Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush released nearly 22 pages of emails Tuesday, urging the American people to “make up your own mind” about his governing style and personal qualities as he tests the waters for a presidential campaign. Bush said the emails, which are the first chapter of an e-book, were made public “in the spirit of transparency” and the point of the e-book is to “tell the story of a life of a governor.”
The email exchanges between Bush and those on the other end ranged from serious to angry to complaining, including a Florida resident who didn’t want to receive the $100 rebate she was due as part of Bush’s proposed budget in 1999. All of the emails released Tuesday were from January 1999 at the start of his term.
“I am not interested in receiving $100.00 back from the State o [sic] Florida which was just reported on the news this morning. If there is that much surplus in the budget, why can't more money go to education which sorely needs it to build new schools and attract better teachers,” the resident wrote.
Bush responded by saying the government could walk and chew gum at the same time -- that there can be tax cuts while also upping funds for education. “Lois, thanks for your email. Our budget calls for a significant increase in education funding. And, our tax relief proposal will help small businesses and working families and seniors on fixed incomes. We can do both and we should do both,” he wrote.
In another email exchange, Bush was called “another politically correct coward” after a writer accused the then-Florida governor of giving the “cold shoulder” to Ward Connerly, a black businessman and political activist from California who spearheaded ballot initiatives in California to end affirmative action. In his response, Bush denied that characterization and said he was against affirmative action but didn’t think ballot initiatives were the right way to go about ending the practice. Bush called the email writer’s words “unkind.”
“I think my actions this first month have defied your somewhat unkind comment. Our education plan, the stopping of the bullet train, the proposed largest tax cut in our state's history and going to Federal Court to stop a pending trial concerning our foster care system are examples. The great thing though, is that you can have your own opinion as I know you will. I will keep trying to do what is right in service to Florida,” he wrote.
In another email, Frank Brogan, Bush’s lieutenant governor, excitedly emailed his boss about being in a ride-along with cops for a drug sting in Kissimmee, Florida, that “took down about 50 people in four hours on the same [corner] as me.” “Whoever said DRUGS MAKE YOU STUPID! wasn't just whistling the theme song from Shaft!!” Brogan wrote, ending the missive, “with regards from your undercover L.G. (undercover: where being short is a plus!).” Bush had a pithy reply: “Power to the people… the short, little people of course.”
Not all of the emails were silly. In a Jan. 31, 1999, email with the subject “Federal Government,” Bush directed his staff to “identify all of the issues and opportunities with Washington in the next few weeks.” “We should look to be proactive on identifying business opportunities through the World Bank and the Interamerican Development Bank. In addition, I still believe there are opportunities to work with California and texas [sic] on a couple of issues on common concern.”
In the introduction to the email exchanges, Bush said he spent about 30 hours a week writing and responding to messages. He said answering emails were “sometimes what actually energized me. They allowed me to stay connected and get first-hand knowledge from Florida’s citizens ... about what was happening in our communities, in our schools, in our businesses, and with Florida families.”
Check out all of Jeb Bush's emails below: