Top 10 Facts About Jeb Bush

Top 10 Facts About Jeb Bush — cover photo credit:  Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Does the prospect of another President Bush fill you with excitement or dread?  Did you vote for the previous two President Bushes and if so would you vote for another or, would you rather emigrate than see another one in the White House?

Jeb Bush may be well known and loved in Florida where he served two terms as Governor but to the rest of the country he is less familiar than his famous father and brother.  In 2014 he announced his intention to run in the Republican Primary for the 2016 Presidential nomination.  The question is will his name and the track records of his relatives in office prove to be a help or a hindrance.  With the Republican field wide open will he lose even in his home state or will he emerge as a safe pair of hands to lead an increasingly fractured Republican party against the Democrats?

Who knows?  But, as Primary fever ramps up here are 10 facts you should know about Jeb Bush.

  1. Jeb Is Not Jeb Bush’s Real Name

What? My name isn't Jeb!
What? My name isn’t Jeb!

Rich Koele / Shutterstock.com

The one thing we think we know for certain is the man’s name.  After all it appears on his campaigns and in the media.  Jeb Bush is Jeb Bush – right?  Wrong!  So what is Jeb’s real name, Jebediah? No it seems that Bush’s preferred nickname is not a contraction but comes from his initials.  The name registered on his birth certificate following his birth in Midland, Texas in 1953 was recorded as John Ellis Bush

Some research suggests that while the Bush name plays well with the Republican faithful it is not so popular with the wider nation.  Bush’s brother’s presidency is seen as both less popular and less successful than his predecessor Bill Clinton’s.  With the real possibility of a Clinton as the Democratic candidate for 2016 the Bush name may just be too toxic.  Aside from the possibility of a Clinton/Bush rerun bringing associations of defeat (Bill Clinton defeated George H W Bush in 1992) it would also give the lie to the concept of political meritocracy in the US and establish in the world’s mind that only a member of a famous family can win the White House.

Jeb Bush has said that he is not worried about name liability saying while he loves his father and brother he is his own man.  It is, however, interesting to note that Jeb Bush’s campaign is unusual in that he uses his nickname and not ‘Jeb Bush’.  By campaigning as JEB he manages to distance himself from his father and brother’s record outside the party while maintaining the link in the minds of the party faithful.

  1. He Is The Third ‘Bush’ To Campaign For The Presidency

Bush. Three.
Bush. Three.

Jeb Bush’s father George HW Bush was the 41st President of the United States serving one term in office.  After the two year Presidency of Bill Clinton Jeb Bush’s brother became the 43rd President of the Unites States and served a full two terms.

The previous Bush Presidents are only the second example of a father/son White House success (the first being John and John Quincy Adams).  If Jeb Bush is elected to the presidency it will be an historic achievement unparalleled in the history of the United States.

Jeb’s brother George W is not, however, popular and shortly after leaving the White House he earned the accolade as the worst living President.  Absence from the public eye has allowed the public to view his record with a clearer eye and President Obama has overtaken him as the least popular living president, his support for government surveillance initiatives and his weak record on foreign policy standing in stark contrast to the actions of previous Bush administrations.  George H W Bush’s term in office is now viewed in an extremely positive light.

With this in mind while the Bush name has the ability to be a liability for Jeb (see above) this may decrease as time distances us from previous Bush presidencies and scandals such as the Clinton email debacle will help to paint the other key political dynasty competing in the next Presidential election as untrustworthy.

  1. People Say The Republicans Can’t Win Without A ‘Bush’ On The Ticket

Put me in coach. I'm ready to play.
Put me in coach. I’m ready to play.

Andrew Cline / Shutterstock.com

There is a claim doing the rounds that the Republicans have not won an election since 1928 unless there is a Bush or a Nixon on the Presidential Ticket.  As hard as that may be to believe it is completely true, after 1928 the Republicans lost every election up until Nixon appeared on the ticket in 1952 with Dwight Eisenhower.  This article is not, however, concerned with Richard Nixon (who is worthy of a top 10 all his own) but with the extraordinary Bush family influence on Republican politics over the past 35 years.

George H W Bush (Jeb’s father) shared the ticket as Vice-President to Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 (both successful).  He won his own Presidential race in 1988.  Following two terms of Democrat success the Republicans only regained control of the White House when George W Bush ran for President in 2000 and 2004. However, while having a Bush on the ticket seems to have been necessary for success it does not guarantee against failure.  Bill Clinton won against George H W Bush in 1992 and therefore a Bush may not be the best presidential candidate to go up against Hilary Clinton in the event she wins the Democrat nomination.  Perhaps the Republicans will split the difference and put him on the ticket as the candidate for Vice President!  Success as Vice President in 2016 could open up the potential for a further 16 years of Bush influence in the White House.

  1. Jeb Met His Wife In Mexico And Is Fluent In Spanish

Looking for love in all the Mexico places.
Looking for love in all the Mexico places.

Jeb Bush’s marriage to his wife Columba arose out of a teenage romance.  They met when he was just 17 (she is a year younger) and on an exchange program to her home country of Mexico where he was teaching English.  He claims they fell in love at first sight.  The emotions were certainly strong enough to tempt her to leave her family behind and move to the US where she married him just 3 years later while still a teenager.  Columba was, said Jeb Bush’s mother Barbara, the only woman he ever dated, the marriage also came as a surprise to his parents who met her for the first time at the pre-wedding dinner.   Columba did not, at that time, even speak a word of English.  It is, perhaps, therefore, a good thing that Jeb Bush is fluent in Spanish.  He completed his degree in Latin American Affairs from the University of Texas in just 21/2 years.  Jeb and Columba Bush and their family are said to speak in Spanish when they are home alone.

Columba Bush initially kept a low profile compared with other members of the Bush family.  When her husband lost his first campaign for Florida Governor in 1994 she is alleged to have said that she ‘did not ask for it’ and their marriage was reputed to be in trouble.  As his career has become more successful, however, she has been more and more willing to enter the spotlight in his support.  She came from a violet home and has been quietly committed to the support of domestic violence and drugs charities throughout her husband’s career.

  1. Jeb’s Family Has Had A Number Of Run Ins With The Law

Bush vs. the law. And the law won!
Bush vs. the law. And the law won!

One of the unfortunate side effects of running for office is that your family are put under scrutiny.  We hold the representatives of our legislature and our executive to a high moral standard and we expect their family to follow suit.  Jeb Bush’s family, however, have had a string of embarrassing run ins with the law.  Together with Columba, Jeb has three children George P, John Ellis and Noelle.  The children and their mother have been the source of embarrassment to Jeb at certain times over the years.

In 1999, shortly after Jeb’s election as Governor of Florida Columba returned from a trip to Europe with a staggering $19,000 of clothing and jewelry of which she declared only $500 at customs.  She claimed this was an attempt to hide the spending spree from her husband.  After the scandal broke the import taxes were paid but the damage was done, she appeared to be an out of control spendthrift who was attempting to defraud the revenue. Things went from bad to worse.  In 2002 Jeb’s 24 year old daughter Noelle was arrested on drug charges (prescription fraud) and later developed a cocaine habit.  John Ellis was caught cavorting naked with his girlfriend in a car at a shopping center in 2000 and, some years later arrested for public drunkenness.  Trouble has also shadowed George P who, in the 1990s was investigated for burglary when caught trying to break in to an ex-girlfriend’s house.  Things turned out ok for him though as he was subsequently elected Land Commissioner in Texas

  1. Jeb Is Close Friends With Marco Rubio

Marco and Jeb. Besties!
Marco and Jeb. Besties!

Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

One of Jeb Bush’s fellow contenders for the Republican nomination 2016 is his good friend Marco Rubio.  At least that is the way the two men have always painted the relationship with Jeb Bush as the mentor and Marco Rubio as the protégé with Rubio describing Bush as a ‘one man idea factory’.

The real problem is that that friendship (in so far as it does exist and is not a PR only relationship) will be put under strain by the Republican primary.  The truth is that Florida is a vitally important state for the Republican hopeful to get under his (or her) belt and only one of the two men can win their ‘home’ state.  While Jeb Bush has the ability to appeal to the Hispanic community through his wife Marco Rubio has a direct link.  While Jeb Bush is more experienced and has the links to the old guard of the Republican Party (and the fundraising power that brings) Marco Rubio does not come carrying the baggage of two previous (very unpopular) presidents.

For the moment both men are underlining their continued friendship but the gloves are off as far as their staff are concerned and prominent Floridian Republicans have had to choose sides.  So could one run as the Vice Presidential candidate on the ticket with the other?  Perhaps if they did not come from the same state but a candidate from Florida will need support from elsewhere in the country making a double Florida ticket unlikely.

  1. Jeb Was Governor Of Florida For Two Terms, A Feat Unrivaled By Any Other Republican

That's right! I was Governor. Alot.
That’s right! I was Governor. Alot.

Rich Koele / Shutterstock.com

Florida is a traditionally Democrat state.  There have been other Republican governors in the past but Jeb Bush is unusual in having served two terms in post, a feat that no other Republican has been able to match.  Jeb Bush’s Governorship did not, however, pass smoothly.  He first stood for election in 1994 (when his brother George stood and won as Texas Governor launching his own political career) but  his ‘head-banging conservative’  campaign crashed and burned against the reelection bid of popular Democrat Governor Lawton Chiles.  His bid was not helped by what appeared to be the lukewarm support of his wife and for a short while after the failed attempt his marriage appeared to be in trouble.

Not giving up Jeb Bush made a second attempt and was elected Governor for his first term in 1998 with a more moderate campaign than before.  He subsequently made history on his re-election in 2002.  His self-proclaimed priorities during his term were improvements to education, and protection of the Florida environment, he is viewed by some in his party as a moderate who may not go far enough.  Other views of his term as Governor paint him as a hard line, tax cutting, three strikes law and order, death penalty approving far right conservative.

Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida during the time of the 2000 Presidential Election in which his brother was a candidate.  Florida votes turned out to be decisive in one of the closest run elections in American history which resulted in 5 weeks’ worth of legal disputes over who had won the Florida ballot (and therefore the Presidential Election).  Due to the family relationship between the Bush brothers Jeb Bush, as Governor, recused himself from the process.  Despite that recusal there were allegations in the press that Jeb Bush had already meddled in the election by massaging and purging the voter lists to reduce the number of potential democrat votes.  Were the Democrats sore losers or was there truth in the allegations?  Nothing has ever been proven one way or the other.

  1. The NFL Wanted Him To Be Their Commissioner

Jeb had Football aspirations.
Jeb had Football aspirations.

dean bertoncelj / Shutterstock.com

In 2006 Jeb Bush (who is a keen pro-football spectator) was approached by the NFL who wanted him to consider becoming their next commissioner.  It appears that a number of team owners thought he was the right man for the job and therefore asked the search committee to sound him out.  The job was due to start before his term as Governor of Florida came to an end and for that reason, he says, Jeb Bush turned it down (although he claims to have been extremely flattered to have been approached).

  1. Jeb Is A Convert To Catholicism

Jeb is down with the POPE.
Jeb is down with the POPE.

softdelusion66 / Shutterstock.com

Jeb Bush, like the rest of the Bush dynasty, was originally an Episcopalian.  His Mexican wife, Columba, (see above) is and always has been Catholic.  Although Jeb and Columba were married in the Catholic Center of the University of Texas he did not convert at the time.  The couple’s children were raised as Catholics and Jeb Bush was regularly seen to attend mass (as a non-communicant) in the years prior to his conversion.  It was not until his botched election attempt to become Florida Governor that he reassessed his faith and decided to start taking classes.  He formally converted to Catholicism in 1996.  His faith has since played an important part in his life.

Although during his term as Governor he was willing to defy the Church’s teachings on the death penalty his faith does appear to have guided many other decisions, not least the attempts to prevent the death of Terry Schiavo.  In 2009 he was quoted as saying ‘…making decisions as a public leader, one’s faith should guide you.’.  He certainly appears to have become more vocal about his faith since launching his election bid tweeting about decisions of the Pope and supporting Catholic fundraising drives.

Will his religion help or hinder his White House bid?  Catholics are seen, increasingly, as key swing voters and in this his religion may be of assistance to him.  He himself has said that religion should not be a criteria for the Presidency and has said that he would have no problem with a Muslim in the White House.

  1. Jeb Does Not Own A Gun

Jeb doesn't own a gun! The shame. Call the NRA!
Jeb doesn’t own a gun! The shame. Call the NRA!

With the distressing increase in shootings and gun murders in 2015 gun control has become a key issue in the primary race.   Just days after a particularly high profile mass shooting in Oregon democratic candidates such as Hilary Clinton came out in favor of restrictions on the right to bear arms.  Whether or not Gun Control is a popular issue with the electorate at large it has traditionally been seen as a poison pill for Republicans whose core supporters are overwhelmingly in favor of the status quo.

Jeb Bush has always been seen to be pro-gun insisting that legislation is for the State not the Federal Government.  Florida, a pro-gun state, saw gun violence reduce during his term due to his 10-20-Life legislation for gun violence.  This he argued, permitted people to protect themselves and their rights while creating stringent sanctions for those who were irresponsible.  Shortly after the same shooting that saw democrats racing to restrict gun laws Jeb Bush responded to the tragedy with a rather flippant statement ‘stuff happens.  It came as some surprise, therefore, when a survey of Republican primary candidates revealed that the NRA A+ rated ex Governor is just one of 3 out of the 17 candidates who do not own a gun.  This has gone some way towards damaging his previously good reputation with the pro-gun lobby.

Jeb Bush is an enigma.  The favorite son of a famous father he married a foreign women who could not speak English and did not introduce her to his parents until the wedding, many years later he converted to his wife’s religion.

Jeb was initially the son tipped to succeed George HW in the White House.  His brother George W, a man of no previous political ambition, put the brakes on that family ambition when he decided to run for Texas Governor in the same year his brother contested the Florida election for the first time; much to the fury of his parents who felt that the simultaneous election bids would split the family’s fund raising capabilities.  George W won, his brother lost and the rest is history.  So upset were his parents said to have been that they were unable to congratulate George on his victory, instead saying they were upset for Jeb.

Since his brother’s presidency Jeb Bush has done all he can to distance himself from his father and brother’s track record, looking to establish himself as his own man with a very distinct record.  Nevertheless dynastic assumptions are made and even his mother is reputed to have said that while he would be an excellent President he should not run, that there have been enough Bushes in the White House.

Will Jeb Bush make history as the third member of a family to enter the White House as President?  Will his presence on the ticket be needed to ensure a Republican victory and see the Bush/Nixon winning streak continue?  Will there be a repeat of the 1992 Bush/Clinton ballot papers?  At the time of writing his support in the primaries has slipped and he looks like an outside candidate but things move quickly and in politics anything can happen!