Posted: Dec 08, 2005 12:05 AM

I'm an only child. My parents apparently felt one -- or perhaps this particular one -- was enough.

 I've never known what it's like to have a brother or sister more successful, lucky or popular than I.

 So I'm wandering into unknown terrain when I examine the latest InsiderAdvantage survey in Florida. In it, Gov. Jeb Bush enjoys an approval rating of 59 percent. That's stratospheric compared to the approval ratings of his brother, the president, which are hovering below 40 percent. 

 If Jeb Bush was jealous of his brother's election to the presidency in 2000, he's never shown a sign of it. Nor is there now any countersign of resentment toward Jeb from George W. as the White House takes the blame for everything wrong in creation, and gets zero credit for an overall strong economy and employment level.

 Still, in all, it might be time for the family president to allow the family governor to conduct a seminar for the White House on how to run a tight ship without appearing to be so tight in personal style. Attendance by the president and all his handlers would be mandatory.

 The dirty little secret in Florida is that many top GOP legislators don't care for Gov. Bush. They find him too dictatorial and arrogant. But the operative word here is "secret." Their dislike isn't in the open because Bush is too popular for the discontented to gain anything by airing their annoyance publicly.

 Add to the list of Jeb detractors much of Florida's political media. Some of this is de rigueur for a self-styled progressive press corps. Even so, there is still a reluctant degree of respect for Bush for at least his political astuteness.

 The contrast between the Bush brothers almost seems to defy genetics. One difference is their respective styles at press conferences. Even as many in the media try to pin down Jeb Bush on this issue or that information tidbit, the governor always responds quickly and confidently, and brushes off stupid and loaded questions like a prizefighter ducking weak jabs.

 He invites sharp inquiries with a mastery of facts. He is Florida's version of John F. Kennedy when it comes to interacting with the press.

 But President Bush appears skittish about encounters with national reporters. He often wears his trademark smirk in their presence. I don't think this expression betrays arrogance, but only a man whose genuine friendliness sometimes wanders over into goofiness.

 Alternately, he gets the old Dan-Quayle, deer-in-the-headlights look. This, too, is misleading, in my view. For those of us who knew Dan Quayle, the former vice president was actually bright and mentally agile, just as President Bush has seemed to me on those rare occasions when I've encountered him.

 Pardon the Christmas season pun, but it's all in the packaging. Gov. Bush is a smartly wrapped package of utter calm and control when major disasters strike his state.

 Hurricanes have been devastating Florida in rapid succession in recent years.  But Gov. Bush has always started his deft reaction to each storm even before it reaches shore. He always appears in control of the situation without over-dramatizing. That has struck a positive chord with Floridians that goes beyond their political leanings.

 Jeb also seems always to pursue a proactive legislative agenda. This week, the Florida Legislature is in special session to consider the governor's Medicaid reform measures. This is strong evidence that the governor seems to have both a plan and an orderly process to see it through.

 Finally, there are no backroom heavies with apparent control over Jeb Bush. No Dick Cheneys or Don Rumsfelds hovering in bunkers and seemingly calling the shots, as with President Bush.

 Don't get me wrong. My admiration for the political attributes of the governor's brother doesn't put me in the camp of those who have decided to hang the presidential sibling out to dry. Quite the contrary.

 I want to see George W. Bush shed himself of those who would appear to be playing surrogate president. I want to see him willing to engage the press more frequently in a no-holds-barred manner. I want him to set forth a real, live agenda in a one-two-three manner of forceful legislative action.

 As I've frequently noted, I want the man to start presenting himself like the powerful president he is.

 To the point, Americans know a slick public relations job when they see it. Every time President Bush makes a staged public appearance, his handlers always seem to put graphics behind him that make him look like an actor in a cola commercial. I'm always waiting for him to offer an advertising platitude like, "Refresh yourself, America!"

 I say quit staging Hollywood-style junk presentations, and start having the chief executive make his case at either a press conference or -- even better -- behind his Oval Office desk. That's the one setting that gets the public's attention. Unfortunately for the president, and perhaps for the well-being of his nation, it's also the one setting his handlers won't use.

 You can bet if Jeb were president, he'd be speaking from the Oval Office.

 Don't be too shocked if, a political cycle or two down the road, he is doing just that.