Jeb Bush released a cache of emails from his tenure as governor of Florida on Tuesday that, he clearly hopes, offer some insight into his style of governing. You know, in case you wanted to vote for him for president. (The move was not entirely done out of magnanimity; media outlets including the Post already had copies.)
The website hosting the emails is organized by date and doesn't include a search function, which is pretty unhelpful if you're looking for discussion of a particular topic. So we pulled all of the emails down with an eye toward answering one particular question: What did then-Gov. Jeb Bush feel he needed to apologize for?
Well, lots of things.
Most of the apologies were for being unable to attend or having to cancel public appearances. (Right after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, he apologized to someone for missing an event: "anthrax, economic dev. stimuli and budget are driving my life.") A large number were apologies to staffers either for pestering them with repeated inquiries or, on occasion, annoyed half-apologies having not heard back on a constituent issue. Still others were apologies to Florida residents for unfortunate things that happened in their lives: deaths, divorces, the loss of a house. (On May 28, 2001, he offered his condolences to a man who was looking for a job after divorcing his wife of 47 years. "First of all," Bush replied, "I am so sorry that after 47 years of marriage, things have gotten tough.")
Particular issues warranted apologies to a series groups of people, including emails coming in asking why the state planned to make changes to a medical program.
And then there were the apologies for randomly bringing up the topic of unisex bathrooms. A number of people who wrote to the governor to discuss the affirmative action reforms he called "One Florida," received an unexpected reply.
Occasionally, Bush used apologies as a way to be snarky, such as his Sept. 24, 2000 reply to a representative of an organization for the disabled: "I am sorry you seem to have such a hostile attitude." Or his reply on May 6, 2000 to someone complaining about new county commissioners: "i am sorry that your local government appears to be a mess."
On April 6, 2005 Bush offered an apology (over two emails, after he prematurely hit "send" on the first) to a woman who felt that she and his brother, George W. Bush, weren't sufficiently responsive to the death her son, killed in combat. "I am sorry that your [sic] are disappointed Ms. Evans," Bush wrote. "As I do with all parents and and spouses of soldiers lost, I try to call. I did so with you and your daughter in law. I do so after a period of time because it is hard to get the telephone numbers from the Defense Department and it is appropriate to wait for the grieving process to occur." He then clarified that she was mistaken on the reason for the delay: "Regarding the Super Bowl situation. neither the President nor I attended the event so there was no delay for your family to be with your son."
He frequently apologized on behalf of his staff or those working for the state. On May 19, 2006 he assured someone over email that "my staff is not inept." In October 1999, he replied to complaints about inefficiency: "I am sorry that you were not treated in a customer friendly way. We are striving hard to change the culture of government and it will take a time to make it happen. Having said that, there is no excuse for poor service." On June 28, 2001 he apologized for another person dropping the ball: "I am sorry Commissioner Crist did not connect you with the right folks. I will ask Kim McDougal of my staff to contact you directly." Crist, as in Charlie.
He apologized for other weird things. "I should have written more but I am up to my eyeballs in alligators. I am sorry." (June 4, 1999.) "Sorry Mr. Sensitive earthbalance man.com! :)" (May 11, 2005 to someone from a company called "EarthBalance.") "Sorry about all the hurricanes welcoming you back to Florida." (Oct. 12, 2006.) "Billie, we are busy fighting against the liberal forces on many fronts. I am sorry no one has told me about Jessie's latest efforts." (April 20, 2000.)
He apologized to a woman for referring to her as "Mr." instead of "Ms.": "Marcia, i am sorry for the gender blunder." When she wrote back to say that her name was Maria, he said that he was tired.
One man followed up with Bush to clarify what bill he was referring to in an email (Bush often received emails asking simply for a veto of signature on a bill identified by number, which would prompt the governor to ask for more information.) The bill, the man wrote, was "[t]he one I want vetoed. Probably the one you just signed." To which Bush replied, "Sorry, Steve. I signed it into law today."
At one point Bush apologized to what has all of the classic hallmarks of being a spam email:
At times, the emails convey his fatigue. "The irony of my accessibility via email is that you don't get a canned response and then you get disappointed," he wrote to someone in January 2000. "I am very sorry you feel that way." Or, more directly:
We would be remiss if we didn't note a few other emails that we came across in perusing Bush's files. Like his confidence that he could survive having been booed:
Or his endorsement of a popular consumer product:
And, last but not least, this amazing missed cultural opportunity:
This, then, is what a Jeb Bush presidency has to offer: Personalized emails with apologies for random, sometimes unrelated things, and event after event featuring the president and The Rock. If he doesn't have to cancel.