In 2002 my wife and I spent our honeymoon in Key West, Florida. I wanted to go to Europe, my wife wanted the beach, so we decided that my love for Hemingway made Key West a perfect compromise. I am not a fan of Florida in general, but Key West has the look and feel of something different from the mainland. We bicycled around the island, stopping every ten or fifteen minutes to drop into a bar and get a drink, or two, or three. Key West is famous for its glorious sunsets, and the carnivalesque atmosphere in and around Mallory Square is reminiscent of some Bacchanalian rite.
Sitting on the terrace of our hotel one afternoon we spotted a crowd of people setting up a makeshift stage. Banners and balloons of red, white, and blue were soon brought out and one of the signs had the words JEB BUSH printed on it. Jeb was the governor of Florida at the time, and his dumber older brother was president. In little less than an hour people began flocking to the lawn just below our terrace. I asked my wife is she wanted to go down and mingle with the elite. She politely declined, but I couldn’t stay away. I put on a tee shirt and made my way down to the lawn barefoot. I was the only one casually dressed. I was also one of the youngest people on the lawn. Jeb was giving a speech, but on what I cannot recall. The event was clearly a fundraiser. He answered no questions, but after speaking he walked amidst the crowd, shaking hands and getting his picture taken with eager supporters, all of whom were formally dressed. I cannot remember if I got any strange looks, but I must have. It was clear that in my black tee shirt and swim trunks I did not fit in with this crowd. I would like to say that I didn’t care, but the truth is that I was self-conscience of the way I was dressed.
It did not take long for me to make my way to within a few feet of Jeb. People were eager to get his attention and he was doing his best to accommodate them. It was an incredibly hot day, as only those in Florida can be, and I noticed that Jeb was sweating profusely. I was hesitant, but wanted to at least shake his hand. He looked at me and started to make his way to where I was standing but an older woman blocked his way, whispering something into his ear. He looked my way again, and seemed to be apologizing for not being able to make his way over to me. I found a new respect for him at that point. It must not be easy being a politician from a famous political family. Someone must always want something from you and with that in mind how can you trust anyone? I’ve lived in New Hampshire long enough to see the political machine at work, and I’m always amazed by how polished the best of them are. Jeb Bush was not polished, but there was something likable about him. I could see that he was doing his best to greet everyone that day. It was also clear that I was in no way a donor of weight, so the fact that he at least attempted to greet me says a lot.
Now, some 13 and half years later Jeb Bush is emerging as the front-runner for the Republican nominee for president. Jeb seems to be the most likable of the Bush brothers, and the most sensible. Still, he is from a family that has always been privileged, and as such cannot conceive of what the average American citizen has to face on a daily basis. I am not saying that the Democrats are any better, but that, more often than not, most politicians who make it to party nominee status are of a certain type. At the risk of sounding too libertarian, which I am not, we cannot trust our politicians anymore than we can trust to leave our doors unlocked at night. But back to Jeb. As nice as he may seem, if he is the Republican nominee for president we are in a world of trouble. In fact, the Republicans have no one that is capable of higher thinking. Please, show me a Republican intellectual. Jeb, like the rest of his family, are oil tycoons who have done quite well for themselves. They are not interested in promoting democracy, but instead will promote big business and an agenda that will inevitably widen the already incomprehensible gap between the 1% and the rest of the country.
Still, if Jeb Bush becomes the Republican nominee for president, I will be happy that we shared a moment one hot day in late summer way back in 2002.