Jeb Bush’s Book Reveals Death Penalty Doubts, Thoughts on Racism

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, gestures as he speaks to supporters during a rally, Nov. 2, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. PlayChris O'Meara/AP Photo
WATCH Jeb Bush In A Minute

Today, Republican presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, released a compilation of hundreds of emails from his two terms as governor of Florida.

The e-book, "Reply All," spans the years of 1999-2007 and encompasses the many issues Bush dealt with; fighting to cut state budgets, dealing with the Florida recount of 2000, the eight hurricanes that hit during his tenure. It also offers insight into his thoughts on controversial issues that continue to reverberate into this current campaign.

In 2003, a constituent named Connie Barron asked him how he adheres to his Catholic faith and follows Florida’s law of the land, which allows for the death penalty.

In his response, he offered a personal look on his internal crossroads.

“Signing a death warrant is not an easy thing to do. Calling the Warden of the Florida State Prison when someone is to be executed is the most difficult thing I have done as Governor,” citing his Catholic faith as informing his conviction that life is sacred. “However, any many years of deliberation on this subject, I am also convinced that Florida’s capital punishment law is just because it is applied so rarely and only in the most horrific cases.”

Recently, Bush reiterated his complex feelings on the death penalty, telling NBC’s "Meet the Press" that he feels conflicted.

As governor, one of his more controversial policies was the decision to end affirmative action in 1999. His plan, called Florida One, banned the use of racial preferences in admissions for state schools and created a program guaranteeing that the top 20 percent of high school graduates would gain admission to a post-secondary institution and some funding for need-based financial aid.

“The issue of racism is not going away. Things will never be equal among the races no matter what you may try to implement," constituent Vi Ella Balloon wrote in November 1999. "I have worked extremely hard for everything that I have accomplished or obtained in my life. Much of what I have accomplished was not made possible by affirmative action or race-based criteria’s [sic].”

Bush responded the next day.

“Thanks for writing....Racism is still alive in Florida but laws that discriminate won’t eliminate it," he wrote. "We need to enforce civil rights laws and punish discrimination at every turn."

Bush often says that his policies led to higher enrollment numbers for minorities. Politifact Florida rated that claim mostly false, noting that, while Hispanic enrollment nearly doubled from 1999-2013, the percentage of black students in the State University System is down slightly since Bush’s 1999 executive order.

In the wake of the decision, Senator Kendrick Meek and Representative Anthony Hill conducted a sit-in in Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan’s office. Students protested, as thousands of students at historically black university Florida A&M, and from Tallahassee community college, and Florida State University joined in.

Bush’s emails do reveal some support for his plan. Don Bowen wrote to let Bush know that “there are many people and leaders in the black community who do “get it”, who are not afraid of change, and who are willing to give your plan a chance.”

Bush has said recently, that implementing the plan as quickly as he did was a mistake and that he shouldn’t have moved on so quickly to his next rollout. “The bigger the idea the more you have to stick with it,” he told an Iowa crowd in October.

The book is filled with moments of levity as well. Readers experience Bush getting excited about his new “toy”, a Blackberry, which he called his new love. He was known for sending “stream of consciousness” emails to staffers. One, involved a prop he wanted to buy for a young senator who was about to become speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

Subject: [None]?Monday, October 3, 2005 8:09 a.m. From: Jeb Bush I need to get a sword for marco.

Bush presented him with a sword at his swearing in, to represent unleashing “a mythical power for conservative causes." And while Bush didn’t include family interactions, readers do get one small glimpse from this interaction with the family matriarch.

From: Barbara Bush We are in the car going to hear the Oaks75 in Galveston and have a new toy. We love you. Mom -------------------------- Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

From: Jeb Bush a blackberry!!!! Jeb Bush

And there is an email from Bush’s father as well, 41st President, George H.W. Bush. He tells his son about a photo that he loves.

“It is so good of you that I have gotten over my being cropped out by the photographer. Thanks a lot. .?Love to all ,says your devoted, DAD “ he writes. The younger Bush responds, “thanks Gampy. I love you. Jeb Bush.”

The book is available exclusively on Amazon.