Browsing Bush’s email from his time as governor, which he has publicly released and placed online, I found something I really liked. After his reelection, Jeb sent the following message to a list of people that includes Peggy Noonan, Joe Scarborough, Karen Hughes, Roy Barnes, Connie Mack and others, people whose opinions it looks like he valued. Here is the message:
Tuesday, December 31, 2002 6:02 PM
Next Tuesday, I will be inaugurated to serve as Governor of Florida for four more years. I want to make the most of it. What suggestions do you have for a Governor willing to take risks and try to make a difference. I have my own ideas but I respect your thinking very much and am sincerely seeking your thoughts.
My interest is in service to the citizens of Florida. I am asking your advice not to advance my political career since I don’t view my job that way. What reforms would you suggest I advance? What causes should I embrace?
I hope you and yours have a prosperous and joyful 2003.
Here is Karen Hughes’s reply:
I think the whole Trent Lott mess raised the prospects for an interesting discussion on race, where we stand, how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go — and it strikes me you are uniquely positioned to deal with this issue in an engaging and sensitive way, because of your inroads in the African American community, because of one-florida, because you are married to a Mexican American — for all these reasons you are uniquely able to deal with this issue in a new-generation, new Republican way. I think many of the people our age are ready to put racial divisiveness behind us, but not quite sure how to go about it…
And here is Peggy Noonan’s:
Hello Jeb, thanks for your letter and happy new year to you, too. I am on vacation in Mexico and I’ve been reading Thomas Cahill’s “Pope John XXIII.” In it he quickly recounts the history of all the Popes, some of whom were doozies, as you know. But one fascinating Pope, seemingly a very good man, was, if I recall correctly, Benedict. Late middle ages. He was considered a great relief as he followed an austere and greedy one. Benedict became famous for doing something amazing. He walked the streets of Rome and had talks, sometime quite lengthy, with whoever came up to him. Once a slightly crazy monk came up all agitated and told Benedict that the Antichrist had been born. Benedict listened politely and asked how old he was. The monk said, “Three!” Benedict replied, “Then I’ll let my successor handle him.” Witty guy, and for a good while very popular. Anyway, I’m sure you’re a great walker and I’m sure your instincts and conversation are fully egalitarian, so why not spend a day a week just walking around, or sitting in a little cafe on a small street, and having coffee, and trying to help people with their agency and bureacratic problems. It might make people feel they could talk to the top guy and get a break and actually get something from government: the attention and assistance of the governor. So off the top of my head that’s my idea. Go to less meetings, too. Everyone thinks government happens at meetings but only Boring happens at meetings. Send your aides, let them brief you, save time, walk. Happy New Year. Peggy Noonan
Basically, be good. Good advice. Jeb’s reply to Noonan:
Very cool! I do a thing called citizens hours where I (and the lt governor) go to smaller towns around florida, sit in a room and take on all comers. Some want to come to say they have met the governor, some want to advance a cause, some want the government to get off their backs, some are looking for help. It is perhaps the most rewarding part of my job.
Three word mission statement ….. no more meetings!
Happy New Year. Any other thoughts will always be appreciated.