Looking to build a reputation for transparency early in the 2016 campaign, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush posted hundreds of thousands of constituent emails late Monday night along with the first chapter of a new e-book.
The emails were previously made public by news outlets and Democratic researchers last year and reporters have picked over Bush’s correspondences from his most contentious policy fights, like his effort to prevent Michael Schiavo from removing his wife Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube after years in a persistent vegetative state. But the new site, JebBushEmails.com, provides an easy way to navigate them by date.
By pairing the emails with an e-book chapter detailing some of the contents, Bush is trying to introduce national voters to his eight-year run as governor on his own terms, portraying himself as an engaged, hands-on executive who was not afraid to address his critics. Correspondences highlighted by Bush include a 15 year old working on a school project to detractors blasting “DON’T MESS WITH OUR RIGHTS!!!!” in one all-caps in early 1999. Bush responded kindly: “Thanks for your letter. We are soon to propose a plan that I believe will accomplish the objectives you desire.”“I loved being the governor of Florida,” Bush wrote. “It was my dream job, and that feeling never changed, not in eight years.”
According to Bush, he spent some 30 hours a week answering constituent emails, often via his Blackberry. The account – Jeb@Jeb.org – is still active and msnbc spotted him giving it out after a speech in Detroit last week.
The release of the emails is another sign that the former governor is serious about running for president in 2016; he has already launched a PAC and begun raising money and hiring political operatives.
They also hint at where Bush might contrast himself with future rivals and past candidates. Hillary Clinton has a reputation for carefully stage managing her appearances and a contentious relationship with the press while President Obama is often described as “aloof.” Previous GOP nominee Mitt Romney was guarded with his private life and sometimes awkward on the trail in 2012, a trait his former aides hoped to correct had he run again in 2016. Hammering home the distinction, the RNC launched a new press campaign, “Hillary’s Hiding,” criticizing Clinton’s for not delivering more public speeches and doing more interviews as she lays the groundwork for a presidential run.
Democrats responded with their own version of Bush’s record, highlighting his efforts to cut taxes for wealthy Florida residents and businesses while income inequality worsened.
“Jeb Bush’s record as Florida’s governor reads like the track listing on the greatest hits of failed Republican ideas that line the pockets of the wealthy and big corporations at the expense of working families,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement. ”Jeb’s attempt to rebrand himself as a champion for middle class opportunity is as laughable as the idea of Mitt Romney as an anti-poverty crusader.”
The e-mail release may have been a bit too transparent, however. Tech site The Verge noticed that some of the emails Bush released contained their senders’ personal information, including Social Security numbers in some cases. A spokeswoman for Bush’s PAC noted to msnbc that the full emails are already available upon request under Florida law, but Bush indicated on Tuesday that his staff would redact the data.
“We’re going to take it off,” Bush told reporters, per Time’s Zeke Miller, after an education event in Florida.