Gaffe Track: Bush's Katrina

Brian Snyder / Reuters
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Jeb‽ Bush

The gaffe: Here’s the Republican speaking at an event in Lexington, South Carolina, on Wednesday, where he was introduced by State Senator Katrina Shealy.

When I was governor, in 16 months we had eight hurricanes and four tropical storms. One of them was called Katrina. I don’t know why your great state senator reminds me of a hurricane. But she does. She’s strong and she’s fierce, but she’s solving problems at the state capitol. You should be honored to have her as your elected official, I hope you agree with that. That should be your nickname. In the Bush family, we always give out nicknames. Yours is now Hurricane Katrina.

The defense: Shealy says her family also calls her that. Besides, as Bush family nicknames go, this isn’t the worst. (Sorry, Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove.)

Why it matters (or doesn’t): Where to start? First, It’s generally impolite to liken a person to a natural disaster that killed 1,200 people. Second, Jeb Bush’s struggle to differentiate himself from his brother is no longer his biggest challenge—he’s got bigger ones now—but one questions the wisdom of jocularly reminding voters of an incident that became a metonym for his brother’s (or any president’s) mismanagement. Also, storms don’t generally solve problems in state capitols.

The moral: Leave the the woman-as-hurricane metaphors to Neil Young.