Jeb Bush

Don't Underestimate Jeb Bush

The former Florida governor has an impressive conservative record.


Don't underestimate Jeb Bush.

That's the main point I took away from a weekend reading Conservative Hurricane: How Jeb Bush Remade Florida, by Matthew T. Corrigan. Professor Corrigan's book, issued last year by the University Press of Florida, is attracting new attention from Democratic opposition researchers wondering what they may be up against in 2016 and from Republicans curious about the new high-profile figure on the list of likely 2016 presidential candidates.

Anyone laboring under the misimpression that the former governor of Florida is some kind of mushy moderate will get a bracing reality check from Conservative Hurricane, which credits (or blames, depending on where you sit) Bush for turning Florida into "an executive-driven conservative public-policy showcase."

On economic policy, Bush turned Florida, which already had no state income tax, into an even lower-tax state by implementing what Professor Corrigan describes as "the largest tax cut in Florida's history," a reduction of about $20 billion. Tort reform capped punitive damages for businesses. He privatized the state government's personnel department, its child protective services, its prison food services, its Medicaid program, and its defense of death-row inmates.

The state government workforce was reduced by 12 percent, as Bush pursued a goal he set out in his second inaugural address: "I look forward to the time when these buildings of government are empty. There would be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society than if we can make these buildings around us empty of workers—silent monuments to the time when government played a larger role than it deserved or could adequately fill."

On education reform, Bush gave schools A through F letter grades based on student test scores, gave students in failing schools vouchers for private schools, and implemented merit pay for teachers. Test scores jumped, as did high school graduation rates.

On social issues, Bush put an emphasis on life. The state issued optional "choose life" license plates, passed a parental notification law for minors who wanted abortions, and restricted late-term "partial-birth" abortions. He went to great lengths in an ultimately fruitless attempt to prevent Terri Schiavo's husband from having Schiavo's feeding tube removed.

He created two "faith-based prisons" over the objections of the American Civil Liberties Union. By executive order, he eliminated race and gender-based affirmative action in public college admissions and in state contracting, denouncing a sit-in protest by two black lawmakers as "childish."

Bush backed gun rights by supporting a "stand-your-ground" law, signing legislation preventing gun ranges for being sued for causing pollution, requiring stores that sell hunting and fishing licenses to make voter registration applications available, and exempting concealed-weapons licenses from disclosure under the state's public records laws.

Philosophically, as Corrigan describes it, Bush saw big government as eroding character and virtue. Bush is certainly no pure libertarian; among other things, he approved half a billion in state and local incentives to lure the non-profit Scripps Research Institute to Palm Beach County from California. While Bush used his line item veto to block hundreds of millions in spending approved by his Republican legislature, the state budget overall did increase on his watch to about $74 billion from about $49 billion, according to Corrigan. Some of that increase was hurricane relief and Medicaid, partially reimbursed by the federal government, and it also came at a time when the value of the dollar was declining relative to gold.

Bush's record shows he believes in an activist role for the elected leader in pursuing conservative policy goals. But the bottom line is that whatever Bush's supposed recent heresies are on the Common Core, immigration, or tax increases, his record as governor shows doesn't exactly mark him as any sort of moderate milquetoast.

Professor Corrigan, who teaches political science and public administration at the University of North Florida, delivers a sometimes critical but nonetheless admiring portrait of Bush's record as governor from 1999 to 2007. It's an account whose general direction is confirmed by a recent dispatch in a Florida newspaper, which observed, "the way Bush is viewed now does not always jibe with his record as governor. For example, criticism from Tea Party conservatives that Bush is too moderate is at odds with those who remember him as one of Florida's most conservative governors, cutting taxes for the wealthy, embracing anti-abortion and gun-rights legislation, privatizing state services, battling teachers' unions and expanding school vouchers."

Some people may find that record attractive. Others may find it repellant. But anyone trying to make sense of presidential candidate Jeb Bush will in the end have to reckon with the reality of his Florida record, which, like it or hate it, is one of concrete and substantive accomplishments.

NEXT: "No Means No/We Know That Now": The Simpsons Mocked P.C./Disney in Last Night's Episode

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  1. He was by all accounts a very good governor. And objectively, his positions, sans common core are largely pretty good. The problem is that our dynastic streak in politics has to die and fairly or unfairly, his career needs to die to start making that happen. He wouldn’t make a bad President, but neither would a lot of other people.

    1. I wasn’t really into politics when Jeb ran things, but what i do remember is the wailing when he cut state jobs. If he gets the nomination I’ll look at his platform.

    2. “The problem is that our dynastic streak in politics has to die”

      Republicans don’t deserve to win if they won’t even try to shake the country club stereotype.

      1. I disagree. Republicans will never be able to break any stereotype, because the media will invent one for them.

        Remember, Republicans are both Country Club blue-bloods and trailer park-dwelling rednecks, all at the same time.

    3. Jeb’s ‘act of love’ position on immigration is not popular now and is trending to be even less popular. The cat’s out of the bag on that, he can’t take it back.

      And where is Fredo Bush? Every dynastic family has one.

      1. In the White House at the beginning of the 21st Century. Now he’s retired and has taken up painting.

        Check out some of the stuff Reagan said about a young W.

        1. Dubya doesn’t seem to have the peccadilloes to be a true Fredo, he’s just foolish, a sucker for a good sales pitch.

  2. The party wants Jeb to run, but the family doesn’t want him to. HW/W believe that Jeb’s son, George P. (TX land commissioner) has the best chance of winning and that a failed Jeb run will set back George P.’s career by a decade. Real life Downton Abbey in Kennebunkport.

  3. Putting Bush’s name in front of urban swing voters, yet again, is an excellent way to ensure that Hillary Clinton will be our next president.

    Maybe he should choose Liz Cheney as his running mate!

  4. He fits right in to the newly reinvented GOP, which has gone from being hypocritical about small government through sheer idiocy (get your government hands off my Medicare) back to being knowingly hypocritical (it’s the job of government at the highest level to get involved in a dispute over removing a patient’s feeding tubes). I predict even GOP primary voters won’t care that much about Common Core or whatever other minor (but allegedly all-important) sins against tea party purity. But it is difficult to see how he overcomes being a Bush. The donors must be very stressed–his record shows he’s quite willing to shovel money their way with reckless abandon, but dammit if his brother doesn’t rank as among history’s greatest man-made disasters.

    1. Tony, you are even more incoherent than usual. Are you drunk? Coked up? On a bender after one of your tricks stiffed you or your pimp beat you up?

      1. That was the last two weeks. Now I’m just delirious from trying to readjust to work hours.

      2. Tony, isn’t even real.

    2. Tony thinks the GOP is libertarian.

      1. I’ve read the polling statistics, and it turns out you’re all the same people, except some are too old to care that the designation “Republican” is not exactly as solid as it was in the Reagan days, and the others are “libertarians.” Nevertheless, besides the age difference, you’re both overwhelming white, male, and stupid, and you all believe in a bunch of slogans about small government that you abandon every time the concept threatens to negatively affect you in the slightest way.

        1. “Hope and change” now there’s an ethos.

          1. It’s at least uplifting, unlike the alternatives that translate basically to “Fuck you and give me your food stamp money you lazy asshole.” Frank Luntz deserves every penny he got paid is what I’m saying.

            1. Tony|1.5.15 @ 5:53PM|#
              “It’s at least uplifting,”

              Now, THERE’s damning with faint praise!
              At least the trains run on time!

              1. At least the chocolate ration was increased comrades!

            2. No, no dude – its ‘fuck you and give me back *my money*’.

            3. At least we can afford our arugula!

        2. Well, obviously, Tony, if you’ve read polling statistics, then what you say must be true!

          And that would make Jeb Bush the libertarian choice! That all makes perfect sense…

          If you’re a joke.

          1. Because Rand Paul isn’t a joke at all.

            1. he’s no Hillary or Liawatha but he chose to be a doctor rather than a professional crony.

              1. Seems to me he’s just as much of a senator as Warren is and Clinton was.

                1. He’s no less of a senator than Obama was.

                2. I think the point is, what was Hillary Clinton before being a senator?

                  You know, what’s her experience beyond being a crony ex-president’s cum dumpster?

                  1. Hillary was bad at that too. See Lewinsky, Monica.

            2. I suspect Rand Paul will probably carry New Hampshire. And if he does that, it won’t be a joke at all.

              What’s weird is your enthusiasm for Jeb Bush–because you like him better than Rand Paul?

              Is that what I’m to understand?

        3. . . . and you all believe in a bunch of slogans about small government that you abandon every time the concept threatens to negatively affect you in the slightest way.

          No offense guys, but kinda has a point here.

          For examples look at any gay marriage or immigration thread on this site. People who are normally pro-small government and equality go batshit insane defending the use and expansion of government power to support their stance.

  5. Ah, yes, Jeb Bush:

    “The suit against Altman is the ninth price-gouging suit to be filed by Crist’s office since Gov. Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency on Aug. 10, in anticipation of Hurricane Charley. At the time, Crist warned that a business owner who chooses to charge inflated prices for goods or services deemed an “essential commodity” would face a lawsuit.”…..story.html

    The hack politico who made sure generators stayed in warehouses all over the country rather than be shipped to FL where they might have been of value.
    Now, how could anyone underestimate an ignorance so abysmal?

    1. That’s a hard spot for a governor. People don’t want to hear about market forces supplying their demand as a hurricane is approaching. Now you and I know the increase in price would have brought more supply but I doubt the average voter knows that. This is why I will never go into politics. I don’t have the patience to explain every decision I make.

      1. Florida Man|1.5.15 @ 5:40PM|#
        “That’s a hard spot for a governor.”

        Yes, it is. And that’s the reason he’s paid to be governor.
        Instead, he stuck a wet finger in the air, and X people didn’t have electricity as a result.
        If he ended up president, there’s no reason to suggest he’d do other than pander on a national level.

        1. No doubt. I wouldn’t expect anything more from a career politician.

      2. I’ve lived in FL my whole life, and I’ve got a great idea for a small businessman in retail:

        Set aside 3 sq ft of floor space. Stack some 1 gallon jugs of water there and price them at $10 each. Sure, dust will settle on them over the years because no one will buy them. BUT, when the hurricane hits, you can sell them without changing the price — legally!

        1. Not bad, but the last real hurricane was 2004 so I’m not sure how long it will take to recoup your investment.

          1. Ten years ago? That can’t be right. I read somewhere that global warning would increase the number of hurricanes.

            1. Oh it has, its has, they’re just hidden in the ocean.

          2. It’s still a great business idea. Has anyone gone broke yet underestimating the stupidity of global warming believers and other liberals?

          3. The roof tiles and fence I lost to Wilma say it was a bit more recently than that.

        2. Libertarian|1.5.15 @ 6:04PM|#
          “I’ve lived in FL my whole life, and I’ve got a great idea for a small businessman in retail:”

          I would bet that every generator that went out the door went under some arrangement whereby the generator was priced *exactly* as is had been, but you also bought that tarp to keep it dry afterwards for $150.

        3. Unseal the jugs, leave them sitting out for a few days, and label them “organic.”

    2. This is exactly why I despise Ol’ Jeb. That, and he reminds me of Ned Beatty, for some reason.

  6. I agree with Tony. Republicans and right-wingers should just be killed.

    1. Harrumph!

  7. The Republican voters who stayed home for Romney will stay at home for Jeb.

  8. Is it possible to underestimate Jeb Bush?

    1. As long as you don’t misunderestimate him.

  9. Thank you for that picture, Ira. It allowed me to finally determine that Jeb Bush is just K D Lang in glasses.

  10. He still sucks on Common Core. That being said, I’d take Jeb over Romney or Santorum or Huckabee anyday.

    1. What’s your (and other poster’s) complaint about Common Core?

      1. How about top down imposition of national standards designed to treat every child as an identical widget (and hammer any who aren’t quite uniform unto that shape) with a heavy overemphasis on teaching to the test rather than developing individuality and critical thinking skills.

        A lot of the criticism’s of the math curriculum in Common Core are flawed as the techniques and methods are solid and generally speaking better than the traditional brute memorization path that we all grew up with but that still doesn’t mean that Common Core is a good idea or something we should be tolerating from the Federal Government

        1. How about top down imposition of national standards…

          I want my child to know that force is the product of mass and the rate of change of momentum. I want him to know the subtlety that acceleration is a vector, not a scalar quantity, but I’m OK if he/she doesn’t get *that* at first.

          If top-down standards are lacking, what to you propose from the well-spring of bottom-up, or alternative standards?

          I’m not trolling, it’s really a tricky question.

          1. What you want your kids to know is irrelevant. Do you want the Federal Government dictating now just what your kids will learn, but when and how they will learn it.

            1. What you want your kids to know is irrelevant.

              You don’t have kids.

              1. Lol. Did you really just go full “4 teh childrunz!!” unironically?

              2. Actually I have 4 aged 6 – 14

  11. Absolutely he can’t be underestimated in the Primaries.

    After all, he’ll have the support of the entire Democratic party

  12. Roll em up dude, lets go man.

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