Looking over the Guv's shoulder since 2/15/98.
We're three years old this week, born months before Dubya put up his Campaign '98 gubernatorial web site. That site died when he put up a new one a year later, announcing his presidential exploratory committee in the spring of '99. Months later, he hired a larger staff, beefed up his equipment, and changed his ISP. Meanwhile, we've been chugging along with the same staff and a few cosmetic changes. (This is what we looked like two years ago, but the links worked then.) But as for Dubya, the more things change, the more they remain the same, so we've decided to reprint a portion of February '99's commentary with last year's comments in black print. Although Bush is now our Resident, we're sure you can see that his politics have not changed. Remember to tell your friends, those who are not aware of history are doomed to repeat it. We'll keep this page up between now and tomorrow morning when we'll return to our usual format. Meanwhile, you can still get to the headlines by clicking here. --Politex, 2/15/01
MEET THE TRINITY THAT MAKES CANDIDATE BUSH TICK: "THE MAN WITH THE PLAN," "THE ENFORCER," AND "THE SPIN CRAFTER." Strategy is shaped by Karl Rove, the Guv's political adviser, Joe Albaugh "keeps the process moving" as chief of staff, and "policy matters" are formed into spin language by Karen Hughes. Meet the two money men outside this inner circle: Bradford Freeman, West Coast, and Craig Stapleton, East Coast. Others close to the action that you need to know about are Donald Ensenat, James Francis, Donald Evans, Clay Johnson, and Harriet Mirs, who might very well be our new attorney general if Bush wins. 2/28/99 At the moment the so-called iron triangle is starting to rust. Hughes' ghostography of W. has been met with derision and folks are beginning to wonder if Rove is ready for prime time.
BUSH AND THE CHILDREN: WHAT'S NEEDED IS LESS TALK, MORE WALK. In his State of the State speech Guv-Dub said "Texas must be a place with healthy children," but he has failed to lead the legislature on a bill to provide health insurance to children in low income families. Texas ranks next to the national bottom with uninsured children. 1 in every 4 children in the state lacks health insurance. Since the feds promise to provide $2.80 for every $1 spent, "California will cover infants in families with incomes of up to 250 percent of poverty....So far, key (Texas) legislative decision-makers have been leaning toward the more restrictive standard of 150 percent of poverty. That would cut out about 220,000 children and leave a lot of federal money on the table." In today's editorial, the Statesman calls on Bush to step in and do something about our "shameful" health care record and says the failure of state leadership is "embarrassing." (AAS 2/27) George is also failing the children with respect to his education plan, according to House Public Education Committee Chairman Paul Sadler. He believes that the Bush-backed anti-social promotion Senate bill needs to add mandatory kindergarten for the 15% of the children who don't go and smaller remedial reading classes with 10 or less students in them. This would add another $300 million to the the bill's $200 million cost, and the Guv has refused to agree to the additional funding. Sadler responds, "We're going to make sure it's done right. It's too important to do otherwise. . . . If (the bill) needs to be thrown out, we'll throw it out and start over." 2/27/99 The above was not contradicted during the legislative session, with Bush even trying to take kindergarten funds to beef up his tax cut package. Today, Bush is claiming as his own what his rivals passed over his opposition.
"ME THINKS THE LAD PROTESTETH TOO AVIDLY." Prince George might want to reconsider his approach to the press or he could make his quest to become King Georg II even harder. Members of the press have been zeroing in on questions about possible coke usage in his 30's, and Dubya is on the attack: "I hope the serious press helps flush the garbage out of the system," Bush said. "The press ought to take a deep breath before they try to diminish anybody's life." The problem is what passes for the "serious" press in this country is asking the question. Also, folks have gotten real tired of politicians using Washington as a convenient scapegoat: yesterday Bush "told Texas reporters not to 'fall prey to the Washington, D.C., game' of spreading personal rumors about politicians' pasts." Perhaps deep breaths are in order all around. 2/26/99 Now, Bush is attacking McCain as a "Washington insider." As you can see, this form of negative name-calling has been part of Bush for some time now.
ARE THE SINS OF THE FATHER BEING VISITED UPON THE SON? WHY CONSERVATIVES ARE PLAYING THE BUSH CARD. The Bush presidential strategy is necessary, simple, and obvious. He must appear to be a conservative until the primaries in Spring 2k and then appear to be a moderate until the elections in Fall 2k. But behind Poli Sci 101 is Sociology 101: "In addition to the policy splits, the dispute between the elder Bush and some conservatives was fueled by entrenched class schisms. Bush, the son of a Connecticut senator, was the embodiment of upper-crust Republicanism--in all of its Northeastern establishment, noblesse oblige coloration. Over the years, that tribe has been largely overrun by suburban and religious conservatives who are skeptical of their cultural opposites. 'The people today who control the party are people who were looked at in disdain by the people who considered themselves their social better....They don't like the bluebloods and the bluebloods don't like them.'" Dubya is part of that blueblood establishment, but he hides it better than his dad. He's better at acting like one of the guys. As we learned in the Sunday NYT magazine section profile last year, when at his ballpark, Walker, Texas Ranger made it a point use the public restrooms. 2/25/99 Bush has gotten where he is today because he's the patrician son of a patrician father, and the good ol' boy routine won't work against Mac or Gore, but that won't stop Dubya from tryin'.
BILL SEZ DUBYA WILL LOSE THE NOMINATION IF SOMEONE ELSE CAN SAY, "I'M REAGAN, HE'S BUSH." William Kristol goes on to explain, "He's emphasizing the outreach to the Reagan wing because he knows that his potential vulnerability as a Bush is to a Reaganite assault." Ex-Prez Ford, on the other hand, says he's going with the Guv because "George W. Bush is talking a lot more moderately than his father." Sure, Jerry. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it appears that Guv-Dub's made his inept appointment of the day (see 2/22) with his recommendation of El Paso's Woody Hunt to the UT Board of Regents, only to learn that Hunt's building company is being sued by the feds for up to $45 million for constructing uninhabitable military housing and that it owns and operates "troubled" housing complexes in Austin. A Statesman editorial got it right this morning when it called on George to "find a more suitable appointee." 2/25/99 The problem with too many Bush appointments is they're either from the family network (business as usual) or they're political campaign contributors with questionable pasts or equally questionable futures. Bush appoints, but does not oversee. That spells trouble.
JUNIOR SAYS HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM DAD AND CONSTRUCT A MORE CONSERVATIVE POLICY TEAM. Yesterday Guv-Dub indicated that he's used his father's name and cash connections as much as he could, but now its time to cut the ties that bind. "I'll be a different candidate than the previous George Bush who ran for president....First of all, it shouldn't surprise you that there will be new names and new people involved," Mr. Bush said. "Secondly, people who will be working for me will be conservative-minded people." As Politex indicated last year, "coordinating the team of foreign policy advisers is Condoleezza Rice, former provost of Stanford University and a Bush family friend." The economic policy coordinator will be "Larry Lindsey, a former Federal Reserve governor and Harvard professor who wrote a book defending the Reagan tax cuts." A Brookings Institute rep said G.W.'s problem might be that he'll begin to look like a Reagan retred: "If he's harking back to Reagan's optimism and effectiveness as a political leader, fine," Mr. (Thomas) Mann said. "But to imagine harking back to his economic and national security policies as a route to political success seems far-fetched to me." 2/24/99Keep in mind that this was written months before the presidential announcement with Bush telling reporters that he could very well decide not to run. Right now, Dubya's actions on the campaign trail rubber stamp Poppy's strategies when he was a candidate. So much for Poppy keeping out of the race. Further, he's proven Mann wrong, "harkening back" to the Reagan-Bush years for his economic and national security policies.
BUSH "100% CERTAIN" TO RUN. BUDDING BRAIN TRUST INDICATES G.W. "ADMINISTRATION WOULD BE TO THE RIGHT NOT ONLY OF HIS FATHER'S BUT OF REAGAN'S." Moderate Republicans have been discomforted to learn who has Junior's ear: "Paul Wolfowitz, a preeminent foreign-policy hard-liner...close friend and ally Richard Perle...the Reagan administration's 'prince of darkness'...Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith, the party's outspoken guru of privatization...(and) Martin S. Feldstein, professor of economics at Harvard and a sharp critic of President Clinton's Social Security plan... .Former Federal Reserve Governor Lawrence Lindsey...has signed on to assemble the economic advisory team....The nature of his advisers suggests a second Bush presidency would be considerably more conservative than the first." 2/23/99It looks prettty much the same from here, suggesting who won the power struggle.
BUSH ADMINISTRATIVE INEPTNESS--POOR APPOINTEES, WEAK OVERSIGHT--FUELS HOUSING AGENCY SCANDAL "For several months, the Tx. Dept. of Housing has been reeling as federal and state investigators probed public corruption allegations against one of its board members (Florita Bell Griffin) and questionable practices of its former executive director (Larry P. Manley)." Manley was "appointed in 1995 by Gov. George W. Bush to run an agency that dispenses half a billion dollars a year to improve housing for poor Texans." By 1996, "state auditors reported problems at the housing agency. Investigators said that year that the department under Mr. Manley had awarded developers tens of millions of dollars in federal tax breaks in an arbitrary and undocumented manner." In 1997, state auditors "uncovered more problems....They found that the agency had awarded more than 60 percent of the contracts under a new program to people who previously worked with Mr. Manley at Texas savings and loans." Manley resigned last summer. That same week, it was reported that Bell, another Bush appointee, was "accused of using her influence as a public official to approve federal subsidies for low-income real estate deals in which she had a special interest." Bush's replacement for Manley, Daisy Steiner, recently met with the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 2 and apologetically conceded that her "agency serves only 1.5 percent of the estimated l.5 million low income Texans who need housing help," a poor record, even using the agency's own criteria. The following day, two years late, the state auditors sent their 1997 findings to George's office. (HC 8/28/98, 2/3/99) 2/22/99 We've since learned from the Mitchell book that as governor Dubya spent afternoons in his office playing solitaire on his computer. George appoints friends, friends of friends, and campaign contributors, then fails to oversee their behavior. If he can't keep Texas administrators out of trouble, what would he do in Washington?
BUSH GOES TO D.C. TO TELL REPORTERS HE'S FOCUSED ON TEXAS, RUNS 4 MILES, SEZ JEB'S OFF TO GOOD START. Wait, there's more: "Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, chairman of the Republican Governor's Association, endorsed Bush for the GOP nomination" and said, "George has been elected and re-elected the governor of a country. Texas is a country." Breaking his campaign promise once more, Guv-Dub went to Washington this weekend without a passport to spread the word that he thinks "it's important for people who are not living in Texas to know how focused I am with the legislative session." Important to whom? Right now, he's trying to get his watered down, questionable, and hardly original "anti-social promotions" bill through the House without any more damaging compromises. Not scheduled to begin until 2003, it will have to be funded at each legislative session, leaving Bush to make a political promise he will not be in a position to honor. However, he is in a position to honor his promised $2 billion property tax cut, but it turns out that the poorest Texans who have paid sales taxes that produced the budget surplus will get zero out of it; instead, their sales tax money will go to offset the payout to the wealthiest citizens who own the most property. Here's how Carlos Guerra explains it: "Bush's proposal to return $160 to every homeowner through a property tax cut, however, does not help the poorest Texans. Sales taxes collected 55 cents of every budget-surplus dollar and an unconscionable portion of that was squeezed from the poorest Texans. Let's also remember that more than 40 percent of Texans are renters who don't own homes, and renters also tend to be the poorer Texans who won't see a penny of that refund. How fair is it to refund money — 55 percent of which was collected from everyone — to less than 60 percent of the taxpayers?" To expand upon Clay Robison in another context, Bush's tax reduction program is "little more than a cruel joke" on nearly half of all Texans, of misplaced and limited benefit to most of the rest, and a windfall to the wealthiest. 2/21/99 And not even the half of the Texans who could have gotten tax cuts got tax cuts, for two reasons. Not all of the state districts got tax cuts, and those who did may have had their state tax cuts offset by additional taxes on the local level. Mandated protections against additional local taxes were to be part of the bill, but Bush couldn't get his tax package passed with such provisions, even though many in the legislature called the tax cuts two years previously a farce because there were not limits on local increases. What Texans ended up with was an elaborate shell game. Bush got to claim a tax cut. An overwhelming majority of Texas got to pay the same or a greater amount in taxes. In that sense, Texans are paying for Bush's campaign. And he talks about check book protection for the workers. He should practice what he preaches.