A man named Jeb

Bush sighting: “You all are much more civil than the people at Tallahassee press conferences,” said Florida Governor Jeb Bush last Friday to the proud representatives from California’s Fourth Estate. Because the afternoon’s $2,500-a-plate Sutter Club luncheon (“includes VIP reception and photo with Gov. Bush”) was off-limits to the press, Jeb held a press conference afterward, ostensibly to talk about his brother’s re-selection campaign.

Of course, Jeb had no intention of talking about the California recall, which, after all, is of no more interest to the Bush clan than was Cheney and Enron’s gaming of the California energy market a couple years ago. But somehow, the subject just kept coming up, from California GOP chairman Duf Sundheim’s introduction—in which Sundheim proclaimed how much we all wished California had Jeb as its governor—through Jeb’s own insistence that the California deficit “blocks out the sun, it’s so big.”

Jeb seemed particularly amused when a daily’s reporter asked whether he was concerned that he himself could be subject to recall.

“No,” said Jeb, with a wistful smile.

Undaunted and slightly oblivious, the reporter followed up: “Um, why not?”

Now at this point, Jeb could have screamed, “Because my state doesn’t have a recall, you idiot! Because my brother and I can lie and cheat and do anything we damn please, and you media folks will bow and scrape and serve it up as gospel to a nation of sheep,” at which point he could have thrown his head back and laughed maniacally, à la Mr. Burns or some villain in German expressionist cinema.

Instead, the Florida governor opted for the shorter answer: “Every state’s law is different.”

Preparing to step out into a 105-degree Sacramento afternoon with his handlers and a few press stragglers, Jeb remarked to a photographer that, although both California and Florida have air conditioning, back in Florida, they actually turn theirs on. The photographer mumbled something about having to conserve energy this time of year, and Bush flashed a sly smile that would make Ken Lay proud. “So, you’re still having problems with that out here?” he said, not waiting for a response.

Homeland insecurity: Bites was surprised by the presence of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) at last week’s “Thursday Matinee” Sacramento Monarchs game. Everyone’s favorite prison-guard union was on hand to fingerprint the young folk, and many parents happily lined up with their kids to take advantage of this warm, fuzzy security opportunity. The only problem, as one of Bites’ law-enforcement friends noted, is that fingerprinting children is not only extremely morbid, but also virtually pointless. Naturally, CCPOA wouldn’t drum up much positive publicity if they told parents that the only likely value of fingerprints in child-abduction cases is to identify a body (and for that, there are dental records). But in a society where the reality of falling crime rates is offset by the hysteria of mass-marketed fear, it’s good to know we’re all doing our part.

Issa-lation: To what degree can federal lawmakers promote state ballot initiatives? That was the question the Federal Election Commission (FEC) pondered last Thursday in the case of U.S. Representative Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., whose backing of a state initiative appeared to exceed McCain-Feingold spending limits. Who cares, you ask? Well, Darrell Issa for one, since Gray Davis supporters filed a similar complaint to the FEC regarding the Republican millionaire’s funding of the recall campaign. The FEC ultimately decided on a compromise that gives Flake a fair amount of room to maneuver. In any event, Washington lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg—who represents both Flake and Issa—insists the cases aren’t really connected. Meanwhile, the recall campaign has more embarrassing complications to deal with: In just one week, Issa campaign official Monica Getz resigned after signing in as “Jane Lopez” from KCBS in order to infiltrate a press conference, and another recall coordinator, Derrick Lee, came under scrutiny for allegedly importing two felons to register as California voters and gather signatures. Lee and the signature gatherers in question all hail from Phoenix. Small world …