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Pity poor Jeb Bush, bullied by Democrats

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© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2000

The governor is pouty.


The mean old Democrats complained because Jeb Bush's daddy was going to address the Florida Legislature next month.

That date happens to be March 9 -- five days before Jeb's brother, W., squares off against John McCain in the Florida presidential primary.

But the governor says there was no politics involved. He is so offended at the very suggestion that he has now asked his daddy to cancel.

"I love my 75-year-old Dad more than life itself," the governor wrote in a bitter letter to the Democrats.

"And I will not subject him to petty partisan attacks directed at me, through him, in the golden years of his life."

Before we get all teary-eyed, four relevant points:

(1) Jeb may blame the Democrats, but Republican politics is at work here, too. There were Republicans who didn't want W.'s daddy getting the pulpit just before the election, either.

(2) This move actually dovetails with W.'s current needs, namely, the need NOT to look like the deck is stacked too much in his favor. (That's why the Republicans dropped their objection to McCain being on the New York ballot, too.)

(3) Jeb's letter makes it sound like his frail old daddy was going to be wheeled out hooked up to an oxygen tank and fed to the wolves. George Bush can take care of himself plenty well. (Barbara, too. I would rather get on Jeb's wrong side than his mom's any day of the week.)

(4) If the governor isn't careful, he is going to get the reputation of being a whiny butt. Three times in a row now, when something has not gone his way (the protest in his office, the Supreme Court's delay of death penalty changes and now this) the governor has sounded just like Bill Clinton.

Poor, poor me! Those mean, unreasonable people! Waah!

The governor is playing clumsy politics. He is playing politics in the way he canceled the speech. He is playing politics by trying to blame only the Democrats.

He hates being accused of playing politics.

"Your cynical assumptions about the timing of his visit could not be more inaccurate," Bush wrote in his epistle to the Democrats.

Later, he asserted: "Frankly, the date of the presidential primary never entered my mind."

Look, there were two good ways to play this.

The first was to have President Bush come speak and let the dissidents whine. Let them look like the crybabies.

The second was to withdraw gracefully. Maybe make a single, oblique reference to "those who felt it was not appropriate at this time." Let them look like the spoilsports.

But this third way -- quitting, and then boo-hooing about it -- is, well, it's bush-league.

The governor needs to take a couple of days off.

After all that mean stuff, let's take note of the fact that the governor rejected the obvious political route in his newest appointment to the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities.

The deck was stacked big-time for a Republican state representative from Hialeah named Luis Rojas. Rojas tried in the Legislature to raise the phone bills of many Floridians. He works for a law firm that represents BellSouth.

But Bush rejected Rojas and former Senate president John Vogt. He went with the third nominee, Lila A. Jaber, a staff lawyer for the PSC, calling her "exceptionally qualified."

Imagine that! A qualified nominee. Some people say Bush backed off Rojas only because he didn't want the political heat. I say why look a gift horse in the mouth?

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