No, Jeb Bush isn’t the smarter one.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - Twit­ter: @crow­leyre­port Brian E. Crow­ley is a Florida po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and the au­thor of Crow­ley Po­lit­i­cal Re­port. He cov­ered all three of Jeb Bush’s races for gover­nor. By Brian E. Crow­ley

The na­tion has the chance to vote for another Bush now that Jeb has de­clared his can­di­dacy for pres­i­dent. Though his last name is one of the most fa­mous in the coun­try, much of the con­ven­tional wis­dom about Bush is wrong, start­ing with his first name. (It’s ac­tu­ally John, not Jeb.) Here are five other myths about the third child of Ge­orge and Bar­bara.

1 Jeb Bush is a mod­er­ate.

“Repub­li­can vanilla” was how Henry Olsen put it in Na­tional Re­view. Oth­ers have de­scribed Bush’s “‘ very con­ser­va­tive’ prob­lem” (Na­tional Jour­nal), the right’s “wary” re­sponse to his can­di­dacy (the Bos­ton Globe), and sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween him and Hil­lary Clin­ton (Laura In­gra­ham, who said they could “run on the same ticket”). At the heart of Bush’s sup­pos­edly mod­er­ate ide­ol­ogy: his sup­port for Com­mon Core and immigration re­form.

While some con­ser­va­tives dis­agree over those two is­sues, al­most noth­ing in Bush’s record as gover­nor sug­gests he’s a mod­er­ate. The no­tion puzzles Florid­i­ans who watched him gov­ern for eight years, dur­ing which he pushed to dis­rupt public schools by es­tab­lish­ing vouch­ers, grad­ing schools and stu­dent per­for­mance, and cre­at­ing char­ter schools. He re­duced the size of state gov­ern­ment, pro­moted tax cuts for the wealthy, passed tough-on-crime bills and bragged about help­ing Florida have more con­cealed-weapon per­mits than other states.

When Bush left of­fice, “he was widely, unan­i­mously, un­am­bigu­ously re­garded as the most con­ser­va­tive gover­nor in the United States,” ac­cord­ing to Steve Sch­midt, who was Sen. John McCain’s se­nior cam­paign ad­viser in the 2008 pres­i­den­tial race. Darryl Paul­son, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of gov­ern­ment at the Univer­sity of South Florida, said, “He gov­erned as a con­ser­va­tive, and ev­ery­one in the Florida Repub­li­can Party con­sid­ered him a con­ser­va­tive.” Or­lando Sen­tinel colum­nist Scott Maxwell stated it more bluntly: “a union-bust­ing, school-voucher-pro­mot­ing, tax-cut­ting, gunlov­ing, Terri Schi­avo-interfering, hard-core con­ser­va­tive.”

2 Ge­orge is the dumb one, Jeb is the smart one.

“When we first started do­ing [Ge­orge W.] Bush on ‘Satur­day Night Live,’ ” for­mer head writer Adam McKay told the New York Times, “the ‘Bush is dumb’ joke was too good.”

While Ge­orge’s unique way with words launched a thou­sand late-night jokes, Jeb emerged as the “smart one.” Last year, the Times de­scribed the younger Bush’s rep­u­ta­tion thusly: “an in­tel­lec­tual in search of new ideas, a se­rial con­sul­ter of out­siders who rel­ishes an­i­mated de­bate and a prob­ing man­ager who ea­gerly bur­rows into the bu­reau­cratic de­tails.”

Ge­orge the bum­bler, Jeb the thinker. Got it. But some who worked in the Bush White House say the per­cep­tion that Jeb is smarter may have more to do with style than with sub­stance.

Ge­orge’s per­sona is of­ten one of swag­ger and ver­bal stum­bles. How­ever, Keith Hen­nessey, for­mer di­rec­tor of Bush’s Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil, ar­gues that “Pres­i­dent Bush is ex­tremely smart by any tra­di­tional stan­dard. He’s highly an­a­lyt­i­cal and was in­cred­i­bly quick to be able to dis­cern the core ques­tion he needed to an­swer.”

Mean­while, Jeb the pol­icy wonk has had his share of gaffes. Dur­ing the 1994 gu­ber­na­to­rial race, an African Amer­i­can woman asked can­di­date Bush what he would do for blacks in Florida. Bush an­swered, “Prob­a­bly noth­ing.” The re­mark fol­lowed him through the rest of the cam­paign.

And last month, Jeb flubbed ques­tions about whether he would have au­tho­rized the Iraq war, de­mon­strat­ing that, like his big brother, he, too, can slip when he speaks.

Bot­tom line: Ge­orge and Jeb are two in­tel­li­gent men who hap­pen to ex­press them­selves dif­fer­ently.

3 Bush is Marco Ru­bio’s men­tor.

Last year, Na­tional Re­view asked: “Would a pres­i­den­tial run by his men­tor lock Ru­bio out of the race?” The Times called Ru­bio the pro­tege of Bush and de­scribed the sen­a­tor’s de­ci­sion to run as a “Shake­spearean turn in a 15-year re­la­tion­ship so close, per­sonal and en­dur­ing that friends de­scribe the two men as al­most fam­ily.”

Both Ru­bio and Bush live in Mi­ami-Dade County and are heav­ily im­mersed in the His­panic com­mu­nity. As fel­low Repub­li­cans, they worked to­gether and were po­lit­i­cally close as Ru­bio climbed the ranks of the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, even­tu­ally be­com­ing speaker in Novem­ber 2006. Bush once gave Ru­bio a samu­rai sword. But was Ru­bio re­ally Bush’s pro­tege?

“I wouldn’t di­min­ish the re­la­tion­ship or ex­ag­ger­ate it,” Ru­bio told The Washington Post in Fe­bru­ary.

Bush was not a “men­tor in the tra­di­tional sense,” S.V. Dáte noted in a Politico story that ex­am­ined the re­la­tion­ship. Dáte also found that Bush’s archived e-mails don’t sug­gest a bond with Ru­bio any more spe­cial than with other law­mak­ers, and the men took very dif­fer­ent paths, marked by very dif­fer­ent styles, to of­fice. One Florida GOP op­er­a­tive told The Post that Ru­bio re­spected Bush but was “not nec­es­sar­ily a pro­tege,” and strate­gist Ana Navarro sug­gested that a Bush-Ru­bio matchup “would be less awk­ward for Jeb and Marco than for a lot of us around them.”

Why the false nar­ra­tive? A bat­tle be­tween men­tor and mentee cer­tainly in­creases the per­sonal drama of the cam­paign; “Marco Ru­bio vs. His Men­tor” is a much catchier head­line than “Marco Ru­bio vs. other guy who hap­pens to be from Florida.”

4 Bush will cam­paign “joy­fully.”

Last year, while dis­cussing whether he would run for pres­i­dent, Bush said, “The de­ci­sion will be based on ‘ Can I do it joy­fully?,’ be­cause I think we need to have can­di­dates lift our spir­its.” He’s ap­par­ently de­cided that yes, he can.

His op­po­nents in his three races for gover­nor would have been de­lighted to see Bush cam­paign joy­fully. At home, he ran tough races. In 1994, he aired a TV ad ac­cus­ing Demo­cratic Gov. Law­ton Chiles of not mov­ing fast enough to ex­e­cute Larry Mann, the killer of a 10-year-old girl. The spot fea­tured the child’s griev­ing mother, Wendy Nel­son. Chiles “says it can’t be done; we know that it can,” said Cory Tilley, Bush’s spokesman at the time.

The ad led the Sun Sen­tinel to de­clare in an ed­i­to­rial that Bush was “show­ing his ut­ter con­tempt for the truth, for fair play, for his own party’s Code of Con­duct . . . and for the vot­ers he wants to hire him as gover­nor.” (Bush left of­fice in 2007. Mann was ex­e­cuted in 2013.)

In1998, ac­cord­ing to the Los An­ge­les Times, Bush ads por­trayed fis­cally con­ser­va­tive Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay “as hav­ing spent his 30-year po­lit­i­cal ca­reer try­ing to push through tax hikes on ev­ery­thing from se­nior cit­i­zens’ in­come to bur­glar alarms.” In 2002, Bush called Tampa lawyer Bill McBride, who had never held public of­fice, “a tax-and-spend Demo­crat, po­lit­i­cal death in tax-al­ler­gic Florida, which still re­sists a state in­come tax,” as Time mag­a­zine said.

Noth­ing about Bush’s at­tack ads was out of the or­di­nary. And he got hit back just as hard. But it would be a very un­usual pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that did not use neg­a­tive ads, and the idea that Bush’s team will some­how re­frain and em­brace “joy” in­stead is un­likely.

5 He has broad sup­port in Florida.

“Re­turn of the GOP King” was the head­line of a Jan­uary -Mi­ami Her­ald story about the grow­ing Bush cam­paign ma­chine. Just be­fore Bush for­mally be­came a can­di­date, Florida’s three elected Cab­i­net of­fi­cers and 11 of 17 Repub­li­cans in the state’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion en­dorsed him. So Bush has Florida sewn up, right?

Not ex­actly. De­spite this es­tab­lish­ment sup­port, polls sug­gest that Bush, who­has not been on the bal­lot in the Sun­shine State in 13 years, can­not take Florida for granted. A Ma­son-Dixon poll from April showed Bush (30 per­cent) and Ru­bio (31 per­cent) es­sen­tially tied among Florida Repub­li­can vot­ers.

Alook at past races sug­gests that Bush could have a hard time. In 1994, he nar­rowly lost to Chiles, a re­luc­tant can­di­date who showed lit­tle energy un­til the end of the cam­paign. In 1998, MacKay ran a ter­ri­ble race and, as many Democrats pre­dicted, lost. In 2002, run­ning for a sec­ond term, Bush out­spent po­lit­i­cal novice McBride by as much as 4 to 1.

While the lat­ter races of­fered lit­tle re­sis­tance, Bush’s tough­est test af­ter 1994 was the 2000 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. The Bush fam­ily had ev­ery rea­son to be­lieve that Jeb would help his brother carry Florida. He did, but only by a very con­tro­ver­sial 537 votes.

And much has changed since Bush left the gover­nor’s man­sion. One study, as Bloomberg News re­ported, “found that nearly three-quar­ters of Florida’s 12.9 mil­lion cur­rently reg­is­tered vot­ers have never even seen Bush’s name on a bal­lot.”



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