MIAMI BEACH -- On his way to an ecologically friendly hotel here on Sunday, Jeb Bush ate a Paleo-diet-approved bison burger wrapped in lettuce and served by a Democrat-loving drag queen turned waiter....(Not only is Modern Farmer "sustainability-focused," its launch was bankrolled by Frank Giustra, the friend of Bill Clinton whose sale of uranium interests has attracted the attention of the times and Peter Schweizer.)
His inaugural gathering of major donors and fund-raisers here was a sometimes flamboyant, and sometimes inadvertent, spectacle of Republican Party stereotype busting.
The message: Should he run for president, as widely expected, Mr. Bush will do it on his own, inviting, unconventional, South Floridian terms.
The two-day retreat here was held at 1 Hotel South Beach, known for its environmental ambitions and theatrical design.
Inside the beachside hotel, hundreds of Bush supporters found a brochure encouraging them to use complimentary electric cars made by Tesla, a longtime Republican Party demon because of its federal tax subsidies.
They encountered a copy of the sustainability-focused, left-leaning Modern Farmer magazine. (Headline: “Can plant factories save us from climate change?”)...
In the Times story about Jeb, there is some skepticism ("How much of this approach is window dressing, rather than a genuine break from his party’s past, remains hazy"). But Jeb did get the message out to readers of Eastern-sophisticate media: When he says things the rubes want to hear about gay rights and climate change, he's doing it with his fingers crossed behind his back. He doesn't really mean all that stiff. He's hip, just like you!
(Even all the talk about Bush's new Paleo diet seems for show -- if he thought he was getting fat, why didn't he start the diet before he'd be heading out out onto the hustings, where he'll be offered Iowa state fair corn dogs and New Hampshire diner pancakes? Answer: He wants this to be part of every story. It's meant to make him relatable to voters, especially non-Republican voters, who watch self-improvement segments on daytime TV and read self-improvement books and websites. It's an Obamaesque approach, and it might be working for him.)
Jeb's campaign wants Times readers to know that he was waited on by a drag queen and didn't run screaming. The campaign tried to send a similar message back in February, spoon-feeding a story about Jeb's social tolerance to BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins. Coppins wrote it up under the title "Jeb Bush, 2016’s Gay-Friendly Republican" -- but the effort blew up in Jeb's face when, shortly afterward, he defended businesses' right to discriminate against gay customers and when his super PAC hired Jordan Sekulow, a militantly homophobic lawyer who, among other things, defends draconian anti-gay laws in Africa.
But Jeb's campaign obviously intends to keep plugging away with this message. It's all meant to make the public, or at least the media, believe about Jeb approximately what Buzz Bissinger said he believed about Mitt Romney after the first Obama-Romney debate, in which Romney cynically recast himself as a moderate:
[Romney] revealed compassion that, during the entirety of this absurdly long march, had never been in evidence before. He recognized the needs of the poor. He recognized the need for regulation....If you believe a modern Republican when he pretends to be a moderate, I invite you to revisit the 2000 George W. Bush campaign -- and the presidency that followed. We shouldn't be fooled again, but it's quite possible we will be.
I think Romney realizes that lowering the rate to 20 percent will not fly if he is to lower the deficit and make the plan work. And he is hardly the only candidate to assert something during a campaign that will change once in his office....
I believe that Romney’s move to the center is not yet another flip-flop sleight of hand, perhaps naively. I believe he will send to the political Guantanamo those dirty old white men of the party ready to bomb Iran....