Former Florida governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush caused a stir this week when he said that in order to grow the economy, Americans need to "work longer hours."
"My aspiration for the country, and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families," he said Wednesday in an interview with the editorial board of New Hampshire's Union Leader. "That's the only way we're going to get out of this rut that we're in."
He clarified that same day that he was referring to the number of underemployed, part-time workers in America who'd rather be working full-time gigs, but can't because the jobs aren't there.
But even with this clarification, the damage may already be done, as news of the governor's supposedly out-of-touch comments has trended nationwide on social media this week, the likely result of headlines everywhere emphasizing his original "work longer hours" remark.
MSNBC dinged the governor's "surprisingly tone-deaf" remarks in a post Thursday titled "Jeb Bush's plan: Americans 'should work longer hours.'"
The feminist blog Jezebel followed suit, publishing an article Thursday titled "Jeb Bush Thinks Lazy Americans Just Need to Work Longer Hours."
Quartz noted the governor's clarification, and published an article titled "Hey Jeb Bush: Americans already work longer hours than anyone in the developed world (except South Koreans)."
Luckily for the governor, as headlines everywhere have blared that he had called for Americans to work longer hours, newsrooms for the most part have also played it straight with the story, with many noting the 2016 candidate's clarification and the truth behind his remarks on the labor force participation rate.
"Democrats say they've found a devastating Jeb Bush gaffe, but he's mostly right," Business Insider's Brett Logiurato reported Thursday, explaining that the former Florida governor "has a point, both on the part-time jobs and in general."
The Washington Post added in a story of its own, "Jeb Bush: 'People need to work longer hours' means they need full-time, not part-time work."
"Jeb Bush Was Right: Americans Need To Work Longer Hours," FiveThirtyEight reported in an explanatory article.
The Chicago Tribune took it a step further, carrying a piece of commentary Thursday titled simply, "Bush's 'longer hours' comment — let it go."
"Mitt Romney's 47 percent line was bad, regardless of context. President Barack Obama's comment about people clinging to their guns or religion was bad, regardless of context," the Tribune's Rex W. Huppke wrote, blasting reporters and politicos everywhere for making hay out of Bush's remarks. "These comments by Bush? They're not bad unless you pull them completely out of context and ignore his reasonable explanation."
Even with the clarification and the willingness of some in the media to play it fair with the story, the questions are still: Will Bush's supposed gaffe do real harm to his campaign or will it be discarded eventually as a big nothing?
In other words, is Bush facing a situation similar to the one faced by 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was caught on tape during the campaign saying he wasn't going to bother trying to win the 47 percent of American voters who wouldn't support for him anyway?
Romney conceded later that that "47 percent" comment did real harm to his White House bid.
Or is this like in 2012 when President Obama said in reference to American businesses and their benefiting from government-funded education, infrastructure and research that they, "didn't build that"? Despite the GOP's best efforts to tie this remark around the president's neck (they even made it the theme of the Republican National Convention), it simply didn't stick, it fizzled into nothing and Obama beat Romney in the general election.
For Bush, it depends. First, it depends on how hard Bush's opponents play up his comments to the Union Leader.
To this point, CNN noted Friday that he has already caught a fair amount of criticism from pundits and political activists. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has already seized on the opportunity to criticize him for supposedly being tone-deaf to the needs of average Americans. Whether partisan criticism for Bush continues depends on whether his Wednesday interview actually harms him the polls.
Second, and most importantly, it depends on what non-political, average Americans think of headlines that say "Bush wants Americans to work longer hours."
To this point, Time magazine and the Los Angeles Times both warned Thursday that the former Florida governor may have a real problem on his hands.
"Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush seems to have earned what is now a rite of passage for White House hopefuls: the out-of-context quote that will be replayed thousands of times," Time reported in an article titled "Jeb Bush's 'Longer Hours' Remark Will Haunt Him."
The L.A. Times added that the "remark seems quickly destined to take its place in the annals of campaign gaffes that haunt candidates for some time."
"It has all the required elements: It sounds terrible. It's caught on video. The context requires multiple sentences of explanation, maybe even some economic policy jargon. And, most important, it reinforces a theme opponents already are pushing," it added.