The Boston Globe had a long story this weekend about presumed Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, and specifically about his formative years in a posh prep school, where his classmates remember him as a stoner who was disengaged from politics, and a bullying, lunkheaded jerk. On the one hand: who cares? On the other: not surprising.
Bush's former classmates at the posh Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, the Globe reports, recall young Jeb as being a bit of a dick, bullying younger students and smoking a "notable" amount of pot:
"He was just in a bit of a different world," said Phil Sylvester, who said he was a Bush roommate. While other students "were constantly arguing about politics and particularly Vietnam, he just wasn't interested, he didn't participate, he didn't care."
Meanwhile, his grades were so poor that he was in danger of being expelled, which would have been a huge embarrassment to his father, a member of Congress and of the school's board of trustees.
Jeb Bush, in an interview for this story, recalled it as one of the most difficult times of his life, while acknowledging that he made it harder by initially breaking a series of rules.
"I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover," Bush said, both of which could have led to expulsion. "It was pretty common." He said he had no recollection of bullying and said he was surprised to be perceived that way by some.
Bush has previously described himself as a "cynical little turd" during his years at Andover. Others remember him as firmly apolitical, staying out of campus debates about things like the Vietnam War. The "bullying" that his classmates allege includes taunting a smaller classmate and sewing his pajama bottoms closed. Another classmate recalled being physically lifted in the air by Bush, whom he recalled was about to "smash a grapefruit in my face" before someone intervened.
The Globe also makes a case for why we care about what a man in his 60s was doing as a teenager:
Without that head start at Andover, and the motivation he finally found there to pursue his own life's path, it seems unlikely that the 14-year-old from Texas who barely survived his freshman year could today be seriously considering a bid for the presidency.
Sure, we can make that argument. Or we can call it what it is: this story is great gossip. So was the 2012 Washington Post story about Mitt Romney tormenting a classmate for his perceived homosexuality. Do these stories reveal something about the "true" character of these men, or the privileged world they belong to? Or do they just help confirm our deeply-held belief that Jeb Bush seems like kind of a shithead, and, God help us, he's going to be in our faces for at least another long, long year?
Jeb Bush speaks at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention (yes, really) in San Francisco, January 2015. Image via AP