Columnist

Jeb(!) Bush possesses an almost uncanny knack for saying almost the right thing.

Take his comments, to Sirius XM show The Arena, about the name of Washington’s football team. He was so close to being right. “I don’t think politicians should have any say on that stuff to be honest with you,” he said.

If only that had been all he said. That could have been fine. Perhaps Dan Snyder, who gave a generous $100,000 to Bush’s Right To Rise super PAC, would have been miffed, but — that would have been fine. Foot planted, safely away from mouth.

But of course that was not all. Bush said the right thing, but, in addition, he said several things that were — not right. “I don’t think they should change it, but again, I don’t think politicians should have any say on that stuff to be honest with you. I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive.”

What he should have said and what he did say are ALMOST the same — but not quite. And that not-quite makes all the difference.

“I don’t find it offensive”? Well, good, I guess, but hardly relevant. Respectfully, I am not sure that what counts here is whether or not Jeb finds it offensive. The name is an embarrassment. It’s outdated and insulting, and changing it is a small price to pay for not feeling transported back to the Jackson era every time someone reads the football scores.

This almost-rightness has been a feature of Jeb(!) lately.

Remember his statement, discussing defunding Planned Parenthood? He said, “The argument against this is, ‘Well, women’s health issues are going to 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 a 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. . . .”

Almost right. But then — that brief aside.

“People need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in,” Bush told the New Hampshire Union Leader, later clarifying that he meant people needed more full-time work. Well, okay. He was — almost right.

And almost right is, I guess, better than Wildly Colorfully Gleefully Wrong, the strategy Jeb(!)’s opponents seem to be embracing.

He’s no Donald Trump, who just shoots off wildly at the mouth and lets the chips fall where they may. Or even a Ben Carson, who has a remarkable knack for not walking back awful statements he has been given ample opportunity to walk back (just this weekend, he held firm to Jake Tapper on his comments saying he would not support a Muslim for president, doubling down that “I would have problems with somebody who embraced all the doctrines associated with Islam.”) Bush doesn’t say Overtly Hateful Things, just statements that are almost innocuous (“free stuff“). Almost okay (“anchor babies“). Almost not-tone-deaf (“I don’t find it offensive”). Almost right.

Almost.