So why wasn't Jeb Bush standing with his daughter when the bailiffs slapped
the cuffs on her and led her off to prison?
Couldn't he have set aside his campaign for at least a morning? The image
of Noelle sitting in a cell in a blue prison jumpsuit while her father, the governor,
is at a fund-raiser with her uncle, the president, certainly is one of the more
bizarre juxtapositions in Florida political history.
Noelle Bush (R), 25, daughter of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, is handcuffed by a
deputy during her hearing in Orange County Court, in Orlando, Florida, October
17, 2002. Bush was sentenced to ten days in the Orange County Jail on a contempt
charge by Circuit Judge Reginald Whitehead. REUTERS/Pool-Red Huber
Jeb says he didn't want to turn the court hearing into a media circus. He
didn't want to make it look like the governor was trying to intimidate the judge
into a more lenient sentence.
I'd rather believe this than that he couldn't fit her into his schedule, or
that he feared the politically embarrassing video on the evening news.
But even when I accept his explanation, I instinctively put myself in his
place as a parent, which is about the only way most of us can relate to someone
in his position. And when I do that, I would be at my daughter's side, holding
Is this fair? Probably not.
I don't know the Bush family dynamic. I don't know how many times Jeb has
had to deal with Noelle's drug problem, how many sleepless nights it has cost
him, how many treatment programs she has been through, how much family turmoil
this has caused.
It could well be that Jeb did what he thought was in his daughter's best interest.
Maybe it is time for Noelle, at the age of 25, to understand that her future is
a jail cell if she doesn't change, and even the governor can't stop that.
This makes sense to me.
But I still think most parents will go with their gut on this -- I'd be there
with my kid. And if I think of her having to face a dozen reporters as well as
the judge, I'd want to be there even more, since those reporters really are there
because of me.
If this episode hurts Jeb, this will be why. It is not that Noelle has a drug
problem; it's that her dad was not there. When Noelle stood before the judge Thursday,
it was with her aunt, Jeb's sister.
Is this fair? No, but politics isn't fair.
Is Noelle's plight even news? Her behavior has nothing to do with her dad's
job. For that matter, his role as dad has little to do with his ability to set
policy and pass legislation.
Bush, as might be expected, has continually asked the media to respect the
In fact, reporters have long known about Noelle's drug dependency, but stayed
away from it until she was arrested in Tallahassee in January for calling in a
phony prescription for an anxiety drug.
Even at that, the Sentinel didn't splash it on the front page.
It was put at the bottom of the Local & State section.
Noelle only made the front page when Jeb brought her up in a tearful, public
speech when the media was present. He did so again in a tearful campaign appearance
at the Hispanic Christian Church Association of Central Florida, also attended
by the media.
This week, he talked about her on the Today show.
It looks like he wants the media to back off when the news is embarrassing
while he reserves the right to bring up Noelle when it portrays him in the sympathetic
light of a grieving parent.
When he does that, he has to expect the question: Well, then, where were you
Copyright © 2002, Orlando Sentinel