Jeb Bush released 250,000 of his emails from his time in the Florida governor’s office today, as well as the first chapter of an e-book detailing his attachment to his BlackBerry and how he “spent 30 hours a week answering emails, either from my laptop or Blackberry, often while on the road.”
When he was inaugurated in 1999, Bush writes in his e-book, he “didn’t want to disappear into the governor’s office” and email was the way he could “keep track of what Floridians were thinking. I needed their energy and passion and wisdom.”
The former Florida governor, who served two terms, said he “earned the nickname ‘The eGovernor,’” writing back and forth with constituents, staff and even children “very early in the morning, late at night, or on Saturday.” He writes that he tried to reserve Sundays for his wife and three children, with “no emails,” but “didn’t always succeed.”
The first chapter is from the first month he was inaugurated in 1999 and through an open records request last year, ABC News obtained the thousands of emails:
But in his e-book, Bush, 61, uses those emails to tell the story of his first days as governor.
The Republican is now exploring a run for the White House and released the emails in the name of “transparency,” but it’s important to note, given Florida’s open records laws, it’s likely he also knew they would be released whether he was behind it or not.
Reading them 16 years later, it’s clear Bush is not only accessible to average Floridians trying to get a message to their governor, but also hyper-aware it was a new technological frontier. It’s a startling difference from today when email, text messages and constant communication is a part of every moment of everyday life.
Some of the language used also shows the time that has passed from when the Internet and email were still something new to be marveled at, compared to today’s routine use. At the end of the chapter he writes an exchange with Brian Crowley, a reporter with The Palm Beach Post, in which Bush notes a gift he bought his wife, Columba, online from QVC calling it the “QVC web page site.”
Crowley was interested in what Bush’s first month had been like. Bush called it a “joyous experience.”
“The biggest surprise is the volume of my voice,” Bush writes. “People listen to what I say and do.”
He writes about the “toughest decision” in the first month, saying it was the “appointments process.”
“Friends who were expecting jobs have not gotten what they want and while I will always do what I think is right, it’s not fun to disappoint.”
At the beginning of the chapter, Bush writes being governor of Florida was his "dream job" and that feeling "never changed" in eight years, even through the "hurricanes, budget debates, or even hanging chads."
Bush selected emails from that first month that show his constant interaction with voters and staff, even when he is sharing bad news.
On Jan. 20, 1999 Bush received an email from a constituent writing that she wanted to meet with him because the Hillsborough County Crisis Center she ran needed $900,000 from the state budget. She sent the email at 10:31 p.m., and the next morning at 6:47 a.m. he replied, "Our budget is at the printer!"
Many of Bush's emails to staff focus on the need for his office’s website to get a "major upgrade," making it clear he didn’t want to be the only connected person in the administration. Bush writes to his staff several times, but doesn't seem to be getting the answers he wants. He writes that he wants it to be "interactive" with the state of Florida and the "leader in the nation."
"If you disagree, come and tell me why," he writes to aides, including longtime top aide Sally Bradshaw. "If you agree, help me make it so."
Not all of the emails are serious: Bush exchanges a humorous one with Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan on Jan. 30, 1999. Brogan tagged along on a drug sting in Kissimmee, Florida, and was eager to tell the governor about it, writing, "Whoever wrote DRUGS MAKE YOU STUPID! wasn't just whistling the theme song from Shaft!!
Bush wrote back, "Power to the people... The short, little people of course."