jeb bush selfie
Jeb Bush greets supporters at a Miami field office of his presidential campaign. Bush has released a long-anticipated book about his two terms as governor of Florida. Titled “Reply All” it is structured around his daily emails with colleagues and constituents. The book entrenched Bush’s position in the Republican field as the polar opposite of Donald Trump. On one hand, Bush appears concerned about policy, nuance, and tact. On the other, he’s incredibly boring, exactly what one would expect from a Washington insider and presidential legacy. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Maybe former Florida Governor Jeb Bush thinks his campaign needs a booster, or maybe he just feels bad for all of those folks that are swiveling in their chairs in anticipation of Hillary Clinton’s next email release. Whatever the Republican primary candidate’s strategy is, Bush has released a book structured around his own emails. Released on Monday, “Reply All” is a compendium of official and citizen emails. The book is terribly boring, but it does have a few interesting bits -- bits that we have painfully pulled out for you, dear reader, between drooping eyelids and neck-stretching yawns.

1) #HumbleBrag

A substantial portion of Bush’s book is devoted to emails sent by people thanking him. They usually go like this, sometimes condensed into a paragraph, sometimes stretched over a few pages of backslapping. Here is a dramatic recreation of this dialog:

“Thank you.” -Floridians

“Oh I can’t take too much credit, but you’re welcome.” - Jeb Bush

For example, Jeb receives an email from 53 students at Holy Name Middle School shortly after the September 11th, 2001, attacks. Jeb Bush has already written of his efforts to calm constituents about their safety and the economy. His brother, President George W. Bush has told the nation to visit Disneyland.

“We are ‘Proud to be Floridians’ and Americans!! Thank you for your good leadership,” the students write.

“thank you [sic] as well. I hope you have a great school year. The way you can show the terrorists that they are wrong is to gain at least a year’s worth of knowledge in a year’s time,” Jeb answers.

Clap. Clap. Clap.

2) Embrace Of The Hispanic World

“Reply All” is consistently aware of the racial and ethnic diversity of Florida. Jeb includes many exchanges where he’s trying to defend his record on racial relations and diverse appointments.

He writes in a side note how excited he was when Marco Rubio (a candidate he funded) becomes speaker of the Florida House of representatives. He includes anecdotes about his Mexican wife Columba, who writes a dutiful forward to the book.

"I know I am not objective. I haven't been since 1971, when this very tall American boy came into my hometown of Leon, Mexico, and changed my life forever,” Columba writes.

"There were times when I wished he had put down his BlackBerry,” she adds. “Then he would read me some of the e-mails he was receiving. They were filled with concern, frustration, sometimes fear, and once in awhile anger -- and I knew he was doing exactly what he was born to do: lead."

Jeb’s connection with the Latino world crops in places you wouldn’t expect. Remember when Florida became ground zero for the country’s most disputed election? While the Sunshine State was cementing its reputation for flagrant voting SNAFUs, Bush prayed to La Virgen.

"The night of the ruling,” Jeb writes, “Columba and I went to Mass in rural Gadsden County to celebrate the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe. We heard about the Supreme Court decision on the radio on the way home. I then thanked God the ordeal was over and that George would be our next president.”

Near the end of the book, Jeb outlines his vision for immigration, which is probably the most immigrant friendly of his Republican foes.

3) Hillary Clinton’s Email Scandal Is Between The Lines

A private email server! Classified documents! Scandal! No, it’s not Hillary Clinton we’re talking about but Jeb Bush, who like Clinton legally conducted his official business on a private email server. Bush has gotten out ahead of this.

You don’t need to buy Jeb’s book to read troves of his emails. He’s posted hundreds of thousands of them online. It’s all in the spirit of what he describes as Florida’s strong transparency laws.

One thing that Jeb does not make clear in his book is that Florida's public record laws are pretty loose. Despite releasing hundreds of thousands of his official emails, the former Gov. was permitted to select emails that were shared under Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

In other words, Bush not only choose which emails would make it into this book, but he also chose which emails might be available to the public to scrutinize later. We were particularly surprised that here wasn’t more hate mail or, at least, pranks.

We’re working with Florida’s Department of State to try to recover some of these emails, but they’ve apparently been archived, buried further from the public’s eye. A pro-Clinton group has seized on Jeb’s e-mail practices, releasing “Jeb Bush Replies All, Volume 2: The Hundreds of Thousands of Emails He Refused to Release.”

The e-book is blank.

4) Debates With Constituents

Jeb Bush does not include any true hate mail: death threats, racist messages concerning his Mexican wife, Columba Bush. This is surprising, because if you read conservative blogs or speak with Republican voters you’ll hear a lot of this stuff.

The book doesn’t even include any Liberal rants about his brother and Iraq which, if I remember the 2000s correctly, were rife. Perhaps no vile messages made it to his desk -- they may have been screened out by staff, or perhaps none of Florida’s 16 million people are mean at all.

Bush does include some angry messages from constituents that disagree with him. Concerned citizen Carole Shelton complains about Bush’s removal of the Confederate flag from official displays.

“I am terribly upset that you have chosen to sanction the removal of the [...] venerated confederate [sic] flag. You are not from the south. You have no right to impose your norther prejudices and misconceptions on the people of Florida [....]

“It sickens me to see and hear how you are doing everything you can to wipe out our heritage in the name of ‘inclusion’ and political correctness.”

Jeb’s responses included in “Reply All” are usually curt and direct. No matter how vile the writer’s message, his response rarely judges them. (“I could be wrong but...” he often writes.” But he does like to include little factoids to contradict critical citizens, journalists, and politicians.

“Carole, soon you will be able to see the flags in the Florida History museum. They will be respectfully displayed,” he writes, sign off as Jeb Bush and adding “PS I am a Floridian born and raised in Texas.”

Many including myself have criticized if CNBC moderation in the most recent televised GOP debate, where some questions appeared to be sensationalist. But Jeb’s book illustrates the other extreme. In a world where candidates choose their own questions -- a viable strategy on social media -- the discussion is pathetically subdued, merely launchpads for the candidate’s talking points.

5) Policy Wonkery And Political negotiation

Students of politics and public policy will find some of Jeb’s emails fascinating. At their best, some of the book’s chapters allow readers to be a fly on the wall in an executive’s daily meetings, negotiations and struggles. The goal is clearly to show Bush as hardworking and pragmatic.

“I am one of those worker bees,” Jeb writes to someone who references his bureaucracy’s underlings.

You don’t need to read the emails to see Jeb’s self-identified list of accomplishments, because at the end of the book there this “Appendix: Governor Jeb Bush’s Accomplishments.”

According to the governor he “cut taxes every year," "Led nation in job creation," "reduced state bureaucracy by 13,000 positions," "Earned AAA bond rating," "High school graduation rates increased by nearly 50 percent," and bolstered public safety: "crime rate fell to a 35-year low."

Unfortunately, by the time real policy comes up, readers of “Reply All” maybe be too bludgeoned by boredom to engage.

6) Hilariously Boring

The e-Book version may not be physically bound, but it is virtually bound to bore most readers who aren’t comfortable with skimming. However, seen in a certain light, “Reply All” can read like a poorly-written episode of The Office and if you get in the right mood, in might count as funny.

The first chapter, titled “This Is Exhilarating,” sets the stage for a book that is, like Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign, not exhilarating at all. The chapter focuses on the back-and-forth between bureaucrats attempting to building a website and a discussion with a Florida journalist about planning Jeb’s memoir.

But Bush isn’t running on exhilarating, he’s trying to play to his strengths: a hard-working policy wonk who, according to his emails, worked 80-hour weeks a Governor. If there is an effective campaign message in the book it’s precisely that: Bush had executive power and he worked hard.

It’s hard to pinpoint the most boring part of the book. Perhaps it comes when Bush criticizes Marco Rubio for having an auto-response on his email.

"Auto response!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Jeb writes to Rubio, (I count 26 exclamation points) adding in an editorial aside “I couldn't resist ribbing my friend Marco Rubio just a little."

There’s simply no way to make a conversation about auto-response interesting, but Jeb’s indignation that he -- a Governor! -- should be a victim of auto-response becomes a running “joke” in the book.

Late night comedians and dramatic reenactment YouTubers should have a field day with this stuff.

9) #humblebrag Remix; Running for President

Here’s a contradiction: Jeb assembles a book about his his executive experience while he is mulling a run for president, yet the book is full of emails where his constituents ask him if he wants to be president, and he says no. Call it the #HumbleBragRemix.

“Good luck, and if you ever run for Presidency [sic] or for that matter any office I would be honored to lend a hand because this country needs politicians who care. Tell our brother congrats and that I am so so glad he is our President elect [sic],” writes a Floridian identified as Tina, in 2001.

“I love being Governor and have little interest in being President,” Jeb responds.

Jeb now has a lot of interest in being President. If his goal is to get voters interested in him becoming elected, “Reply All” is pretty much a flop.

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