He had a big heart and keen sense of propriety. On Thanksgiving weekend, I arranged for him to call members of the Florida National Guard deployed to the Middle East. He told his schedulers to clear space for the calls. Being the typical pushy staffer, I suggested we leak the call details. Jeb refused. “That wasn’t for the campaign.”
One of the biggest absurdities of the 2016 primary was the “low energy” label that stuck to the governor. I remember one morning in Virginia Beach when Jeb went out to exercise with former Navy SEALs. He gleefully forced me along. A veteran myself, I’d been conditioned to show up to these things 20 minutes early. Even then, he beat me to the punch. There he was at 0530 in the hotel lobby, answering e-mails on his phone. He ran a couple of miles with the SEALs and worked a full day afterward.
The public was eager to critique Jeb the candidate. Fine. But I’ve yet to see any worthwhile criticism of his intellect or of his integrity. I’d encourage anyone concerned about our education system, our national debt, or immigration to go back and read his solutions. All smart Republicans up for election this November would do well to claim those ideas for their own. Just ask Trump, who had no problem stealing Jeb’s tax and veterans reform plans outright.
Come November, the GOP’s flirtation with an unserious reality-TV star will likely end. And when it does, the party will need to rebuild itself. Call me naïve, but I do think that the ideas that Jeb articulated – those of inclusiveness, opportunity, and hope for a better future —– will take hold. They are worth standing for, no matter how hard the political winds blow.