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The case against Jeb Bush, the force behind SB 6

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While the future of the state’s education system hangs in the balance, let’s take a closer look at the real force behind the Florida Senate’s drive to pass SB 6, Jeb Bush (“I talked to Jeb this morning,” Thrasher said Thursday, still celebrating passage of the tenure bill, albeit on a close 21-17 vote. “He was very pleased with what we did. Very pleased.”)

The chattering class – typified in this case by one Scott Maxwell – continue to propagate the myth that

Jeb Bush actually knew policy and, for the most part, respected the role of government and its elected officials.

Scott Maxwell: These bills are just plain foolish“. The assertion that Jeb Bush “actually knew policy and, for the most part, respected the role of government” is plain silly. Consider these examples from among many:

According to The Washington Post, Jebbie “reduced taxes by $12.2 billion over his eight years, with more than half of that going to the wealthiest 4.5 percent of the population. That saved the average risk taker [sic] more than $1,500 a year by the time Jeb left office. … Jeb Bush says that his tax cuts created jobs in Florida and gave us the best economy in the country. (In reality, Jeb had the lowest job-creation rate of any Florida governor dating to 1971.)”

“Jeb!” left Floridafirst in the nation in mortgage fraud, second in foreclosures, last in high school graduation rates.” Post-Jeb Bush, Florida is facing the “worst real estate meltdown since the Depression. We’ve got a water crisis, insurance crisis, environmental crisis and budget crisis to go with our housing crisis.”

Indeed, under “Jeb!”, “the bulk of the state’s tax cuts have gone toward businesses and investors. Lawmakers joined a federal phase out of the estate tax in 2002, resulting in a net $2 billion plus tax cut thus far. And Bush has led the charge against the state’s intangibles tax on investments. Since 1999, the tax (on individuals with at least $250,000 of investments) has been reduced four times with a total cumulative cut of nearly $4 billion.”

In “Where was Jeb?“, Forbes Magazine points out that the “government money market debacle unfolding in Florida is raising questions about former governor and presidential brother Jeb Bush’s possible involvement in the mess.”

Palm Beach Post political writer S.V. Date described “Bush as a arrogant, power-hungry ruler who acted as if he had been elected king, rather than governor.” As for separation of powers and all that, one columnist explained that explained that Jebbie’s “executive branch’s firm belief in the Jebian Supremacy remain[ed] even in the face of the Supreme Court. Gov. Bush said he will ‘calmly’ decide what to do next. Following the constitution as definitively interpreted by the court does not seem to be an option.”

Jebbie “Bush’s back-to-back terms were marred by frequent ethics scandals, official bungling and the inability of the government he downsized to meet growing demands for state services, including education and aid for the infirm and the elderly.” Indeed, basic competence has been an issue for Bush.” When all is said and done, “when Jeb Bush speaks, people cringe

And then there’s the signature event of Jebbie’s reign, when “Florida officials planned to seize Terri Schiavo on Thursday from her hospice bed. But local police got in the way … Participants in the high stakes test of wills, who spoke with The Herald on the condition of anonymity, said they believed the standoff could ultimately have led to a constitutional crisis and a confrontation between dueling lawmen.” This was not really surprising: In a June 16, 2004 column, “former FDLE spokeswoman Elizabeth Wimberley Bernbaum wrote that “during his first term, Gov. Jeb Bush regularly inserted himself into ongoing investigations of political or particularly sensitive natures while I worked with FDLE by requesting continuous updates and tacitly pressuring the agency at every level.”

As for terrorism, before becoming Governor, “Jeb Bush, [was] instrumental in securing the release from prison of militant Cuban exiles convicted of terrorist offenses, according to a new book.” And, upon becoming Governaor”Jeb Bush nominated Raoul Cantero, the grandson of Batista, as a Florida supreme court judge despite his lack of experience. Mr Cantero had previously represented [Orlando] Bosch [whom Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called an ‘unrepentant terrorist’] and acted as his spokesman, once describing Bosch on Miami radio as a ‘great Cuban patriot'”.

Jebbie engaged in regressive cultural politics; his”nominee to head the state’s troubled child welfare agency signed onto a treatise calling for more corporal punishment of children and the consignment of women to the home.” Jebbie’s appointee, “Cheri Pierson Yecke began her job as one of the most powerful educators in the state … she wrote articles blaming childhood obesity on the ‘liberal media’ and said ‘liberal criminal sentencing laws’ make streets unsafe for kids.”

“Jeb!” was “an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, his bold experiment has been a success, at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations.”  “Jeb!” seemed addicted to selling off government in the form of privatization, yet “undermining the privatization push is a stunning lack of information about how well it has performed in the past eight years. Audit after audit, including some from Bush’s own inspector general, concluded that the savings or other benefits of such private deals were often impossible to deduce because the contracts written early in Bush’s administration lacked clear parameters.”

Jebbie’s privatization schemes included these gems: “Two state agency heads resigned in disgrace over having too-close relationships with their vendors … Corrections Secretary Jim Crosby pled guilty to felony charges for accepting kickbacks in exchange for getting a friend hired by the commissary vendor. … Bush’s social services secretary, Jerry Regier, and two of his subordinates resigned after acknowledging they took favors from lobbyists. In another case, state investigators found it reasonable to believe that a contract employee working at the State Technology Office might have used insider information to help her company win a $126-million contract for technology services.” And “years of troubles tied to Convergys $350 million contract … to computerize and centralize Florida’s human resources system since 2002. One former Convergys worker is doing prison time for stealing state worker identities.”

Jeb Bush issued an executive order “directing state agencies ‘to voluntarily comply’ with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act’s standards, and leaving cities and counties to decide for themselves what they needed to do. But no state resources were devoted to ensuring compliance or guiding safety efforts. The move was a wink and a nod toward protecting employees, and little more. Then in 2006 a tragic explosion of methanol occurred at a wastewater treatment plant in Daytona Beach.”

Self-proclaimed “deep thinker” Jeb Bush was a 1997 signatory to the Project for the New American Century, the neoconservative blueprint for a more ‘Reaganite’ foreign policy”, the very “thinking” that resulted in the Georgie Bush’s foreign policy catastrophes.

During the 2000 election imbroligio, which occurred on Jebbie’s watch, it seems his “office in Tallahassee made 95 telephone calls to the George W. Bush presidential campaign, its advisors, lawyers and staffers during the 36-day recount period, records show. At least 10 calls came from an office number used primarily by Jeb Bush …”.

This of course is just the tip of the iceberg.  There is much, much more.  The media companies paper it over because they of course want Jebbie to seek national office – they want to get on the big bus with the real reporters.

Back to Maxwell’s article: the claim that Jeb Bush “knew policy and, for the most part, respected the role of government”? Surely you jest.

Although Maxwell misses his Jebbie, the man in fact has never left. Jebbie’s spawn fill the Legislature, and his dead hand governs virtually everything done in the Legislature. Steve Bousquet explains:

Floridians may have voted for a Democratic president in 2008, but their state Legislature is becoming more conservative.

If the trend continues, it could cause major changes in public policy.

What’s taking place underscores the shift that occurs when a Senate seat or two changes hands, and a conservative replaces a moderate.

The best example is in greater Jacksonville.

The death last year of Jim King, a moderate Republican who had little interest in wedge issues, hastened the election of John Thrasher, a conservative firebrand and former House speaker who’s making a big splash, defying conventional wisdom that freshman senators should know their place.

Thrasher is pushing laws to lessen the threats of lawsuits on businesses, relax limits on class sizes and virtually abolish tenure for teachers in the name of more accountability.


A version of this appears in Florida Political News: March 28, 2010

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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