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Media pundits beg, but governor just pets them and walks away


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 7, 2001

One by one, they come, important people in the circles where they travel. Politicians bow and scrape to them and are quick to grant them time on the schedule for an interview.

One by one, they come, important people in the circles where they travel. Politicians bow and scrape to them and are quick to grant them time on the schedule for an interview.

They influence the opinions of millions of Americans. They fly in from Washington, New York or Los Angeles, intent on interviewing Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the younger brother of the president.

Each one arrives convinced that their mere appearance at his door will impress the people who surround the governor and result in an interview.

An interview with the governor is all they want. Perhaps it will give them insight into the older brother, or reveal some little childhood tidbit about this family that is the closest thing we have to royalty at the moment.

Vanity Fair is doing a piece on Jeb, so they dispatched David Margolick, a contributing editor and former New York Times reporter of some renown.

For days Margolick shadows Bush, standing at his elbow while the governor rubs shoulders with lobbyists and legislators on the night before the session begins, sitting through the governor's State of the State speech.

The governor is polite, but distant, to the charms of Vanity Fair.

For days Margolick interviews, instead, members of the Florida press corps who know the governor best. After a frustrating week of trailing around the Florida Capitol listening to talk about tax cuts, affirmative action, high-speed rail and the like, he is gone, back to New York to write.

Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker and O.J. Simpson fame comes next to town, trying hard to get his foot in the governor's door for a book he's writing about the Florida election.But alas, there is no time for Toobin either. And so he leaves after a round of interviewing the lawyers who gained a few minutes of fame defending President Bush or Vice President Gore.

Toobin does a "Return to Hanging Chad" postcard from Tallahassee, recalling the city's 36-day media siege for the New Yorker.

Larry King has called. He wants to interview the governor -- LIVE. The governor has resisted.

Connie Chung and Barbara Walters have called. No sale.

Diane Sawyer came to pay a personal visit. A hello, but no interview.

All of the morning television shows, even perky Katie Couric, get turned down by the governor.

The governor wants to talk about growth management, economic development, cutting taxes and all sorts of Florida issues.

They want to talk about his brother and how it feels to be the brother of the president. The governor doesn't like the "navel gazing" sorts of interviews and sees no advantage in it.

And the governor says he has no national ambition; he will not run for president or the U.S. Senate or anything else.

"So what's the point?" asks Communications Director Katie Baur. "He cares about Florida and policies that concern the state."

And he especially doesn't like being compared with his older brother, even when the younger brother is made to look smarter and better.

And next comes Maureen Dowd, shrill and sarcastic Bush-bashing columnist for the New York Times.

Surely the younger brother will let her in the door. Not unless she'd like to hear him talk about growth management, and perhaps not even then.

The governor says he likes being governor. He likes talking about issues that affect Florida. He lights up when tossed a question about economic development or fixing affirmative action.

This guy is a wonk whose head is definitely not turned by all the demands for national publicity.

It's become a sport of sorts, watching all these high-profile news media types come to town begging.

Think of the egos that are suffering from this state of affairs.

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