Jeb! media narratives ignore reality of his temperament and Florida legacy

256px-Jeb_Bush_by_Gage_SkidmoreThe words “statesman,” “wonk,” “adult,” and “winner,” were attributed to Jeb! Bush early in his Presidential campaign. Yet none of these simple narratives of a candidate many in the media seemingly were trying to will to the GOP nomination are the total reality of the Bush legacy here in Florida.

Jeb Bush is a typical politician – one who masks his true sinister intentions with soft and gentle rhetoric. Bush’s goal of remaking Florida society into a business friendly state where consumers and ordinary citizens would not have the protections previously afforded to them by the laws of the state was wildly successful.

Bush’s agenda in Florida was apparent from his first day in office – mimic Karl Rove’s efforts to “defund the left” by hurting Trial Lawyers and the Teacher’s Union while using “business friendly” and “empowerment” rhetoric to force tort reform, the writing of medical malpractice laws and school vouchers down the throats of legislators. His brand of governance did not involve any degree of compromise or pragmatism.

The style of governance Bush employed was as unrelenting as today’s Tea Party. Republicans who didn’t automatically rubber-stamp the Bush’s radical policy changes were ostracized or even challenged in primaries for reelection. Bush’s tone has long been condescending and his attitude a shrill one – when opponents of his proposed changes to job hiring criteria invaded his office he instructed FDLE to forcibly remove the protestors which included two state representative, Tony Hill and Kendrick Meek.  When Meek championed a ballot initiative which voters embraced to limit public school class size, Bush admitted he had a “devious plan” to prevent its implementation.  Eventually Bush’s heavy-handed politics ran its course with more process-oriented Republican legislators eventually rebelling and bottling up many of his plans.

It would be incorrect to label all of Bush’s Florida GOP opponents as moderates. Some were genuinely conservative members that simply believed the legislative process should involve some give and take between branches of government. Floridians did not elect Jeb Bush king of the state, yet he routinely behaved like it.  Behind the Bush façade of “listening” and “adult leadership,” his sense of entitlement and unwillingness to compromise was always just below the surface.

The tone which Bush has long taken in speeches, that of a school master lecturing unruly students is the same exact tenor he took here in Florida. While many in the capital press corps were not impressed by this, in the low-caliber world of Florida politics, Bush got away with it for years. Many reporters in Florida were not snowed by the act and if Bush didn’t like a news story or the tone of a question he would blow up. Jeb faced zero electoral consequences with low-information Florida General Election voters (Bush didn’t face a GOP Primary challenge in 1998 or 2002, though by the reelection campaign many sitting GOP officeholders were tired of him) for the way he conducted himself in office. The economy was good and when he ran for reelection in 2002 the Florida Democratic Party gave him an assist by nominating an equally tone deaf candidate who was worse than milk toast on the stump.

Bush however not having had to connect with GOP activists in some time and without a sharp concise message for television interview is a complete and total dud in this Presidential race. The name Phil Gramm (1996)  quickly comes to mind when watching Bush’s campaign implode. Gramm, a big money GOP Senator from Texas had all the momentum early on but did not even make it to New Hampshire. Gramm’s Supply-Side economic theories were still in vogue during the 1990’s in the GOP but he proved to be a poor candidate who despite having the second most endorsements in the race and the near united support of the conservative talking heads that had come to prominence in the Clinton first term, he never made it to first base.

Jeb Bush is unlikely to make it to first base either. Rather than embrace his former protégé’ Marco Rubio, Bush seems to be determined to go down in a blaze of glory like the tragic figure he is by spitefully attacking Florida’s Junior Senator. Make no mistake about it, Rubio is as dangerous an ideologue as Bush, but unlike the former Florida Governor, his history of temperamental meltdowns are relatively limited.

Governor Bush never had the temperament to be President. Thankfully for our state and nation it is looking increasingly unlikely he will ever live in the White House.

 

6 comments

  1. nice analysis, I had forgotten about all those details

  2. There was a statewide faculty union in universities–United Faculty of Florida when Jeb was elected.. Bargaining was done state wide. Bush de-certified the unions. Elections had to be held on every campus and the CBAs renegotiated. This took hundred and hundreds of hours of members’ time. I don’t know if Jeb thought union members would give up or just wanted to waste our time. Well, he took a lot of time but the unions were re-established as independent on each campus. An under the radar but painful process. No, Jeb didn’t fix it;
    Perhaps Jeb thought people would forget this?
    And don’t get me started on how badly he treated public libraries…

  3. The demise of the Jeb campaign has been wildly exaggerated. I suspect Bush will do better than predicted in New Hampshire (via family ties in Maine). But, Bush is looking beyond this and having deftly played the racial (blacks, Democrats, “free stuff”) and gun (“stuff happens”) cards in South Carolina, where I suspect he will win or come in second. But this is a war of attrition. On March 1 there will be 12 primaries in 1 day; 7 of which are in the South. Four days later, four states will have a primary on the same day and 3 days later there will be another four states. A week later there will be 5 states including, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina. Who will have the money to compete in all of these states; Jeb, Trump, Cruz and maybe Rubio?

  4. Kartik’s characterization of Jeb is spot on and may even be too charitable. More importantly, the national media is completely out to lunch on who Jeb Bush is and was as a governor. W. ended up sucking so much power in the wake of 9/11 and at the urging of others, like Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove. But, Jeb, if his track record in Florida is any indication, plans to make the President more powerful than any time is recent memory; certainly since FDR. In Florida, the legislature didn’t matter, courts didn’t matter and public opinion didn’t matter. It was only what Jeb wanted to do and he almost always got his way. Terri Schiavo is the perfect example. He subsumed more power and exercised more latitude than any Florida governor, since, at least, the Civil War. Moreover, his deregulatory policies played an important role in the global financial meltdown. His repeated refusal to regulate mortgage brokers led to billions is fraudulent mortgages, write-downs, foreclosures and bankruptcies. He dramatically increased the income/wealth differences in the state through his tax policies. Just imagine a repeat of this on the national level.

  5. Millie Herrera · · Reply

    Jeb Bush’s temperament and his condescending “I’m rich and who the hell are you to challenge me” sense of entitlement is showing in this GOP primary. It didn’t take long to show its ugly head, and that will be his downfall.

    IF he makes it out of the primary, which I am now seriously doubting, we Floridians have a duty to ler the rest of the nation know who Jebby Bush REALLY is and what he did to our state.

    In addition to all the before mentioned actions, he dismantled the Florida Department of Labor, with the terrible consequences that Floridians have less access to protection from wage theft and illegal, abusive practices from unscrupulous employers. During my tenure as presidential appointee as the Southeast Regional Representative for US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, my region consisted of nine states: Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. With GOP controlled Congress continually underfunding the US DOL, it was clear how critical the role of state departments of labor are to the protection of workers, which Florida clearly lacks. We can thank Jebby Bush for that unfortunate “legacy”.

    We now have a literacy test pre-requisite in Florida for workers to collect their unemployment benefits, and nowhere to turn when they’re denied. Folks, this is the equivalent of paying an insurance premium every month for car insurance and being made to take a literacy test AND being denied payment when you total your car!! Where is the outrage??!! This is one of Jebby Bush’s proud legacies, and he will do it nationally if elected president.

    Thank you for this excellent article! We need to share it widely so the nation begins to see who Jebby Bush really is.

  6. Rubio & Bush = RuBush.

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