Trump and Bush both held town hall events in New Hampshire on Wednesday night. (Photos Reuters/AP)
The war of words between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump showed no signs of calming down Wednesday night, with the former Florida governor uncharacteristically going on the offensive.
The last time the two GOP presidential candidates had dueling town halls in New Hampshire, the billionaire mogul mocked Bush for what he called a lack of energy — a charge that seemed to stick when one of Bush’s supporters was seen sleeping during his speech. This time, Bush blasted Trump as a thin-skinned showman who has displayed “big-dog, loud-talking, insulting leadership.”
“Donald seems to have a harder time taking criticism. And he probably needs to put on his big-boy pants too,” Bush said at a campaign event in Bedford. “He’s running for president of the United States. He ought to take a little incoming. He’s great at giving it out.
"If you’re looking for the big guy on the stage, talking in the first-person singular — ‘I, I, I, me, me, me it’s all about me’ — I’m not good at that,” the former governor continued. “My energy comes from helping people have a chance to live the lives that they want.”
Bush added: “You don’t win by telling people how stupid they are.”
Fifty miles west, in Keene, Trump mocked the turnout for Bush.
“Jeb Bush is down the road tonight — they’re expecting 150 people,” Trump told a crowd of more than 3,500.
For the record, it was about 200, according to Bush’s campaign.
Trump also called Bush’s friendship with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who was the state’s House speaker when Bush was governor, “political bulls—.”
“They hate each other,” Trump said.
Bush dismissed the assertion, saying, “Donald Trump has no knowledge about my relationship with Marco Rubio.”
The pair also clashed over foreign policy — specifically, their approaches to the Syrian refugee crisis and Russia’s launch of airstrikes in the region.
In an interview with CNN earlier Wednesday, Trump said while Russia’s moves prove “they don’t respect our president,” he doesn’t think the United States should interfere.
“If they want to hit ISIS, that’s OK with me,” Trump said.
The former Celebrity Apprentice host bushed aside reports that the Russian airstrikes have targeted both ISIS and Syrian opposition forces.
“I hear they are hitting both,” Trump said. “I think they will be fighting ISIS.”
Trump also called the U.S. agreement to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees a mistake because some “may be ISIS.”
“We have no idea who they are. We have no idea where they come from. And I’m just telling you right now, they may come in, through the weakness of Obama, but they’re going out if I become president,” Trump said. “They will not stay here. They are going back to Syria, whether it’s safe zones or whatever.”
In an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Bush said such policy positions prove Trump is not a serious candidate.
“I don’t think he’s offering serious proposals,” Bush said. “He’s a talent, for sure. There is no question about it. He can disparage someone, you know, as good as anybody can get. But I think [in] the long haul, people are going to realize that sitting behind the big desk requires more than just insults, and we’ll see how that plays out. I’m pretty confident that his message is not going to be one that lasts long.”
Bush called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authorization of airstrikes “outrageous.”
“He’s attacking the Syrian Free Army, the remnants of an army that we [supported] during the time when it actually had strength,” Bush said. “And now instead of us creating a no-fly zone, he’s in fact saying there’s a no-fly zone including American Air Force.”
The former governor said sanctions against Russia should “be on the table.”
“I think we ought to engage with our European allies,” Bush said. “France and Germany both have said they’re prepared to engage militarily as it relates to ISIS and this was an effort to try to stop all that. And I just think it’s wrong. And then on our side, we have Donald Trump saying that refugees need to be sent back. If he’s elected president, he’ll just round them all up and send them back. This is not an America that I believe is the one that will create peace and security.”