The Patience of Jeb
Or worse, what Jeb deplores as "navel-gazing" themes, a powerful allergy in the Bush family.
Never Florida, Florida or Florida. He declined to be interviewed for this article, though a spokesman suggested questions by e-mail, the governor's preferred medium -- Bush gives out his Internet address to crowds (Jeb@Jeb.org) and invites citizens to write.
In dealing with the media, e-mail suits the governor's need for control. He picks what he wants to answer, can edit freely and "cc" whom he wishes. E-mail is also easy to ignore.
The Washington Post's trial e-mail to Bush concerns e-mail itself: When did he start using it? How often does he use it? What kinds of business does he use it for? It seems a harmless way to open a conversation. And Bush answers within an hour.
Thank you for writing. I started using email post 1994 but have been an active user since then. I use it now to keep me connected to friends and constituents. I learn from email from folks. I discount the organized email campaigns but I am respectful of the cause. I don't let the press go around our process (once anda while journalists get around them :) ) It is a huge productivity tool that allows me to be focused on the little things that are important all the while I stayed focused on my larger agenda. Happy New Year.
In three follow-up e-mails (which Bush also answers promptly), the governor reveals: He has three e-mail accounts, receives 200 to 300 a day on Jeb@Jeb.org and reads most of them. He guesses that 25 percent of the e-mails come from colleagues, 50 percent from constituents, 10 percent from family and friends and 15 percent from junk mail and list mail. The risk, he says, is in relying too much on e-mail, at the expense of face-to-face nuance. "There is always [the] threat of invading family time!" he writes.
He likes talking about e-mail. But when questions veer into other areas, the door closes. "I am skipping all of the questions," he writes. "I apologize." National attention, he reiterates, is a distraction. "My interest is Florida, Florida, Florida," he writes, and the e-mail proceeds in one long paragraph that concludes:
If you want to write an article about career service reform, I can lend a hand so long as it is not about me. If you are interested in how a state can reduce drug use, I am interested. You might be interested in how governments are embarkingon major technology projects, in which case you might want to look at what we are doing. Did you know that we are the first state to outsource the hr function of government? No profiles.
A Proud Mama's Boy
Jeb Bush can be easy to annoy.
"You don't have to do a lot to get under his skin," says U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), a former state legislator who clashed memorably with Bush. Three years ago, Meek and a colleague refused to leave the governor's office until Bush met with them to discuss a plan to eliminate race-based admissions preferences at state colleges. "Kick their asses out!" Bush snapped. It was not clear if Bush was referring to the legislators or the gathering press. Either way, film rolled and great TV ensued.
People close to Bush often feel protective of him. His political friends -- often the same ones who say it's futile to get to know him too well -- are also quick to profess loyalty. He projects vulnerability, with a mopey posture and fleshy face that seems to cry out for caretaking. He is the Bush with soft eyes -- not small and squinty like the Georges' or bugged like Barbara's.
"Jeb is the most gifted and talented person any of us have been around," says one former aide who asked not to be identified. "We would run through walls for him. And yet there's this faraway sadness about Jeb you can't miss."
"Jebby is a deep sensitive kid with lots of compassion and love in his heart," his father wrote in a diary entry in 1971 that was published in a book of the former president's letters. "But I worry that he may take on some crazy idea."
He is a proud mama's boy who was an infant when his next oldest sibling, Robin, died of leukemia at 3. Barbara Bush writes in her memoir that after Robin's death, "I devoted my time to our children, spending every single moment with Jebby, and then with Georgie when he came home from school."
The 6 1/2-year age difference between the Bush brothers precluded serious intimacy or rivalry. George W. was away at school for much of Jeb's childhood. As adults, they mostly communicated through their parents, or at family events.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
The governor greets supporters at a barbecue before his swearing-in last month.
(Wilfredo Lee -- AP)
_____More on Jeb Bush_____
Jeb Bush Wins Reelection Bid (The Washington Post, Nov 6, 2002)
Gov. Bush's Daughter Sent to Jail (The Washington Post, Oct 18, 2002)
In Florida, a Volatile Political Season (The Washington Post, Mar 31, 2002)
Many Democrats, One Goal in Fla. (The Washington Post, Jun 30, 2001)
A Weeping Jeb Bush Defends Black Staffers (The Washington Post, Feb 24, 2001)
Jeb Bush Sets Out To Try to Unify Fla. (The Washington Post, Dec 15, 2000)