WASHINGTON, December 27, 2014 – Over the Christmas holiday, thousands of emails sent by Jeb Bush during his time as Florida governor were released by American Bridge, a left wing political action committee.
These emails covered many different topics related to Bush’s eight-year tenure as governor of Florida and provide valuable insight into what kind of president he would make.
At first glance this appears to be a release that would embarrass the 2016 presidential hopeful but it turns out that Bush had already intended to make all 250,000 of the emails he sent as governor available to the public in 2015.
American Bridge, most likely trying to hurt Jeb’s credibility, jumped at the opportunity to publish the emails thus creating the impression that these emails were controversially leaked against the wishes of Bush who (allegedly) was hiding them from the public.
American Bridge described these emails as the “tip of the iceberg” in regards to examining Bush’s record.
However, the messages could end up benefiting Jeb in the long run both in the general election and with his biggest primary challenge of appealing to the base. The emails are not provocative by any means and they confirm the view that the public already had of Jeb Bush as a methodical and intelligent leader who is not afraid to go up against his own party if he disagrees with them on principle.
The emails that were related to immigration, which has been one of the key areas where the GOP base has pushed back against Jeb, were tame and didn’t contain any information that differs from his current reputation. In fact, while re-iterating his belief that we are a country that should absorb immigrants to keep us dynamic, he often took a diplomatic stance and directed immigration questions to the federal level where laws regarding immigration issues are typically constructed.
While there are emails in this release that will surely anger hard line conservatives, there are also several correspondences that could possibly help Bush solidify support from the far right.
Regarding abortion, Bush replied to a constituent who was concerned about partial birth abortion with the following re-assurance, “I oppose the partial-birth abortion procedure,” he wrote. “This year, I will again support legislation that seeks to ban partial-birth abortions in Florida. It is important that the legislature establish a ban in law that will withstand any constitutional challenges. I am pro-life and believe we must create a consensus among all groups to reduce the number of abortions performed in the state of Florida.”
Jeb’s conservative prowess was also on display in several emails such as one where he wrote that federal spending should be drastically cut, especially the number of federal employees.
“One of our goals should be to have fewer government employees each year we are serving,” Bush told two aides in 1998. “We need a baseline from which to start. Labor has huge potential to be reduced, possibly in half.”
“Think about how many times we could use government to decide what is and is not healthy or good for us. I am not sure that is the state we want to live in,” Bush wrote in one of his messages.
The emails are littered with these kind of conservative beliefs that will no doubt surprise many conservatives who have written Bush off as a moderate.
These emails also portray Jeb as someone who sticks to his convictions even when they are unpopular. Bush responded to an email that referred to his brother, President George W. Bush, as the worst president in history because of the Iraq War by saying,
“I respectfully disagree with you. I think our President is right on track,” he wrote. “His speech tonight made our position clear and I am gratified that 60% of the American public agrees. I truly respect your point of view but don’t believe that we are on the wrong track.”
Several mainstream media outlets have concluded that these emails were written by someone who was “mindful they were being watched”.
Characterizing the emails this way clearly exposes the disappointment that many on the Left feel from the realization that this email release will not result in a “gotcha” moment similar to the infamous “47 percent” video tape that helped derail Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012.
American Bridge has risked promoting the opposite reaction they were looking for in the sense that those who disagree with Jeb’s principles are already inclined not to vote for him.
The biggest problem the former governor faces is connecting with his base and these emails are far more complimentary of his conservatism than they are critical.
The emails also serve as a reminder of how tumultuous Bush’s term in office was as it relates to hot button national news stories. In his eight year term, Jeb was faced with the controversial 2000 President Election re-count involving his brother, the Terri Schiavo Supreme Court case, the Elian Gonzalez case, and several other situations.
This email release simply confirms what everyone already knows about Jeb Bush. He governed a conservative state in a conservative manner and was not afraid to shelve popular conservative beliefs in favor of his own personal principles. Furthermore, these messages show that Bush was a very involved governor who served during a very eventful period and still took the time to respond to thousands of emails from his constituents.
Jeb’s presidential qualifications will be thoroughly debated over the next few months assuming he decides to officially enter the race. He will surely be attacked by critics on both sides of the aisle and while some of the attacks will hurt his presidential aspirations some attacks, such as this email release, could end up helping him more than they hurt him.
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