Classmates at an exclusive prep school recall former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) as a hash-smoking “bully” who routinely used his imposing build to harass and intimidate other students.
Talking Points Memo reported Saturday on a Boston Globe article that detailed Bush’s “tumultuous” years at the Phillips Academy boarding school located in Andover, Massachusetts through the eyes of the people who knew him there.
John Ellis “Jeb” Bush entered Andover in the fall of 1967, following in the footsteps of his father and older brother George.
“Classmates said he smoked a notable amount of pot — as many did,” wrote the Globe‘s Michael Kranish, “and sometimes bullied smaller students.”
Bush’s former roommate Phil Sylvester said, “He was just in a bit of a different world.”
Other students, said Sylvester, “were constantly arguing about politics and particularly Vietnam, he just wasn’t interested, he didn’t participate, he didn’t care.”
The teen Bush proved to be an even worse student than his brother, maintaining a grade average barely high enough to keep him from expulsion.
“I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover,” Bush said, which the Globe pointed out, could both have led to expulsion. “It was pretty common.”
One friend, Peter Tibbetts, recalled, “The first time I really got stoned was in Jeb’s room.”
Bush invited Tibbetts to try some hashish, which is typically more potent than regular marijuana.
“He had a portable stereo with removable speakers. He put on Steppenwolf for me,” Tibbetts said. The song was the group’s hit, “Magic Carpet Ride.”
Later, Bush helped Tibbetts acquire some hash of his own, but the former classmate hastened to explain that Bush was not a drug dealer.
“Please bear in mind that I was seeking the hash, it wasn’t as if he was a dealer; though he did suggest I take up cigarettes so that I could hold my hits better, after that first joint,” Tibbetts said.
Tibbetts also told the Globe that he and Bush worked together to bully a fellow classmate, a smaller boy who they routinely taunted and vandalized his clothing.
Bush denies the bullying, saying, “It was 44 years ago and it is not possible for me to remember.”
However, Gregg Hamilton, a Bush classmate at Andover and Pemberton College, told the Globe that he dreaded running into the 6-foot-4 Bush on campus.
“Jeb Bush was large, physically imposing, and traveled in a crowd that was I guess somewhat threatening to an outsider like myself. I saw him as a cigarette smoker and ‘toker’ and someone that was comfortable being in charge of a group,” he said. “I was small physically, and small at an all-male boarding school [that], at that time, was a bit of a hostile environment for the kids — sort of a ‘Lord of the Flies’ situation, at least as I saw it.”
“He was physically imposing and just bad enough to be accepted or feared by everybody,” Hamilton said.
The accusations echo those made against former Massachusetts governor and erstwhile Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who reportedly led a gang of boys who held down a gay classmate and cut off his hair at Michigan’s Cranbrook prep school.
“John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality,” said an account in the Washington Post. “Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.”
“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” Romney reportedly shouted at Lauber in the hall. The son of then-Gov. George Romney and several friends attacked Lauber, pinning him to the ground while Romney cut chunks out of his hair with a pair of scissors.
“The incident was recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another,” said the Post. The witnesses said that Lauber — who died in 2004 — was “terrified” and that his eyes filled with tears as he cried for help that never came.
Romney, like Bush, said that he has no memory of any specific bullying incidents.