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Karl Rove: Jeb Bush 'Deepest Thinker on Our Side'

Image: Karl Rove: Jeb Bush 'Deepest Thinker on Our Side'

By Elliot Jager   |   Sunday, 25 May 2014 07:38 AM

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is intent on being "the anti-George W. Bush" — presenting himself as an advice-taking intellectual and a hands-on executive determined to maximize governmental efficiency, The New York Times reports.

To run and win in the 2016 presidential race, Bush, age 61, needs to differentiate himself from his older brother's White House legacy.

He has staked out a position as someone who values ideas and is eager to seek advice for solving public policy dilemmas. Bush has co-authored a book on immigration and has a reputation as a vociferous reader of nonfiction and journals dealing with ideas and politics.

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While George W. Bush, 67, went with gut feelings and wasn't known to dwell over dense political tomes, Jeb Bush lets it be known he is a cerebral technocrat willing to read the small print of legislation.

Republican strategist Karl Rove refers to Bush as the "deepest thinker on our side."

Tea party-aligned conservatives and libertarians are put off by his lack of antagonism to government itself.

"I don't know that he will ever win over the limited-government conservatives," said GOP strategist Greg Mueller. "There is skepticism that maybe Jeb Bush wants too much government in people’s lives."

For his part, Bush worries that the party has become branded as "anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker," according to the Times.

Philip Howard, one of the authors Bush reads and has consulted says, "He's not interested in proving some sort of conservative point that less government is better, though he might believe that. In all of my dealings with him, he's interested in how you make government deliver effectively. What are the incentives? How do you hold people accountable." Howard told the Times that such discussions are necessary for leaders to engage in.

When Bush served as Florida governor from 1999 to 2007, he often set aside time for reading, thinking, and discussion. Scholars, authors, and statesmen were invited to present seminars. He recommended reading material for his staff including a rediscovered literary novel from 1937, Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God," about an African American woman confronting violent racism in early 1900s Florida.

As governor, Bush also worked to conserve the Everglades by having the state buy up land and securing it as a public trust even as he privatized the delivery of certain state services.

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