether she did depends on your political ideology, but there’s one thing for certain: Bush wasn’t being pedantic — at least not at that point:

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Then, again, who really knows what “pedantic” means? Jon Stewart made a joke of that very fact on The Daily Show by pulling out a big dictionary and looking up the word right after he played the Ziedrich zinger.

He pretended to read the definition, but didn’t share it with the audience. Had he done so, he might have betrayed the fact that Bush wasn’t being pedantic at all.

Pedantic means to be ostentatious in one’s learning or overly concerned with minute details.

Jeb Bush Speaks At The Reagan Library About His New BookBush might indeed have been pedantic in his arguments for the cause of ISIS earlier at his town hall meeting, but Ziedrich was no less so in her rebuttal. Bush had simply asked, “Is that a question?” when she accused him of being “pedantic.”

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He did seem to be condescending to the college student, but “pedantic”? Not quite.

I’m not arguing that Bush should have corrected Ziedrich’s grammar. That would have been even more condescending. But the media shouldn’t have acted as though she scored a point when she had actually misused the term — especially when a similar George W. Bush flub would have brought ridicule.

The ABC News story on the interchange didn’t quote Jeb Bush, but simply said he “unsuccessfully tried to interject” before the student “snapped back” that he didn’t need to be pedantic.

But Bush looking buffoonish — like his brother — is a developing media narrative. He has not helped dissuade this narrative over the past week: At one point, he accidentally stated that he already is a candidate, and at the event Ziedrich attended he irritated Nevadans by pronouncing their state as Ne-VAH-dah. (It’s a short “a” in that second syllable.)

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But his biggest gaffe came when he accidentally answered a question on the Iraq War he wasn’t asked. He clearly had practiced for something other than the question he actually was asked by Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly in an interview aired on May 11.

When Kelly asked, “knowing what he we know today” about the lack of weapons of mass destruction, would he have avoided invading Iraq. Bush was prepared to talk about how his brother, Dubya, went on the best information he had at the time, and he would have done the same thing had he had that same bad intel.

Friend and foe alike pounced, and it took Bush days to dig himself out.

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But no such worries for Ziedrich — even though she appeared just as prepped with her statement to Bush as Bush had been for Kelly. Nothing wrong with that, of course. You don’t want to stumble out your words when you get a chance to challenge someone of such high stature.

But Ziedrich also seemed prepared to say Bush was being “pedantic” in his response. When he wasn’t, she accused him of it anyway.

Ziedrich isn’t running for president as Bush is, so her gaffes aren’t near as big a deal as his. Still, anyone who intends to celebrate a perceived victory for Ziedrich over Bush should not simply brush off her flub.

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Leaving the politics of the Bush-Ziedrich discourse aside, the 20 years I’ve spent as a copy editor won’t allow me to let her get away with misusing the word. I would have either reported it without making it the headline or ended my quote of the exchange before she said it.

Civilized debate is practically a lost art, and there are no points scored for missteps.