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GUV WALDO'S "POLITICS OF AMBIGUITY." Local Austin poli-pundit Robert Bryce believes George will win the whole enchalada because he has money, Karl Rove, and Bill Clinton. "Clinton has made Bush scandal-proof," Bryce says. As one wag put it, "The only way (Bush) could be hurt is if reporters found him 'in bed with a dead girl or a live boy'." But Bryce hedges his bets by suggesting that if George were to lose the first stumbling block would be what one reporter called his "politics of ambiguity." During the session ending today, a Texas politico has been calling him "Waldo" because it's hard to find him when it comes to issues. Bryce writes about a case in point, Dubya's "recent dance around the hate crimes bill. Bush said he would look at the bill if it crossed his desk. Then he had his legislative people do everything they could to make sure the bill never got there. Indeed, Bush has sidestepped controversy throughout his reign as governor, and a largely fawning state press corps has let him get away with it so far. But soon, George W. Bush will have to decide exactly what he stands for. Unless he does, his opponents are going to pick him apart on issues like gay rights, abortion, and gun control."
Three other stumbling blocks are pointed to by Bryce. First, G-Dub's record on the environment: "Even the Dallas Morning News, a bastion of conservatism and long a staunch Bush ally, has criticized Bush for his lack of environmental fortitude. On April 12, Timothy O'Leary, a columnist and editorial writer for the paper (as well as a past member of the Bush administration, says Politex), penned an op-ed piece blaming Bush for the deteriorating air quality in the Dallas area. 'As a consequence of your foot dragging, Dallas-Fort Worth faces the very real prospect of federal sanctions, including restrictions on business development and the denial of highway funds.' O'Leary went on, saying that according to the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation, Texas pollutes more than any state or Canadian province. 'A third of the state's rivers and streams probably violate federal water quality standards, though no one is certain because the state declines to test them all. More than two-thirds of Texans breathe air that federal environmentalists officially classify as dangerous to humans,' he continued." Another example of the poor Bush environmental record is to be found in our state parks, Bryce contends. "Our state parks are crumbling due to lack of funding. The state spends millions trying to attract tourists from other states. Yet Texas ranks 48th in the nation in per capita spending on parks. Asked what he has done for parks, Bush said he supports a program whereby 'parks will be endowed by private capital.' Isn't that great? While other GOP governors, including Jeb Bush of Florida, are boldly spending billions to add parkland and open space, our parks beg for dollars from dowagers."
"Welfare for the rich" is another stumbling block on the road to the White House, according to Bryce. The City of Arlington took land from other property owners for the Texas Rangers, paid $135 million to build the stadium, charges a nominal rent for the team's use of the stadium, and will give it free and clear to the team in 12 years. George made $15 million on the deal. "But what if, instead of baseball, Bush were involved in an oil deal? And because of that deal, a Dallas millionaire paid the sitting governor of Texas $15 million, with all of it going straight into the governor's pocket, not into his blind trust? Call me crazy, but I think reporters would have been swarming all over the transaction.The baseball deal is a prime example of Bush's privileged life. He never would have gotten a chance to buy the team if he hadn't been the son of a sitting president. Democrats will hammer him on the deal."
The final stumbling block, Bryce tells us, is overconfidence. True, the Guv did brag to Safire that he will become president. True, he has told his advisors that they should worry about policy and he'll take care of getting to the White House. However, his last gubernatorial run against a weak candidate with a weak bankroll in a weak party indicated that he takes nothing for granted. We think George's problem is arrogance, not overconfidence. Here's the way one Bush watcher expressed it in an e-mail: "George was on (Austin) TV last night talking about (criticism on the net) and his tone was pissed and dismissive. When I told (someone) that Dad sends me up the walls, that's what does it. The angry, dismissive, monied, arrogance. Rove has created the Bush campaign as though George is doing us a favor by running. He can hardly be civil with people now (even members of his own party who dare to question him, says Politex); imagine how he'd be if he were to become president. Nixon was a small town boy ... who wanted to have the White House looking like something out of the Marx Bros. "Duck Soup" flick. George would have it looking like the foyer of the CIA. People like George want to work as much as possible behind the scenes and away from public view and review. That's the way his dad tried to work. George's campaign boils down to "vote for me because I'm me and you're you." 5/31/99
HOW DUBYA SAYS "BENIGN NEGLECT" IN SPANISH. One of the most honest responses that has ever come out of the mouth of a politician came from Jeb Bush some years back when he ran unsuccessfully for the governorship of Florida. A voter asked him what he would do for the African-American community, if elected. Jeb said, "Nothing." Obviously, he has since learned the art of the ambiguous answer, perhaps from his brother, George, who has done a bang-up job of leading Hispanics down the garden path in Texas. During the older brother's gubernatorial campaign in Texas, he spoke Spanish and promised nothing, suggesting that to promise Hispanics anything other than what he promised other voters would be insulting. Of course, Bush regularly insults Theocrats and big business with promises of such goodies as vouchers and corporate welfare, making sure that he stays in the good graces of both social and economic conservatives. But with Hispanics, he honestly believes that saying "We won!" in Spanish will be good enough for them. Observers are beginning to suggest that Bush's lack of leadership as well as his active opposition to bills that would benefit Hispanics during this past legislative session should come back to haunt him as he puts Texas in his rear-view mirror.
In an Austin Chronicle story, "Borderline Bush," Erica C. Barnett goes down the list of Bush missed opportunities to show Hispanics that nearly half who voted for him made a good choice. Although 81% of Texas Hispanics supported the Byrd Hate Crimes Act, George did not and had it killed. Under the Bush tax cut plan, "border residents' taxes could actually go up," says Rep. Paul Moreno. Although the children's health insurance bill passed at 200% over poverty, Bush favored the less-inclusive 150%. (To put this into perspective, California and N.J. have passed 300% legislation.) "Bush has done little or nothing to promote border initiatives in the Legislature, where a major border infrastructure bill died," says Barnett. Bush made a point about wanting to back bills to do something about colonias-- substandard, unregulated development, mostly along the border. According to Rep. Domingo Garcia, "They need money for water lines and sewers, but it's not in (Bush's) legislative package. All the governor has done is appoint someone to do a study."
In short, with Bush and Hispanics, it's all talk and no walk: "Bush's quiescence on such measures seems especially odd in light of his former outspokenness on key issues like immigration and bilingual education," Barnett opines. " But since the 1998 election, Rep. Norma Chavez (in photo above) says, Bush has backed away from many of his more moderate positions. 'I was so proud of Bush when he took a leadership role and said we are not going to bash immigrants in Texas. But he has not done that this session,' Chavez says. 'When there was a history of prejudice against immigrants of Mexican heritage, he provided us with someone who wasn't anti-immigrant, and that's why I'm so disappointed to see that that leadership isn't there now.'" Nor is is likely to be there in the future, given George's past record and the attitude of the GOP leadership on the national level: "Bush will have to appeal to members of a party whose center is moving ever rightward, the governor will come under increasing pressure to follow his party's anti-immigration, anti-welfare, isolationist status quo" Given what is now known about Bush, perhaps Hispanics who voted for him in the last election are considering an old saying, "Once fooled, shame on you. Twice fooled, shame on me." 5/30/99
CONSERVATIVE REPORTS HE HAS NOT TURNED INTO A PEAPOD FOR BUSH. Curmudgeon columnistJonah Goldberg feels left out but he's waiting: "Now, I simply assume this is one of my last columns about Bush before one of the giant peapods mimics my body in the middle of the night and I too begin chanting about how he is the man to make this the next American millennium. Let me be clear: I think the man is fine, but I’m missing the magic" The National Review's loose cannon points to the hype around Big Tex as an important factor in George's early cannonization: " Bush’s Texas Mafia plays hardball so well they should go into the juke-box and waste-management business. Pols who hire on with Bush have to sign exclusivity deals. Endorsements are expected as a sign of respect. All quids must be up front, but pro quos are at the Bushies’ whim. This is all fine if Bush is in fact Moses. If he ain’t, then there are going to be a lot of people who’ve been trooped out into the wilderness for no good reason. And they will be pissed." What about Dad and the other clan and political inner-sanctum members of the bandwagon? "His dad -- and many others -- wants him to win as rectification for that (Clinton) wrong. He is leveraging the family name and probably his brother’s political ambitions. He’s hired scores of people with serious résumés who’ve staked their honor and reputations on him. He’s got so much money, his staff needs more people just to open the envelopes, which means people feel under-loved already for their contributions. He has twisted arms across the country. He’s made a lot of people swallow crap because of the expressed promise that he can deliver." But what if he can't? What's Dubya's political Achilles heel that could do him in. Some think it's his temper.
A Boston Globe story the other day had a Republican delegation from Massachusets meeting with Bush at the Shoreline Restaurant down on Town Lake. They had "come to praise George W., not to query him." But Sandy Tennant, a blunt, cagey pitbull of a political operative who had been executive director of the Mass. GOP in the late '80's, asked him about reports of an indescrete youth and a hot temper. "By the time the exchange was over, sources say, Bush was staring daggers at Tennant, and some others in the room were squirming in their seats. ''You mean, can I smile when a bunch of jerks asks me questions?'' Bush asked, affecting an icy smile. ''The answer is yes.'' Few at the table were left in doubt as to whom the Texas governor considered the jerk asking importunate questions at this particular moment." Tennant, the political pitbull, claimed he had a valid point to make: "friends pressed him on why he had grilled Bush so hard. He wanted to test Bush's composure; if the candidate couldn't stay cool in front of a friendly group of Republicans at a private lunch in Austin, what would he do under the glare of the TV lights during the campaign? Cast in that light, some conceded that, awkward though the moment was, there may have been a method to Tennant's badness. For if some of his fellow Bay State Republicans were uncomfortable about Tennant's impromptu stress test, they were also left a little uneasy about George W.'s smoldering response." 5/29/99
CHRONICLE ATTACKS STATESMAN FOR BEING SOFT ON BUSH. This week's Austin Chronicle has devoted 23 pages to Dubya, 13 stories that, all told, have a bit more of an edge to them that this month's similar effort by Texas Monthly. One of the hardest-hitting pieces is a "Media Clips" story by Lee Nichols in which he lambasts the Austin American-Statesman for its Chamber of Commerce approach to Bush news, analysis, and commentary: "Since Bush's second term began, the editorial page of the local daily seems to have woken up a few times, looked over at its lover, and realized that the governor sometimes looks like hell in the morning. The news department, on the other hand, still seems to adore him." Nichols points to Mary Alice Davis as the good gal in editorials and Ken Herman as the bad guy in news.
The problem is that last Fall the editorial board backed Bush for Governor, and then started to write editorials about their bum pick: "Did it ever occur to the Statesman editorial board that, while being a nice guy is certainly a laudable human quality, that maybe that alone is not enough to make a good governor." After they backed him, Davis and the other editors disagreed with G-Dub on his desire to keep laws in place that would "execute the mentally retarded." They didn't like the Guv's tacit support of a nuclear waste dump neare the Mexican border. They found his voluntary pollution control plan laughable. They didn't care for his seven white male appointees to the UT Board of Regents. They found his social promotion plan a "really bad idea that actually hinders a child's education." Nichols doesn't mention the possibility that there may be a difference in dynamics or personnel between the Board that selects the Statesman's gubernatorial recommendation and the folks who write editorials. Publisher Rich Oppel comes to mind. During the campaign Bush Watch wrote a piece on Oppel and the Guv entitled "Bush Roams As Oppel Fawns." Mr. O does like to be with the power guys. Read a few of his Sunday letters in op-ed and you'll get the idea. Further, perhaps it isn't accidental that the Statesman's editorials are not posted on its web site for the world to see.Nichols reminds us that in October he wrote, "Ken Herman, the Statesman's Capitol bureau chief and point man on all things Bush, must be bucking for a cozy PR job with the Bush administration," implying that the "policy of speaking no ill about the Guv" is fine with Herman. Nichols indicates if one were looking for hard looks at Bush, the Statesman wouldn't be the place to go: "It has never crossed their minds that they are the ones who ought to smoke them out on the issues, put him on the spot, and force him to answer some tough questions." Instead, we get the Guv massaging Herman's ego by beginning press conferences with, "Good Morning, Mr. Herman." Nichols believes the Statesman "is letting Bush off the hook easily on some crucially important issues." As an example, he points to several "gay-bashing bills" that Dubya supported without Herman's news department ever reporting the story. They "apparantly never thought this horrifying admission from Bush worthy of big headlines or deep scrutiny," and one had to look elsewhere for such news.
Although editorial writer Mary Alice Davis has pointed out that "Bush is on the wrong side of numerous issues" and is worried about it, Nichols suggests that one has to go to The Texas Observer to find the kind of commentary that worry should bring. Interestingly, this Austin Chronicle reporter fails to recommend that the reader should pay attention to his own paper's commentary. For good reason. While during the campaign we religiously read the Chronicle each week, looking for the hard-hitting Bush reporting that Nichols finds missing in the Statesman, we honestly didn't find all that much to link to. To be fair, though, the Chronicle's present Bush issue is a partial corrective to past behavior. Meanwhile, we would enjoy a follow-up from Nichols connecting the policy dots between the Statesman and its web site, its owner, the Cox media empire, publisher Rich Oppel's role with respect to editorials and news, and the influence of media billionaires, such as the Bush-backing Hicks brothers, on the way news is presented in Austin. 5/28/99
THE FACTS BEHIND THE BUSH "LANDSLIDE" ELECTION. The other evening at Threadgill's on Riverside, progressive curmudgeon Jim Hightower pointed out to a national MSNBC audience that King George is wearing no clothes. Although it's common knowledge that G. W. Bush won the latest gubernatorial election over Garry Mauro in a landslide, getting 68% of the votes cast, Hightower pointed out that the truth was only 18% of all Texans voted for him. This past election featured the lowest voter turnout in Texas since Hector had pups. Looking at the numbers in this way somewhat diminishes the Bush camp's assertion that Dubya should be the next GOP presidential candidate because so many folks in Texas like him. That position, in fact, is behind the polls that conclude he's leading in the polls. Further, even if one were to look at the election results as an indication of George's popularity with the voters, shouldn't we agree that he would have had a harder time if he had run against a representative of an organized political party?
Ten months before the Texas gubernatorial election, in the January 1988 issue of Texas Monthly,, Editor Greg Curtis wrote about the collapse of the Democratic Party in Texas in a story he called, "The Last Whimper." He pointed to the December, 1997 announcement of non-candidacy by Attorney-General Dan Morales as "the day the Democratic party of Texas finally collapsed, not with a bang but a whimper." Like the dinosaur, the party failed to adjust to the changing political environment in Texas: "Conservative Democrats, who had ruled the Southern states since Reconstruction, were giving way to Republicans throughout the South, including Texas." But 70's Dem governors Smith and Briscoe, who followed the 60's tenure of LBJ-backed John Connally, didn't seem to have much of a clue: "Both governors were incapable of understanding the intricacies of power, and during Smith's terms, corruption flourished. Nor could they recognize and attract people of ability and situate them to assume major roles when the time came. And what most needed to be done -- to create and communicate new goals, ideas, programs, philosophies for the state party so that it stood for something -- they were most incapable of doing." Mired in the mud of the political good ol' boy network, the young, talanted, and energertic newcomers gravitated toward the more fluid GOP: "For almost two decades (the Dems) embraced and rewarded a system of wait your turn, go along to get along in the Legislature that stopped the ambitious and talented dead in their tracks. New blood could not get ahead by hard work and ability -- that is, on merit -- but only by being in line behind whoever had gotten there first. That created an ossified party rather than a dynamic one." Curtis reminds us that Lt. Gov. Rick Perry started out as a Dem but switched when he read the handwriting on the wall. But Garry Mauro decided he would rather wait his turn then switch.
By the time the gubernatorial campaign began in earnest last Summer, folks in Austin knew that some Dems actually considered not running a candidate against Bush. Not because of George's strength, but because of the Dem's weakness. Why give Dubya a stick to use if he were to decide to run for president? Better to just sit back and allow him to coast to a meaningless plurality. Of course, this was not really an option. Texas pride and Washington fear took care of that. The Clinton camp believed that it had to support the strongest Democratic candidate that could be found and hope to find some weaknesses in Bush that could be filed away for future reference. Two things about Mauro recommended him for this thankless task: a long-time friend of Clinton's, he was willing to do his bit to support the party in its time of need; and he loved the game of political elections and felt he had earned the right to run. What he got for his pains was some Washigton funding and a cold shoulder from a number of Dems running for state-wide office. To put it bluntly, they didn't want to be too closely allied with the Texas Democratic Party in their appeals to the voters. Of course, everytime Bush turned around on the campaign platform he was rubbing noses with a Republican candidate standing behind him. What followed, as you know, was a disaster for the Dems. The GOP swept the statewide offices. During the campaign reporters would ask Mauro, "Why are you doing this?" He'd tell them he just loved politics and he had a real fighting chance! Last Sunday the Statesman reported, "Garry Mauro, the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor, was appointed to the Fannie Mae Board of Directors by his longtime friend President Clinton." 5/27/99
THE PHANTOM MENACE. While there will be no Bush education voucher bill as such in the 76th Session of the Texas Legislature, "Mad Dog" Perry and the Guv are still wandering through the halls of the Capitol, working to find a way to insert a voucher amendment between the folds of a healthy bill and hope that no one sees it. Last Thursday Dubya made a rare appearance in the Senate, indicated surprise that a voucher amendment to another bill was scheduled to be discussed, then rolled up his sleeves and started to lean on senators for the needed votes. They didn't get the votes. But "Mad Dog" (George's name for the Lt. Gov.) hasn't thrown in the towel. The Statesman's A. Phillips Brooks reports that "Perry said he will search for any and all 'vehicles' to carry his voucher amendment. Constitutionally, an amendment can only be attached to a bill that is similar in nature, such as an education bill for vouchers." Perry says he's working hard "to help children in the state of Texas," but few doubt that he's also working hard to satisfy his major campaign contributor, "Sugar Daddy" Leininger, the Texas billionaire from San Antonio who is the point man for the voucher movement in Texas. Most observers feel that without Leininger's loan of a million dollars to Perry late in the campaign, he would be home on his ranch, watching Dem John Sharp banging the gavel in the Senate chambers. And as for Bush, his low profile support of vouchers will never be seen as a profile in courage. Leininger supported Bush as well in the gubernatorial campaign, but Dubya took the money and ran. However, believe it or not, the Dems need to look out for more than a "Mad Dog" shuffle, cause "Sugar Daddy" has a plan.
Let's call Leininger's plan "The Phantom Menace" in honor of the poster above, designed by the good folks at Quantum Graphics. Since the ed. voucher movement has had so much difficulty establishing itself over the years, it's major backers have decided upon a two-pronged approcah to wear down the opposition. One, billionaires like Leininger in Texas and at least one member of the Walton clan (of the Wal-Mart fortune) outside of Texas simply establish scholarships with their own money for those who want to leave public schools and go to private schools. Two, the movement focuses on poor students in the neediest inner-city school districts. Of course, the backers anticipate that eventually the system will spread to wealthy, suburban districts as well. Further, no distinction is being made between private and religious education. What most folks don't know is that if you look through the history of the literature of the voucher movement, one of the goals of the financial backers is to get their money back; thus, in effect, creating a state-paid voucher system without even giving citizens an opportunity to vote for one. With a week to go in the session, "Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, now is searching for a bill to carry his franchise tax credits. Under the proposal, corporations would receive franchise tax credits if they donated money to public schools or private scholarship organizations. Howard said he has broad support, including from some lawmakers who are opposed to vouchers. 'In this case, the public schools could come out ahead,' Howard said. But voucher opponents labeled the move political payback because the Children's Educational Opportunity Foundation in San Antonio -- a pet project of San Antonio businessman, voucher patron and Perry friend James R. Leininger -- stands to gain from the measure. 'If this end run to vouchers is successful, Jim Leininger stands to gain up to $33 million in tax credits,' said Sam Smoot, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, which opposes vouchers. The San Antonio scholarship fund gained national attention last year, creating a $50 million privately financed voucher program in the Edgewood Independent School District. The foundation is financed by CEO America and Leininger." This "back-up" plan is, indeed, a "Phantom Menace" to opponents of the voucher movement. 5/26
IF JEB GOT THE BRAINS, GEORGE GOT THE JOKES. In the Bush family, Jeb "was regarded as the smart one, while George was the smart-alecky one." So says Paul Burka in his piece on the Guv's personality in the June issue of Texas Monthly, which features numerous Bush stories and photographs. George pulls his silver Lincoln Continental over to the curb close to the Capitol building's sounth entrance and jokingly shares press rumors with Burka: "I bought cocaine at my dad's inaguration." That's nothing, Burka implies, "You crashed a jet while you were in the National Guard because you were drunk." George retorts, "Where's the plane?" On another day coming up the same driveway, Dubya shouts out of his car window to a couple of lobbyists on the sidewalk, "Show me the money!" They pull their wallets out of their hip pockets for his inspection. During a press conference spinner Karen Hughes watches him "like I was watching my son perform in the third-grade play." Talkative, irreverent, unselfconscious, competive, G-Dub's "public and private persons are the same," claims Burka.
While the London Independent writes Bush's favorite reading is Baseball Weekly and Golf Illustrated (11/7/98), Burka reports Laura tells him George is reading a couple of thrillers and a book on Lincoln. Bush must have forgotten about his book reading habit in a recent C-Span interview. His office is filled with baseball memorabilia and he walks around with an electronic device for up-to-the-minute baseball scores. He "hates" meetings, he "tolerates" briefings, he "focuses on the big picture" and leaves the details to others. He leads by delegating authority, his "natural tendency" is "to vent his anger and then forget about it." Irony is suggested with "a 'heh' straight out of Beavis and Butt-Head." He gives people nicknames, like "Turd" for Karl Rove. On a recent visit to the House floor, "he locks an arm around (a Republican legislator's) neck, drawing him close, telling him, 'You need to be with me,' then pressing his victim's cheeks together until his mouth formed an 'O'." 5/25
TEXAS SENATE RESERVES SPECIAL BUSH WARS SHOWING. There will be a special showing of Bush Wars at the Barton Creek Cinemark on Thursday evening at 6:40 p.m. The members of the Texas Senate reserved the entire theater in honor of Finance Committee head Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, a.k.a. "Obi-Wan Kenobi." Have they cleared the name yet with Karl Rove? As you probably know by now, Liam Neeson plays political consultant Jedi Qui-Gon Rove and Joe Allbaugh, played by Ewan McGregor, is Obi-Wan Allbaugh, another Jedi consultant, in the film based on the life of presidential contender Georg W. Bush who, with Rove, wrote and directed the film. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Ratliff was "dubbed 'Obi-Wan' during the waning days of the 1997 session. When senators' tempers flared over an issue on the floor one day, (Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas) said, 'Let's ask Obi-Wan,' meaning Ratliff, known for his financial acumen, fatherly advice and balanced approach. The nickname stuck." Let's hope that all tempers are soothed by Thursday evening so everyone can enjoy Bush Wars. 5/24/99
POLITEX: HOW BUSH REALLY MADE HIS MILLIONS, PT. 4. Tom Hicks, the investment banker to whom Bush and Rainwater sold the Texas Rangers, owns a vast sports and media empire and was George's biggest '98 campaign contributor. Bush had allowed him to head up a committee charged with "investing $1.7 billion of public university money in the form of investments in private companies." Unfortunately, according to R. G. Ratcliffe in a March 20 investigative article written in the Houston Chronicle, questions have recently been asked because "almost a third of the $1.7 billion has been committed to funds run by Hicks' business associates or friends (and).... five funds run by major Republican political donors." These questions have remained unanswered and Hicks has been unwilling to answer questions about his activities on the public's behalf.. "In the past three years, state auditors have criticized the secretive nature of (the Hicks committee's) investment decisions and have complained about the potential for conflicts of interest for board members." Recently, Hicks has decided to take on fewer responsibilities within the public university fund and the committee has promised to be more public in its financial activities, but has declined to provide explanations about past dealings, citing contractual agreements with the parties involved.
Writing about Dubya's career up to the sale of the Texas Rangers, Michael King observes, "A diligent prosecutor with subpoena power and a large staff might well find evidence of specific crimes or corrupt practices by investigating one or more of the above episodes. At a minimum, the Bush biography should provoke the sort of public and press scrutiny that, thus far, candidate Bush has avoided. In that distinction, he seems less like his father and more like Ronald Reagan, another affable and apparently inoffensive amateur who left the hard stuff to his aides and allies." However, King sees George's activities as Governor in a different but not less harsher light: "Taken as a whole, the Bush biography is not about individual corruption but about class privilege, about the train that runs on a comfortable track, with varying stops but the same destination.... Although by his own admission George W. was an indifferent student, he was nevertheless the deserving-by-birth beneficiary of the oldest, most illegitimate, and most sacrosanct form of affirmative action, one that will not be subject to racially-tinged political debates about 'leveling the playing field' or 'reverse discrimination.' It's just business as usual, and therefore presumed invisible as privilege." But even more than Dad, to Dubya, with money comes privilege, and ideas such as "conflict-of-interest" and "corruption" do not appear to register on his radar. If they did, one would think he'd want to avoid even the appearance of questionable behavior. That's why he can get so angry and be so convincing when a reporter has the bad manners to bring up such questions. 5/23/99
HOW BUSH REALLY MADE HIS MILLIONS, PT. 3. Much of the information in parts 1 and 2 of this series can be traced back to a series of research pieces by R. G. Ratcliffe published last August in the Houston Chronicle. Ratcliffe reports that when George was asked to comment upon various state actions such as his administration's relationships with Rainwater, "Bush angrily denied any collusion or conflicts of interest, saying, 'I didn't - I swear I didn't - get into politics to feather my nest or feather my friends' nests.... Any insinuation that I have used my office to help my friends is simply not true.'" The Texas Observer's Michael King is intrigued by Bush's protestations of innocence: "While specific state transactions might indeed be subject to conflict-of-interest inquiries, the state policies Ratcliffe describes - privatization; regressive taxation; state subsidies and tax abatements for corporations; the systematic use of public resources for the benefit of private power - represent not a conflict, but a confluence of interests, between the state's major business entities and the politicians they support and underwrite. The fact that among those entities are corporations and businessman with whom Bush himself has done particular deals - well, that's not corruption, exactly. It's just business as usual."
If nothing else, Ratcliffe concluded in his Houston Chronicle pieces, "a pattern emerges: When a Bush is in office, Bush's business associates benefit." King goes on in his Texas Observer story to furnish some examples of the social, political, and financial relationships between Bush and his associates: "The partners who helped Bush dig himself out of the oil patch (William DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds of Spectrum 7) are among the investors gathered into the group who made a bundle in the Texas Rangers deal. (Another noteworthy Rangers investor was Fred Malek, once a campaign manager for Bush's father, but most famous for dutifully fulfilling President Richard Nixon's demand for a list of Jews then employed at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.) Richard Rainwater and his partner Edward "Rusty" Rose were also brought into the Texas Rangers deal, to a handsome return, and under the Bush administration, their companies came to benefit from the investment policies of the Teacher Retirement System, the Permanent School Fund, and the Permanent University Fund. By the way, the Permanent University Fund is managed by the University of Texas Investment Management Company, whose chairman is Tom Hicks, now owner of the Texas Rangers (purchased from the Bush partnership) - also a major Republican donor and a member of the U.T. Board of Regents, whose chairman is Donald Evans, treasurer of the Bush campaign. Funny how things work out." ( More on Hicks in Part 4.) 5/22/99
HOW BUSH REALLY MADE HIS MILLIONS, PT. 2. What George does to make a Bush buck is called "Crony Capitalism" by commentatorJim Hightower. Case in point: Dubya's financial relationship with Marvin Rainwater during his tenure as Texas governor. Rainwater's "a billionaire speculator and money manager who ranks among the wealthiest 100 Americans. It's well known that Rainwater has been a major financial backer of Bush's political career, but it's a little-known fact that he's also largely responsible for Bush's personal wealth. He's put Bush into various profitable deals, from oil and gas to real estate, but the big one was the Texas Rangers baseball franchise." Rainwater and Bush sold the baseball team to another Texas high roller and Bush campaign contributer, billionaire Tom Hicks. But their relationship didn't stop there. When Bush became Guv in '95, he put all but his Texas Rangers stock into a blind trust managed by--surprise--Rainwater. Hightower implies the financial relationship wasn't a one-way street: "Bush is nothing if not loyal to Rainwater, who has done very nicely while his pal has been governor. Among the favors Rainwater has enjoyed: *State buildings sold to Rainwater's real estate company at bargain basement rates; *State college and public school funds invested in Rainwater's company; *A Bush-sponsored tax cut that failed, but would have cut millions in annual taxes for Rainwater; and *A stadium-financing bill backed by Bush that gave a $10 million bonus payment to a Rainwater company." Next: What does George say about charges of "Crony Capitalism"? 5/21/99
HOW BUSH REALLY MADE HIS MILLIONS. CNN's Brooks Jackson cuts to the chase and arrives at some telling conclusions about how George made his Bush bucks: "Bush started in the Texas oil business, after Yale University and Harvard Business School. Wealthy family friends and others invested millions with him, but with poor results. A 1985 disclosure shows Bush's track record: Investors got back only 45 cents on the dollar, but few complained. Investors also got tax deductions averaging more than 80 cents on every dollar invested. Those early Bush ventures were mainly tax shelters." Everyone agrees that Dubya's baseball venture was his most successful business experience: "Bush takes credit for conceiving The Ballpark at Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers baseball team, which he bought in 1989 with a wealthy group of investors. Among them: billionaire Richard Rainwater of Fort Worth. Bush invested just over $600,000, but Arlington taxpayers invested a lot more. 'It was $135 million worth of sales tax money,' said attorney Glenn Sodd. 'The city donated a good bit of land to the project. They got a sales tax exemption on all the items that were purchased for the stadium. We have a property tax in Texas and they were given as part of the deal a property tax exemption.' A total of at least $200 million, according to Sodd." So there you have it, "Bush the businessman did prosper. But not by his bootstraps -- with help from wealthy friends and taxpayer subsidies." Will George be smart enough to realize that pointing to such business "successes" as a presidential credential would be rubbing salt into the wounds of the average taxpayer? 5/20/99
JEDI JUNKIES CHEER: BUSH WARS OPENS NATIONWIDE TODAY. Well, here it is. The day we've been anticipating. Bush Wars is finally opening. We're planing to see it on the big, big screen with cutting-edge sound at the Gateway 36-Plex right off Research in West Austin. The New Yorker tells us that in-house Starwarbucks are going to feature R-2 Decaf, Obi-Wan Cannoli, Princess Leia Cake, Yoda Pop, Java the Hutt, and Flan Solo. We've managed to stitch the plot of the film together by surfing the net. With that out of the way, when we see the film we'll have more time to concentrate on the eye-popping special effects and ear-splitting sound. So settle back and enjoy!
The Cranky Critic provides details of the beginning of Bush Wars. The planet Tex-Mex is under attack from the greedy U.S. Government Galactic Trade Federation due to some kind of dispute over the taxation of NAFTA trade routes. Tex-Mex's Guv Ann (Natalie Portman), a pacifist, will not give in to the Federation's demands, nor is she willing to wage War. Two political consultants, or Jedis, Qui-Gon Rove (Liam Neeson), a Jedi Master and his apprentice Obi-Wan Allbaugh (Ewan McGregor) are sent to Tex-Mex to mediate the dispute. The U.S. Government Federation, in league with a shadowy villain calling himself Darth Willie, has no intention of negotiation.
On the surface of Tex-Mex, the Jedis literally run into a clumsy native of the Gungan race, Reagan Jar Jar (Ahmed Best). (Elsewhere, critic Christopher Null says Reagan's "pidgin English...becomes bothersome after 5 minutes, incomprehensible after ten.") As the situation deteriorates, the Jedis, the Guv and her court, and Reagan flee for Austin, the planet wide Capital of the Tex-Mex Republic, to plead their case before the Senate. Engine troubles force them to land on an obscure planet named Dallas, where the U.S. Government Trade Federation has no hold, due to competition from a race of mobsters familiar to us all, the free traders. While searching out replacement parts for his spaceship, Rove meets an irresponsible youth with a baseball team named Bush Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) and the Jedi feels something... (Note: In later episodes of Bush Wars, Bush Skywalker falls under the sway of Darth Willie and his way of life, and is then called "Bush, the Invader," or "Darth Vader," for short. As described by Peter Travers in Rolling Stone, Bush "will grow up to marry the queen, father the twins, and turn from the Jedi cause to the dark side as Darth Vader.")
Roger Ebert picks up the plot of this epic film from there. The key development in "Bush Wars" is the first meeting between the Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Rove and the young Bush Skywalker --who is, the Jedi immediately senses, fated for great things. Rove meets Bush in a store where he's seeking replacement parts for his crippled ship. Qui-Gon Rove soon finds himself backing the young but irresponsible baseball team owner in a high-stakes gubernatorial race--betting his consulting business against the cost of the replacement parts. The race is one of the film's high points, as Bush and the Federation's candidate, a droid named Very-Wan-Mauro (Sal Mineo) zoom between high cliff walls of money. "Whoopee," yells Bush.
Why is Qui-Gon Rove so confident that Bush Skywalker can win? Because he senses an unusual concentration of the Force of Compassionate Conservatism--and perhaps because, like John the Baptist, he instinctively recognizes the one whose way he is destined to prepare. Rove has the wise elders of the Jedi galaxy visit the irresponsible, youthful baseball team owner and Bush Skywalker learns many things. (See picture.) For example, he learns that Israel is pretty small. He learns that people in Greece are not called Grecians. He learns that a Bulkan is not someone who divides his fingers into two groupings as a hand signal. The film's shakiness on the psychological level is evident, however, in the scene where young Bush is told he must leave his mother (Pernilla August) and follow this tall Jedi stranger....I expected a tearful scene of parting between mother and child, but the best we get is when Bush asks if his mother can come along, and she replies, "Son, my place is here." In Dallas?
Bush Skywalker and his entourage eventually make it to Austin where he claims his seat as Guv of Tex-Mex and pleads his case in the Senate to get the U.S. Government Galactic Trade Federation off the backs of the Tex-Mex Republic. Using the Force of Compassionate Conservatism, he enlists the aid of two leading senators of the Republic Party, Nute Gunray of the Gungan race and Lott Dodd, a Neimoidan. What follows is in the next episode of this epic production. Looking at this film, however, which deals with Bush Skywalker's gubernatorial race and his attempt to become the candidate of the Republic Party in order to fight the U.S. Government Galatic Trade Federation, Peter Travers says, "the actors are wallpaper, the jokes are juvenile, there's no romance and the dialogue lands with the thud of a computer-instruction manual." However, the film, written and directed by Karl Rove and George Bush, makes clear that its creators believe this is exactly what the majority of voters will pay good money to see. 5/19/99
TIMES WONDERS IF GOVERNMENT WILL SHUT DOWN BUSH WATCH. With both Clinton and Dole owing the government at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funding violations, a Sunday New York Times story by REBECCA FAIRLEY RANEY indicates that most grassroots presidential campaign sites appear to be in violation of FEC campaign funding laws. "Federal regulators' current interpretation of the law, which makes individual Web publishers the equivalent of political action committees, was issued as an FEC advisory opinion in November....Under those laws, which have been interpreted by Federal regulators to apply to Web sites just as they apply to television ads, even lone advocates are required to post disclaimers that identify who built their Web sites and to file expenditure reports with the Federal Election Commission to account for donations to campaigns." According to poli-sci prof Michael Cornfield, of George Washington University, "formal distinctions need to be made between political professionals and individual advocates. Under the current interpretation, he said, 'any citizen who wants to express himself on a campaign has to have an accountant and a lawyer. It's just awful. That should not hold water in a country where the citizens are asked to educate themselves.'" However, there are two loopholes to the FEC edict. First, "In the current interpretation of the law, Web publishers working independently of campaigns do not have to file disclosure forms if they spend less than $250 on the site. However, tallying the costs can be complicated. In a summary of its advisory opinion, the FEC reported that costs include 'the domain name registration fee, the amount invested in the hardware (computer and peripherals) that created the Web site and the utility costs associated with creating and maintaining the site.'" Ah-huh. Then there's the crank loophole, which allows folks to complain to their heart's content, providing they don't tell anyone how to vote: "Sites that engage even in strong criticism, like Bush Watch, or intense parody, like All Gore, are less likely to run afoul of election law because they do not specifically direct people to vote a certain way," Raney wrote. So, remember, folks, I can't ask you to vote for Bush and I can't ask you to vote for Gore. Who says the government isn't cracking down on corrupt campaign funding practices? 5/18/99
OUR BUSH VP CANDIDATE NOT ON THE ROVE URL LIST. Last Wednesday in The Politics1 Report, Ron Gunzburger reported that back in February Bush guru Karl Rove had sucked up four Bush-VP URL's among his 60-odd domain purchases. Interestingly, Bush/Whitman (NJ), Bush/Pataki (NY), Bush/Engler (MI), and Bush/Ridge (PA) tickets all provide moderate GOP Gov's for VP's. We think Engler is an excellent speaker and a powerful presence, but if George were to choose between these four, he would probably go with Ridge. ( We mentioned Ridge some months ago in this context.) However, back on April 1 we reported Bush's choice for VP. Our story is reprinted below for those who missed it at the time, and for those who didn't, we know you'd want to read it again.
"PRESIDENTIAL RUNNING MATE SELECTED, THEN REJECTED, BY BUSH.(Rooters) In a bold decision that didn't appear to come as a surprise to the crack, necktied members of the Governor's security staff, George W. Bush selected his vice-presidential running mate yesterday evening. Then he changed his mind. In the photo on your left (not shown), the GOP presidential candidate is seen consoling his on-again, off-again selectee, seated behind the white column in a state of shock. A nearby reporter overheard Bush saying, "That's why I like to pre-announce announcements of my informal announcements to be made prior to my off-the-cuff announcements that preceed my announcement of the formal announcement! I'll never do that again!" Later, the Governor's spokesperson said next week's schedule is filled with visitors to the Governor's Mansion bringing petitions of support for a supportable candidate who will be in a position to offer support to find a viable candidate that Bush could support. 5/17/99
SILLY SEASON UPON US. ONE VOTER = DEMS FOR BUSH? Another hot-off-the-press Bush site started up Wednesday, "Democrats for Bush." So new it doesn't even have an "under construction" sign and so clunky it looks like the real thing, the only name on the site is someone's e-mail address. Perhaps the person who put up the website will provide his credentials as a Democrat at a later date; say, after the 2000 elections, and perhaps he's willing to give us the names of any friends who see themselves as donkies. Meanwhile, skepticism is the order of the day. The "Dems for Bush" reminds us of another grassroots group for Bush during the recent gubernatorial campaign: five El Paso women calling themselves "Housekeepers for Bush." The difference is this new site doesn't really read like it's being backed by members of either party. Perhaps its position will become clearer at a later date as it provides more documentation. Meanwhile, the supposed voter behind it seems to be having fun, which is a lot more than could be said about some of the political sites out there. 5/16/99
NEW SITE ON THE 2000 BUSH WEBRING MAKES WAVES. Calling itself Virtually Bush on the unofficial Bush websites list, this new kid on the block started up with a bang, publishing a supposed Bush press release announcing "Amnesty 2000, a bold new policy initiative to free all 'grown ups' from federal prisons." 5/15/99
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