Sunday, February 22, 2015

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

Jeb not ready for prime time

Dana Milbank points out that when Jeb recently "addressed the Chicago Council on Global Affairs luncheon at the Fairmont, he combined his father's awkward oratory with his brother's mangled syntax and malapropisms. Like his brother, he said 'nucular' instead of 'nuclear,' and he hunched over the lectern with both hands on it — but instead of exuding folksiness, as his brother does, he oozed discomfort."

A top priority, he explained, is "reforming a broken immigration system and turning it into an economic — a catalytic converter for sustained economic growth."

Presumably, he was reaching for "catalyst," but instead came up with an automotive emissions-control device.

"As we grow our presence by growing our ability to produce oil and gas," Bush went on, "we also make it possible to lessen the dependency that Russia now has on top of Europe."

Russia's dependency on top of Europe? It was, in addition to being backward, a delightful echo of his brother's belief that it is hard "to put food on your family."

At another point, discussing NATO's aggressive stance in the Baltics, Jeb explained that "I don't know what the effect has been, because, you know, it's really kind of hard to be out on the road, and I'm just a gladiator these days, so I don't follow every little detail."

Asked about the weakening of nation states in the Middle East, he admitted: "I don't have a solution. I mean, I… I… I've read articles, you know, about whether the 1915 kind of breakout of the Middle East and how that no longer is a viable deal."

Bush, eschewing teleprompter, read his speech quickly and, during the question time that followed, leaned forward in a chair, jacket buttoned and legs spread, swigging water with Marco Rubio's gusto.

The former Florida governor recited his foreign policy credentials, such as opening a bank office in Venezuela. He touted a Latin American free-trade agreement and noted that "where Columba and I live is going to be right in the center of the universe of that free-trade agreement."

He can see Cuba from his house!

Much more here: "Is Jeb Bush ready for prime time?"

And then there's the slimy business stuff. See e.g., "Jeb Bush’s private investments in fracking dovetail with public advocacy ("The intersection between Jeb Bush’s private and public life — calls for fracking have been a part of his speeches and came as recently as last month in San Francisco — triggers questions of disclosure.")

Indeed, when it comes to foreign relations, all Jeb, "like most of the other Republicans who may run for president, has are muscular-sounding bromides that substitute for understanding."

Good luck with that

"After years of neglect, Florida's "dysfunctional" mental-health system is likely to be a top priority for lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session, with both advocates and politicians calling for major reform." "Florida lawmakers to tackle troubled mental-health system."

The best they can do

"Former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford signaled his intentions to remain politically active Friday as he joined the board of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC)." "Will Weatherford Named by Bill McCollum to Board of GOP Group."

"Jeb courts GOP’s economic charlatans"

Paul Krugman: "Cranking up for 2016: Jeb Bush courts the GOP’s economic charlatans."

"Now it looks even worse"

The Miami Herald editorial board: "The rejection of federal funds for Medicaid expansion by leaders in Tallahassee was never a smart decision. Now it looks even worse as the feds prepare to shut down a healthcare pipeline that pours about $1.3 billion into a statewide program that aids hospitals that care for Florida’s neediest." "Another Florida healthcare crisis."

"Lying witnesses, junk science, bogus experts, faulty memories, misidentifications and sometimes good intentions gone astray"

Scott Maxwell is required to yet again state the obvious: "Wrongful convictions are a result of lying witnesses, junk science, bogus experts, faulty memories, misidentifications and sometimes good intentions gone astray. It's time for Florida to join the other states that have recognized this — instead of hosting more debates about the most humane way to kill people." "Change the debate: Errors show we must end the death penalty."

It must be something other than the OUR Walmart

If you can stomach Bloomberg's take on Walmart's recent flop on wages, here it is: "Why Walmart is increasing its everyday low wages."

"Jeb's Brainless Trust"

Always nice to read that "Jeb isn’t doing terribly well in the polls." More: "The numbers involving former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are both shocking and pedestrian . . . ." Or, as James Carville puts it, they are "not very impressive . . . ."

Perhaps that's because, as Margaret Carlson reminds us, "Jeb Bush is asking us to do the impossible — forget that he’s the son of one president and the brother of another." "The unbearable burden of being Jeb Bush."

But is Jeb really any different? Maureen Dowd thinks not, at least when it comes to his advisors: "Jeb Bush’s Brainless Trust." Or, as the Boston Globe reports:

Boston Globe profile revealed Bush was pot-smoking bully in prep school. New York Times found many letters to father’s White House urging help for friends. Advice to women on welfare: “Get your life together and find a husband.” Helped brother W. win presidency in Florida by 537 votes. Husband of brain-dead Terri Schiavo called Jeb “vindictive, untrustworthy coward” who put him “through hell” by interfering in her case. Miami Herald asked what he’d do specifically for black people if elected governor. Answer: “Probably nothing.” Wants path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Wife is Mexican-American whose peasant father entered United States illegally.
"Democrats’ guide to Republicans for president."

So much for that states rights schlock

"The top lobbying group for Florida’s seaports wants the state to establish a marketing campaign to help lure cargo-shipping companies from major ports in other areas of the country." "Florida Ports Want Government Help Luring Shipping From New York, Georgia and Texas."

"Fracking a Jeb Bush family affair"

No surprise that "fracking is not just a Jeb Bush investment, but also a Jeb Bush family affair."

Son George P. Bush, 38, was elected Texas land commissioner last year, two years after helping found Fort Worth-based FracStar Logistics, providing sand for fracking. One of FracStar's managing partners is Coral Gables-based De Soto Partners, which is co-owned by Jeb Bush and 31-year-old Jeb Bush Jr. FracStar has been renamed Proforce Energy Services.

Jeb Bush's private equity group, Britton Hill Holdings, was established in May 2013, but his entry into the fracking boom and private equity business wasn't publicly revealed until June 2014, when it triggered a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing for managing more than $100 million.

By then, Bush was looking increasingly like he would run for president.

The filing showed that the pooled investment fund had raised $40.4 million from 37 investors. Bush is chairman of Britton Hill, named after the highest point in Florida and based out of his office at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. His partners include former Lehman Brothers banker Amar Bajpai, former natural gas trader David Savett and private equity executive Ross Rodrigues. Bajpai is now on the board of Inflection Energy, the Denver company he and Bush invested in.

Bush and his partners "had more than five years consulting across various sectors, and a move into making direct investments was a natural extension," said Campbell, Bush's spokeswoman.

"Bush's fracking investments are not the only time his private business life has overlapped with his public policy advocacy."
His work as an education reformer coincided with his financial stake in Academic Partnerships, an online higher education company. Bush severed ties with the company late last year and his team has noted he did not invest in K-12, which has been his policy focus.

The former governor already has resigned from various corporate boards, including Tenet Healthcare, which has a bottom-line interest in the success of Obamacare, and he ended consulting contracts as he moved fully into the presidential fray in December.

But pulling out of ventures in which he is a partner or owner, including his fracking investments, is far trickier because Bush's name and involvement presumably is part of what drew investors.

"Jeb Bush's private investments in fracking dovetail with public advocacy."