WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – In the dead of night, an unknown graffiti artist is placing a big sticker on Jeb Bush campaign posters across the state. The sticker has just one word: “Devious.”
The problem for Bush is that it is his own word. The swaggering Bush was caught on a tape recording by a Gannett News reporter bragging to his aides that he has “devious plans” to nullify a ballot initiative requiring the state to reduce class size in the state’s public schools if voters approve it Nov. 5.
It revealed, once again, the Republican governor’s contempt for the will of Florida voters that first surfaced when he and Florida Sec. of State Katherine Harris “scrubbed” at least 80,000 voters, mostly African Americans, from voting rolls to help the Bush-Cheney campaign steal the 2000 presidential election.
Bush is also heard on the tape cracking jokes about “juicy details” (his words) of an alleged lesbian relationship between two former caregivers of missing child, Rilya Wilson. Bush is responsible for the debacle in Florida’s Department of Children and Families which cannot account for 532 children who ran away or were abducted from foster homes. To put it mildly, Bush’s levity about a missing child was in foul taste.
The Palm Beach Post headlined the story of the tape as Jeb Bush’s “most serious campaign mistake.” Democratic opponent, Bill McBride, seized on the recording, hammering Bush as a demagogue who talks behind voters backs of his devious plans to slash and burn public education and the children of the Sunshine State. “What I say in private is the same thing I say to you from this podium,” McBride tells his big, cheering crowds.
Virtually unkown a few weeks ago, McBride has surged in the polls to within striking distance of Bush. A relentless campaigner, McBride, a Tampa attorney, enjoys strong support from the Florida AFL-CIO, the Teachers Union and other grassroots organizations.
During an Oct. 22 televised debate at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, McBride hit Bush again for his failed record on public education. “For the past three and a half years, you’ve had an opportunity to reduce class size. They haven’t been reduced,” McBride said. “In one instance, you said class sizes didn’t matter, as if you’d never seen a class. What we’ve had over the past four years is not enough leadership. I’ll provide that.”