Monday, February 16, 2015

Florida newspapers going "lite" on Jeb Bush? … by gimleteye

On Sunday, the New York Times published an in-depth examination of how Jeb Bush used access to the White House during the presidency of his father.

But unless you subscribe to the New York Times, or read the Tampa Bay Times, you didn't have access to this engaging report, "As Dynasty’s Son, Jeb Bush Used His Connections Freely".

Florida will, as usual, be a very important state in the next presidential election. Let's hope that the Florida media doesn't fawn over Jeb Bush.

In case you missed the NY Times report, here it is including a splendid photo of son and dad. The expression on the Jeb's face: suspicion mixed with disdain.

As Dynasty’s Son, Jeb Bush Used His Connections Freely

The stream of requests to the White House from Jeb Bush, a young but well-connected Republican leader in South Florida, ranged from the weighty and urgent to the parochial and mundane.

In 1985, he sent an emotional letter pressing his father, Vice President George Bush, to investigate the detention of Cuban children in Texas, asking, “Shouldn’t there be some compassion?” (The vice president’s reply: “Heartbreaking.”)

In 1989, after his father became president, Mr. Bush offered his recommendation for the next Supreme Court opening. (“Your suggestion will be given thoughtful consideration,” a senior aide responded.)

In 1990, Mr. Bush lobbied the White House to meet with executives of the telecommunications giant Motorola — fostering a relationship that would later aid his own political ambitions. (The chief of staff did meet with Motorola, as did President Bush.)

For the 12 years that his father held national elective office, Mr. Bush used his unique access to the highest reaches of government to seek favors for Republican allies, push his views and burnish his political profile in his home state, a review of presidential library records shows. In the process, Mr. Bush carefully constructed an elaborate and enduring network of relationships in Florida that helped lead to his election as governor in 1998 and, now, to his place as a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

During his father’s terms as vice president and president, Jeb Bush, then a businessman and emerging Florida politician, used his White House connections to make special requests and recommend allies for appointments.

It was a period when Mr. Bush, a real estate developer and entrepreneur in his late 20s and 30s, made his debut in regional politics, parlaying his family name into the chairmanship of the Dade County Republican Party and emerging as a sought-after figure for anyone trying to reach the White House.

The letters from Mr. Bush kept at the George Bush and Ronald Reagan presidential libraries show him to be sometimes compassionate, occasionally demanding and always conscious of his status as a member of a prestigious and powerful political clan. He thought nothing of making requests big and small, but acknowledged an underlying anxiety about coming off as something very un-Bush-like: an overeager local party boss, “another bad breath county chairman,” as he wrote in a request to President Reagan.

Even within a family long steeped in politics, Mr. Bush stood out to White House aides for the frequency of his communications and the intensity of the opinions.

“Jeb, we all sensed, had a strong interest in a political future of his own,” said John H. Sununu, who fielded a number of Mr. Bush’s inquiries during his tenure as chief of staff to the first President Bush. The son’s words, Mr. Sununu said, carried the extra weight of lineage. “We listened to him.”

Mr. Bush’s activities during this period drew him closer to a father who already viewed him, fondly, as heir to the family’s political legacy. Early in his term, President Bush shared with his senior staff a withering letter that his son had written to a newspaper columnist in Orlando, Fla., holding it up as a model for the aggressive approach that should be taken in response to attacks on his administration.

“This happens to be Jeb defending his father,” President Bush wrote. “But we ought to have machinery that goes into automatic when lousy editorials are written.”

In the scores of messages that Mr. Bush sent to his father and White House staff members, there are echoes of the themes that have dominated his career in both government and business: a fruitful reliance on his family name, a fascination with the mechanics of government and a willingness to delve into the gritty art of political favors.

Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bush, said in a statement that “from time to time, Governor Bush of course passed along information or requests to the White House, which were routed to appropriate channels.”

“There is nothing odd or inappropriate about that,” she added.

Mr. Bush’s reliance on written communications presages his habits as an elected official. As governor, he was known to spend up to 30 hours a week on email and so adored his BlackBerry that he insisted on featuring the device in his official portrait.

The archives at the Bush and Reagan libraries contain more than 1,200 pages of documents relating to Mr. Bush, capturing dozens of exchanges between him and the White House staff. But even that may represent just a fraction of his messages, since the archives are incomplete.

While Mr. Bush’s father welcomed his input, staff members did not always share that enthusiasm. The archives reveal polite but firm attempts to rein him in. Jane Kenny, special assistant to Mr. Bush’s father when he was vice president, twice wrote to ask Mr. Bush to route requests for appointments through her instead of contacting an agency or office directly.

“That way,” Ms. Kenny wrote, “there will be no chance for misunderstanding.”

Jeb Bush with his parents, George and Barbara, and two children, Noelle and George P., during his father’s 1980 campaign for vice president. His letters show a fascination with government. Credit Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection, via Getty Images
Recommending Allies

Jeb Bush had run out of patience with his father’s staff. The White House had yet to officially nominate an ally, Dexter Lehtinen, as United States attorney for South Florida, as Mr. Bush had repeatedly recommended. His letter to C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel, was blunt and emphatic. “Boyden, it’s time to act,” Mr. Bush wrote.

The case demonstrated how doggedly Mr. Bush advocated for those close to him, deploying a growing self-confidence and an increasingly assertive tone that might have invited scorn if he had had a different father. When the United States attorney job came open in 1988, Mr. Bush, who by then had begun his ascent in Florida politics, moving from Republican county chairman to state secretary of commerce, made his preference well known. He called Craig Fuller, his father’s chief of staff, and followed up with a handwritten note. “Dexter is a very bright guy with an excellent record in criminal law,” Mr. Bush wrote.

The Reagan White House appointed Mr. Lehtinen as interim United States attorney, a status that eventually left Mr. Bush dissatisfied. In 1990, after his father had become president, he wrote to Mr. Gray that Mr. Lehtinen was being “treated unfairly by the press” and that the Bush administration had been “unfair” to leave him in limbo. (The Senate ultimately rebuffed Mr. Lehtinen’s nomination.)

In his correspondence, Mr. Bush did not elaborate on his ties to Mr. Lehtinen, which had grown deep: He had managed the successful congressional campaign of Mr. Lehtinen’s wife, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Mr. Bush did not limit his advice to suggesting potential appointees for United States attorney. Seven months into his father’s presidency, he aimed much higher, offering his suggestion for a Supreme Court appointment in a letter to the White House. He enclosed the résumé of Peter T. Fay, a federal appellate judge.

“Judge Fay is respected by his peers and the many people who know him in Miami,” Mr. Bush wrote.

Mr. Gray replied that if there were an opening, Judge Fay would get “thoughtful consideration.”

The ambition of the request fit a pattern for Mr. Bush, who also recommended allies seeking other major positions, like head of White House security and Internal Revenue Service commissioner.

In doing so, Mr. Bush typically mentioned a key credential: service to the Florida Republican Party. When he contacted the White House on behalf of Rex J. Ford, a lawyer who wished to become I.R.S. commissioner in the Reagan administration, Mr. Bush appended a note on his father’s stationery — “From the desk of George Bush” — noting that Mr. Ford was a member of the Florida Republican committee.

Mr. Bush’s willingness to reward loyal Republicans in Dade County was part of what endeared him to many within the party, who had at first viewed him with skepticism but came away impressed by his hard work and connections.

“If you treat people nicely and you remember your friends on your way up, they’ll be there on the way down,” said Barry Schreiber, a former Dade County commissioner whom Mr. Bush recommended for a presidential commission in the 1980s. “Jeb Bush fit that mold.”

At times, Mr. Bush sounded like a corporate pitchman.

By the summer of 1990, after Mr. Bush had left state government and plunged into a corporate career, he had a “very interesting meeting” with Christopher Galvin, a senior executive at Motorola — and Mr. Bush shared his enthusiasm with his father’s chief of staff.

“I urge you to visit with Motorola at your convenience to see first-hand how the Motorola experience can help our country (including agencies in the federal government),” Mr. Bush wrote, appending a 14-page presentation from the company. In the following months, not only did Mr. Sununu, the chief of staff, meet with Motorola executives, but so did the president himself.

Soon, the Bush family’s relationship with Motorola, a major donor to the Florida Republican Party, and Mr. Galvin, who became its chief executive, blossomed in ways that benefited both sides.

As governor, Mr. Bush honored Motorola with a Sterling Award, a prestigious honor for Florida businesses. His brother George W. Bush, when he was president, appointed Mr. Galvin to a committee advising him on national security in telecommunications.

Mr. Galvin, who is now a real estate investor, has in turn become a reliable supporter of Mr. Bush. On Wednesday, Mr. Galvin will co-host a Chicago fund-raiser for Mr. Bush’s potential presidential campaign. Asked about the White House meeting, Mr. Galvin said he had sought nothing from either the president or his son and, in his discussions with both, merely sought to exchange ideas for improving government operations.

It was not the only time that Mr. Bush used his access to the White House to nurture relationships. In 1984, Mr. Bush aggressively lobbied for an exemption from federal airport noise regulations for another supporter, George Batchelor, who owned a Florida-based airline.

Mr. Bush and a former Florida congressman met with James A. Baker III, Mr. Reagan’s chief of staff, who advised them “several times” that the White House could not become involved. (The Federal Aviation Administration partly approved the exemption, records show.)

Mr. Batchelor became a financial supporter, giving $5,000 to a PAC for Mr. Bush’s father in 1985, and donating $500,000 through one of his businesses to the Florida Republican Party in 2000, when Mr. Bush was governor. It was the largest donation in the history of the Florida Republican Party.

“I know George Batchelor,” Mr. Bush told The St. Petersburg Times after the donation. “At this stage in his life, I don’t think there’s anything he wants.” Mr. Batchelor died in 2002.

Mr. Bush seemed to relish his close ties and ready access to his father’s administration, inviting major figures from Washington to Florida for his favored causes.

“It was a considerable plus having the son of a vice president as your person,” said Andrew E. Grigsby, a Republican ally who in 1987 sought Mr. Bush’s help in finding surplus government helicopters for a client.

The White House complied when Mr. Bush sought signed photos of his father, once for Walter Payton, the football star. On another occasion, he asked his father for a letter of condolence for a woman he had met on a flight to Washington, where she had been headed to bury her husband, a serviceman, at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mr. Bush’s letters often took a playful tone, even on serious issues of governance. “A cut in the bureaucracy wouldn’t be a bad idea. In fact, our great President would become a hero!” Mr. Bush wrote to his father’s staff in 1989.

Later, he shared his disdain for perceived abuses of the legal system. “Tort reform anyone?” he asked.

But Mr. Bush’s most pointed pleas focused on the plight of Cuban exiles, an increasingly influential group by the time he arrived in Miami in 1980. Mr. Bush, who spoke fluent Spanish and had married a woman he met in Mexico, was quickly welcomed by Cubans, and he adopted their causes as his own, espousing their hard line against Fidel Castro’s government.

Mr. Bush sought to arrange a meeting between his father and exile leaders. He called for economic sanctions that would “tighten the noose on Castro.” And he questioned the Justice Department’s prosecution of a Cuban militant who had already been incarcerated in “Castro’s jail for 23 years.”

Mr. Bush, who had no military experience, also sought a promotion for an Army colonel who he noted could become the first United States general of Cuban origin.

The president’s staff thought better of acting on that request. “Armed Services promotion board reacts very negatively to any sort of political pressure, perceived or otherwise,” wrote Thomas Collamore, one of his father’s top aides. “I really think it is best to leave this one to run its natural course.”

Barely a month into George Bush’s presidency, Jeb Bush made sure that the White House staff knew that he planned to remain among his father’s priorities.

“I hope we can continue to get the president down to Miami as much as we used to when he was a mere VEEP,” Mr. Bush wrote in an effort to lure his father to Florida for a commencement speech at Miami-Dade Community College.

Even as Mr. Bush’s requests flowed, he deftly worked to win over the coterie of staff members surrounding his father, developing a rapport through his unsolicited messages of appreciation and congratulations, the archives show.

“Dad is lucky to have someone of your caliber with him,” Mr. Bush wrote to Mr. Fuller after Mr. Fuller’s appointment as his father’s chief of staff.

Many on the president’s staff saw Mr. Bush not so much as meddling as fulfilling a duty to the family’s profession. “It is sort of the family business of extending the political network,” Mr. Collamore said in an interview. So members worked diligently to carry out his requests — even if some were out of the ordinary.

In one case, an entrepreneur who had attended a fund-raiser for a George Bush PAC in 1985 handed his son a letter requesting a contact at the Department of Agriculture to advance her business plan: increasing the consumption of domestic rabbit meat.

Mr. Bush, sounding a bit embarrassed, pursued it nevertheless. “The enclosed letter is a bit unusual but it is serious,” Mr. Bush wrote in a letter to Mr. Collamore a few days after the fund-raiser. “Can you get to me a name at U.S.D.A. to help her out?” Mr. Collamore dutifully tracked down the right person. “If anything else is needed, please don’t hesitate to let me know,” Mr. Collamore wrote to Mr. Bush.

If such an odd request left Mr. Collamore annoyed, he never let on. Years later, he traded a series of admiring emails with Mr. Bush during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, where Mr. Bush’s father, brother and son George P. Bush had gathered. Mr. Bush could not make it, so he asked Mr. Collamore to give his son a hug in his place.

Mr. Collamore did one better: He arranged for Mr. Bush’s son and daughter-in-law to attend the United States Open tennis tournament.

“A nice break,” he wrote Mr. Bush, “from all this convention stuff.”

Griff Palmer contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed research.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this - it is quite revealing. Why do we now have a monarchical system in this country? Can't we do better than a third Bush????

Anonymous said...

Please stop posting these Jeb Bush stories. The Miami Herald is doing a great pr job for him, they don't need any help. Every time he goes to the bathroom requires a front page story by them. Headline -"Jeb Bush Goes to the Bathroom And Stinks It Up". Story - "Jeb Bush went to the toilet, he opened the door, and went in. There as a stink order coming out of the bathroom. After 20 minutes, the door opened, and he walked out".