The new tome from the avid e-mailer who traveled the state with a BlackBerry holstered to his waist is packed with messages from aides, state legislators, federal officials and everyday Floridians on issues including education reform, immigration reform, tort reform and the state's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Readers hoping for fresh insight into Bush's personal life and famous family will be disappointed. Are there interactions with his famous parents? Barely. New information on how he tracked the 2000 Florida ballot recount? Not really. Copies of e-mails he sent to former president George W. Bush, his brother? Nope.
"Since this book is the story of my governorship, I chose not to include personal email exchanges," Jeb Bush explains in the book's foreword.
Instead, he focuses most of the book on his deep personal interest in state policy: "I hope you enjoy reading about medical liability tort reform, because it was one of my top priorities for 2003," he tells readers who make it to Page 430 of the 730-page book.
Florida state law required Bush to hand over copies of e-mail related to official business and he completed the process last year, months before beginning his presidential campaign. In February, he published all of his official e-mails to a personal Web site and challenged Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton as well as other Republican presidential candidates to do the same.
Matthew Corrigan, a professor of political science at the University of North Florida who has studied Bush's career, said the book is likely to show that the governor "was in the 'weeds' on policy matters and was responsive to individual voters. His e-mail sometimes can show a more emphatic side of him than his in-person demeanor."
Whether that will matter to voters is unclear.
The book's release comes just days after critics widely panned Bush for a flat-footed attempt during a Republican presidential debate to attack Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for his spotty attendance for Senate votes. The senator's quick response appeared to shock Bush, and the exchange deeply concerned Bush's closest supporters and donors who worry that he may not be able to recover.
On Sunday, Bush conceded on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "I know that I got to get better at doing the debate. I'm a grinder. I mean, when I see that I'm not doing something well, then I reset and I get better."
On Monday, Bush will begin a "Jeb Can Fix It" tour to highlight his accomplishments as Florida governor. He plans to cite the book as evidence that he has the experience needed to serve as president. The tour will begin with stops in Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. On Tuesday, Bush plans to campaign in South Carolina before taking a bus tour of New Hampshire for the rest of the week. Along the way, he will be joined by former colleagues and constituents, who plan to speak about how his work benefited Floridians, campaign aides said.
Campaign aides provided a copy of the e-book to The Washington Post and other news organizations ahead of its publication.
As promised, there is very little of Bush's e-mail interactions with family and friends. There are just two brief messages from his father and mother, former president George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush.
In January 2003, the former first lady wrote to tell her second-oldest son that "we are in the car going to hear the [Oak Ridge Boys] in Galveston and have a new toy. We love you. Mom."
The "new toy" was a BlackBerry.
The former president wrote in March 2003 to thank Jeb Bush for sending a copy of a photo from his second inauguration.
"I love the photo of your swearing in," George H.W. Bush wrote. "It is so good of you that I have gotten over my being cropped out by the photographer. Thanks a lot. Love to all, says your devoted, DAD."
"thanks Gampy," Jeb Bush replied. "I love you."
The book also includes several pages of e-mails Jeb Bush received during the 2000 recount of ballots cast in the presidential election. He described the cliffhanger conclusion to the contest between George W. Bush and former vice president Al Gore as "a six-week roller-coaster ride, which included recounts, lawsuits, court rulings, overturned court rulings, contradictory court rulings, and accusations of wrongdoing on both sides. The entire country developed a case of whiplash while waiting to see who would be the next president."
"Because of my obvious conflict of interest, I stayed completely out of it," Bush said — a statement that is impossible to verify, given the self-selected nature of his e-mails released to state archives and published in the book.
Instead of messages between Bush and Florida officials, or his family or his brother's presidential campaign aides, he instead published a series of mostly emotional, critical e-mails from concerned Floridians.
On Nov. 22, 2000, Tom Bennis wrote to complain that state residents "look even dumber" after a series of confusing court decisions.
Bush replied: "With all due respect, it upsets me more than you will know that Florida is the brunt of the jokes I've seen."
A few days after the U.S. Supreme Court declared his brother the victor, Jeb Bush received an e-mail from Barbara Walters, the ABC News anchor.
"Finally, you and your family can get some sleep," she wrote before requesting what she hoped would be the governor's first and only television interview about the recount.
"I am not a big fan of the national limelight. I am really only interested in serving my state," he said in reply. "I appreciate your interest in interviewing me but I will have to take a pass. I will pass on your regards to my parents."
From 2001 to 2005, Bush earned national attention for his personal intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman whose husband and parents sparred for years over whether to keep her alive despite a vegetative state. Her case sparked a fierce national debate about whether government should intervene in matters of life and death.
Bush said that he received his first Schiavo-related e-mail in 2001, from her father, Robert Schindler, who asked him to intervene.
"I would like to see you personally to discuss this travesty of justice," Schindler wrote. "Terri’s case may be beyond your realm of authority, but I sincerely believe you could be helpful, if only to prevent a reoccurrence of this atrocity to future vulnerable individuals."
Bush wrote that "it was many months before I realized this letter was only the beginning of a very long, complicated, and controversial journey for her family and me."
Feedback about the case peaked shortly before Terri Schiavo's death in March 2005, when Bush said that he received more than 16,000 e-mails about the situation. The messages were prompted by state and federal court cases that blocked Florida officials from taking protective custody of Schiavo shortly before she died.
Once the courts ruled, "there was nothing more we could do," Bush wrote. "At the end of the day, I knew in my heart I had done absolutely everything I could to save Terri."
Around the time of Schiavo's death, Bush exchanged several e-mails with Dawn Armstrong, the wife of a U.S. soldier who had been killed in combat. She thanked Bush for taking the time to call, describing him as "a comfort" and adding that she would be "praying for you and your administration."
"You are making me cry," he replied. "Maybe it is the day with Terri’s death. I don’t know but the fact that you would write what you did given your loss, makes me thank God Almighty that there are people like yourself. I am nothing."
Bush's book is available for sale only in electronic format by Amazon, whose owner, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post. After costs, proceeds from the book will go to Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a Bush spokeswoman said.