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br> BUSH SAYS NOTHING ABOUT SADLY INADEQUATE GOP-LED SENATE BILL FOR CHILDREN, WHILE HE SIGNS OIL BIDNESS TAX CUT INTO LAW. If Dubya plans to stand on his record, his record is talk compassion, walk conservative. While Texas is right next to California with its number of children without health insurance, California has gone ahead and provided the needed insurance at %350 percent above the poverty level, gaining the largest share possible of the Fed's deal to provide $3 for every $1 spent by the states. The best the Republican-led Senate could do yesterday was to come up with %150 for children 11-17, %200 for the rest. The GOP argument that we don't know what the cost will be down the road also applies to the Bush education package, but it's doubtful that the same logic will prevail. "Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said the needs of children and families must be kept on par with the needs of business. 'We've figured out how to give an oil and gas tax break and a research tax break,' Ellis said, referring to another business tax credit for research and development. 'I just really think we ought to recognize that we ought to do more for children.'" Apparently, Ellis' plea has fallen on deaf ears at the Guv's office, as G-Dub continues to listen to the presidential questions of the media and tells them how sad he is for the children and how much he wants to help them. 3/12/99
GEORGE TURNS DOWN GORE OFFER, PLANS TO LEAVE MANSION, AS PUNDIT LIKENS BOOM TO JOKE. Political life in Austin yesterday took on the look of a Ben Sargent cartoon as the wits hit the fan. The day began with a Gore letter to Bush, telling him, "To win in 2000, I need you by my side." Guv spinner Karen Hughes took that to mean Big Al wanted Dubya on his "steering committee," and declined. (DMN 3/11) Then, reporters learned that the state's first family will have to vacate the Mansion for a few weeks while renovations are going on. Is that why G.W. pushed up the date of his preliminary prez announcement last week in the rose garden? At any rate, one legislator is sponsoring a bill to cut down on traffic as Bush communtes from the Capitol to his temporary hotel suite at the Four Seasons down on the Colorado River. Houston's own Rep. Ron Wilson wants to pass a bill transforming the City of Austin into the District of Travis, allowing the legislature to run things and allowing Wilson to do something about the city's traffic. Did I mention Wilson's from Houston? He said he's sick of the city's "arrogance." The good Rep. went on to say, "If we moved the capital away from Austin tomorrow, it'd be a goat farm." An editorial in today's Houston Chronicle suggested he "should wrap a cold towel around his head."
By noon the Guv was practicing his "Big Tent" political philosophy by attending a luncheon sponsored by the Legislative Black Caucus in a big tent on the capitol grounds. Unfortunately, "most black legislators, all of whom are Democrats, weren't there." They were inside the House debating G-Dub's emergency oil tax break. Oops? Just about the only group George hasn't schmoozed with is teachers. Very odd, given his emphasis upon education. Teachers don't have the right to collectively bargain in Texas, and perhaps legislators will get around to considering that someday. Right now, though, an AMA-sponsored bill will be presented today to allow another underpaid group to bargain collectively in Texas: doctors. Bush has not commented on the bill to date. (DMN 3/11) Oh, the joke! Chris "Hardball" Matthews likens the Bush boom to a hyper-active postal worker who pigeonholes hundreds of letters in an amazingly short period of time. His boss asks, "How'd you get so fast, son?" "That's nothing," the boy responds, "you just wait till I learn how to read!" 3/11/99
BUSH: AN MBA SOLDIER OF FORTUNE FOR CHAMBER OF COMMERCE COUP D'ETAT. George is this money mag's kind of guy, as over 100 CEO's have attested to in its recent poll. The CEO's choose Bush over Gore 9-1. In a generally glowing four-part piece by Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, here's what captured our attention.
Primary Strategy. Bush "and his political strategists have already developed an audacious plan. Unlike recent Republican front-runners, (he) won't lurch right in the primaries, then scamper to the middle for the general election--a tactic that cost past GOP candidates crucial credibility. Instead, through public discussion of his own religious awakening and personal entreaties to key Christian activists, he'll aim to win over enough hard-core conservatives to triumph in the crowded primaries." Dubya began this tactic last weekend at a church in Houston. One listener commented, "I hadn't known he had such a religious background. It seemed genuine, too." HC 3/6.
California and the White House. "A private Democratic poll put Bush in front of Gore even in California, a state the Veep has courted assiduously. Whoever wins California in 2000 will almost certainly move to the White House."
Bushgan. "George W. calls himself a 'compassionate conservative,' which translates at the ballot box as a Republican trying to appeal to Democrats. Ronald Reagan was the last guy who managed that, and in fact, George W.'s views are closer to Reagan's than to the elder Bush's. Like Reagan, George W. wants to shrink government, cut taxes, spend more on the military, reduce trade restrictions, and promote (critics say impose) family values."
Elizabeth Dole."She's too tightly scripted, too vague on the issues, too recent an echo of her husband's failed race in 1996. She probably isn't a contender for vice president, either; why would George W. want to remind voters of two failed campaigns (1992 and 1996) on one bumper sticker?"
Ticker-Tape. Dubya will probably "eschew federal funding" to keep pace with Forbes...Bush says his oil bidness was conducted "aboveboard," but he was just "ok" as an oil man...His exec style is to talk to a committee, not dally over decisions, and go on...Over 50 GOP $ men will have a "presidential speed bump" meeting in N.Y. in April to consider slowing Bush down...The myth that he chose to be bipartisan as Texas Guv continues...His disagreement with Gore would be "prosperity with a purpose," the "need for a 'culture shift' into a 'responsibility era.'" As implied in the recent Richard Berke NYT story on the California GOP, such rhetoric is all things to all people. 3/10/99
IT'S TIME TO TELL IT LIKE IT IS. "FEIGNED RETICENCE" AND "UNNECESSARY PETITIONS" ARE HISTORY. It turns out that Dubya's been bad-mouthing Quayle, Dole, and Forbes from the git-go, and visitors have been leaving the Governor's Mansion with packets of glowing Gore. The message is clear: only a burning Bush can lead the GOP into the promised land. 3/9/99
GUV'S GURU GIVES UP DIRECT MAIL OUTFIT AT G-DUB'S BEHEST. (Second item.) Claiming "Bush doesn't want my focus diluted," Karl Rove, the Guv's political advisor, has sold his lucrative consulting firm, including its political direct mail arm. "Rove said the political operations of his direct mail company were being purchased by consultants Ted Delisi and Todd Olsen." (AAS 3/9/99) Since Bush payments to Rove's company constituted nearly one-fifth of his entire $14 million campaign budget in the recent election, it's understandable that both men wanted to avoid any of the obvious "conflict of interest" questions that might be forthcoming from future big bucks contributors. Any possible concern they have could be based on what may be a trend in politics: the man running for office gets the bucks and passes on the cash to companies owned by members of the candidate's campaign team. Getting back to the Bush-Rove decision, two questions remain: have any big bucks contributors to Bush's gubernatorial campaign asked where the money went, and is Rove still the owner of Praxis List Company? 3/9/99
THE LEGEND CONTINUES. GEORGE PLAYS WITH THE FACTS OF HIS LIFE FOR POLITICAL ADVANTAGE. First, he apologized to the press for his wild youth, but the press didn't seem to understand what he was so bent out of shape about. (What's he really expecting them to find?) Then, last fall, his mother told us she was "tempted to say" he came "covered with glory." (Dem Guv candidate Garry Mauro said, "He popped out with name ID...Poof.") Now, at the national media shape-up last Sunday, Junior said, implying that he's just one of the guys, "I went to Sam Houston Elementary School in Midland, Texas. And (Dad) went to Greenwich Country Day in Connecticut." While the facts are true, the egalitarian implications are not. Post-war Midland in the late 50's, smack-dab in the West Texas oil fields with giant trucks, a dusty desert landscape, and raucous football Friday nights, was not the kind of place one would find a wealthy, private, day school. Choice was not an issue. However, when George passed the 8th grade he was gone. The family moved to Houston, but he went to Andover ('64), and later to Yale. "In the Northeast, Phillips Andover was a stopover along the great chain that led from the Greenwiches to Yale and Wall Street...The school's motto,...'The End Depends on the Beginning,' was appropriate for such families as the Bushes, who committed their money, their sons, and their own aspirations for immortality." (H. S. Parmet) Was it F. Scott Fitzgerald who said, "The rich are different from you and me"? 3/9/99
IN OVER HIS HEAD. WOULD DUBYA TURN THE WHITE HOUSE INTO BLEAK HOUSE? Writing in London's The Independent yesterday, Andrew Marshall structures a provocative, but contradictory, argument that goes to the heart of Bush's budding political philosophy. Marshall calls it, "Victorian values, Texas style." George got it from his guru, Karl Rove, who got it from conservative thinker Myron Magnet, who got it from novelist Charles Dickens. "Just as Dickens rejected the individualistic theories of Manchester liberalism as too uncaring, (Magnet and, by extension, Bush) rejects modern American liberalism as too ready to ignore social obligation and responsibility." However, if you are to the right you're not blameless in Magnet/Bush's eyes: "If you are a politician, you need to be thinking about the condition of society and the condition of poverty, which is not something that Republicans at the national level have thought about much for a long time." Using Kennedy's "Ask not..." rhetoric, George "speaks about people's obligations, and about the obligations that society has to its members, rather than individual freedoms, like the economic right." Hold it, Andrew!
Bush is not going to give up freedoms for obligations; never has, never will. Just look at his career as a businessman, not to mention his own proprty ownership. (See Bushgate.) Just look at his record on the environment. Private property wins over pollution every time. Same with "entrepreneurship," "tort (ha!) reform," and "corporate wellfare." At yesterday's press conference the first question out of the chute was about Dubya's plans for the U.S. economy. His answer, keep it stimulated. Then he went on to name "entrepreneurship" and "tort reform" as examples of what he would stress to do so. His first tax cut to pass both houses was an emergency bill for his business buddies in the oil bidness. These measures stress economic freedom for businesses, not businesses' obligations to society. The Guv's actions contradict his words.
The sad fact is Bush does not appear to see the philosophical contradiction of his positions, and Marshall papers it over by being quite vague about Bush's economic conservatism. What we're left with is compassion for the well-off, the usual conservative vision for those less fortunate, and political rhetoric that confuses the voters. In Marsahll's words, "a critic might say this is a bit too Dickensian: that modern-day Texas is cramming its massive prison system with all of its social problems and carries out a third of all US executions. The shelters for single mothers look a little like poorhouses, and Mr. Bush has also proposed to cut off additional benefits for women who get pregnant while on welfare. But clearly, these policies resonate, at least in Texas." The question is, do we want to turn the White House into this Bleak House? 3/8/99
BUSH INTRODUCES EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE TODAY, WITH THREE SURPRISE MEMBERS. Scratch Richard Cheney from our list below, and add Rep. Anne Northup, who spoke on "George and family," former GOP chairman Haley Barbour, who spoke on "George and leadership," and G.W.'s foreign policy advisor, Condolezza Rice, who spoke on "straightforward George and foreign policy." Michigan Guv John Engler was the most impressive, Rice came across well, and the others read from the Republican playbook. George was a stiff moderator and began a long Q&A session poorly but warmed up towards the end. Schultz's closing comment to George came to the point: "When we get through with all the exploring, the answer's got to be yes!" 3/7/99
BUSH'S ACHILLES HEEL: CONFIDANT ADMITS HOT TEMPER COULD COST GUV THE GOP NOMINATION. Last month Politex said, "Too often, (George) falls into a dour, slightly p-o'ed mode, perhaps a throwback to his boozing years. One report has him thwacking a cane across the top of his governor's desk to let people know that he's really angry." (See "Bush Who?") In this month's Texas Monthly, Paul Burka gives him a grade of "F" for attitude, saying he "grumbles," he "bristles," and he's "testy." (See 3/4/99) Now, in U. S. News and World Report, Kenneth T. Walsh writes, "As a proud man with a short fuse, (Bush) could be his own worst enemy. 'He's it unless he self-distructs,' admits a confidant. 'That's the only way he can lose the nomination.'"
Now that he's considered to be a candidate, no matter what he says, two groups will try to make George blow his cool: his political adversaries and the press. Guv Ann went that route in '94 and failed; Richards taunted him and called him "shrub"; he ran a disciplined "issues" campaign, kept to a limited litany of messages, and won. The press was another matter. Based on his behavior towards reporters during Dad's '92 campaign, the "hothead image...stuck in some Washington minds." (AAS 2/21)
Today, reporters seem wary of Dubya. First, he sometimes appears to be taunting them in a joking but adverserial tone. Background: as early as this summer in the NYT, Bush has been criticized for his vague responses to the "vision thing" and he's clearly thin-skinned about it. So the other evening when reporters asked him if he was worried about leading in the polls, he responded: "Y'all need to worry about the polls. I'll worry about the vision." (DMN 3/6) And his less-than-truthful statements to them about his presidential plans have become tirsome and, in their minds, counter-productive. Michael Tackett, a Chicago Tribune reporter wrote it was a "fan dance," and San Antonio Express-News columnist Carlos Guerra called it "stale" and said he would like to tell us more about Bush's "feigned indecision" but, first, he would need to consider "how it will affect my family. Such decisions can't be taken lightly, you know." Reporters and politicians know they "use" one another, but the controlled scorn that G.W. harbors just below the surface of his deadpan delivery is, for some scribes, too attractive a target to ignore. 3/7/99
G-DUB WILL STRESS REPUBLICAN COALITION BUILDING SUNDAY WHEN HE UNVEILS COMMITTEE. Members of the 10 person presidential exploratory committee that will be introduced by Bush during his national media conference at the convention center in downtown Austin were selected to suggest a wide range of GOP support: "Michigan Gov. John Engler, Sen. Paul Coverdale of Georgia and Reps. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, Jennifer Dunn of Washington and Roy Blunt of Missouri....will join former Secretary of State George Schultz and about four others on the panel." Look for at least one to be Latino. (AP 2/5) 2/6/99 SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE Carlos Guerra opines that former defense secretary Richard Cheney could get the military slot on the committee and "Henry Bonilla would do likewise with Hispanics." 2/7/99
TEXAS MILITANTS PLOTTED TO KILL BUSH. FBI NEVER REPORTED IT TO GOVERNOR'S SECURITY STAFF. An FBI spokesman said, "Those threats considered to be viable are disseminated to the appropriate agencies." Texas Dept. of Public Safety's officers "say they were blindsided and stunned." Col. Thomas: "To this day...I've never been told any reason [threats against Mr. Bush were] never passed on to us." 3/6/99
IF BUSH "CAN'T LEAD TEXAS INTO THE 21ST CENTURY, CAN HE...LEAD THE COUNTRY INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM?" "Surely Bush could have found one black person in the entire state of Texas to serve on the board of an institution (Univ. of Tx.) with a regrettable history of a century of segregation," asserts Fort Worth scribe. 3/5/99
DUBYA COURTS CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES: BACKED BY POLICY ARM OF SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. With an eye on its 16 million membership, George promised the visiting group of religious leaders Monday that he would give Saturday night and Sunday morning speeches at the Second Baptist Church in Houston, prior to returning to Austin for his Convention Center news conference. (AAS 3/5) 3/5/99
WOULD YOU VOTE FOR A C+ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE? THAT'S WHAT GEORGE HAS EARNED TO DATE. Here are the grades recently given to Bush by Texas Monthly's, executive editor Paul Burka, with a little help in one category by Politex:
Support. "Since Bush is deliberately keeping out-of-state trips to a minimum until after the legislative session, the mountains will have to come to Muhammed--and they are." (A)
Money. "Donors and fundraisers from all over the country have been calling for months and need only the go-ahead." Politex adds, getting money for business ventures is what Bush does best. He should head up IRS! (A)
Defining Himself. "He hopes to have his cake and eat it too by endorsing hard-right positions without the hard-right rhetoric," and Burka doesn't know how well this "compassionate conservative" strategy will travel. (Burka: Inc., Politex: C)
Television Technique. "In a controlled environment like a thirty-second spot, Bush comes across very well. But in a debate or an interview, he lacks polish...During a recent C-Span interview his head bobbed and weaved like a boxer's." What's worse, says Politex, is George seemed unable to do much extemporaneous thinking. (C-)
Message. "His core message is that he can win...The problem for Bush is that he has far less familiarity with national issues than did any of the past four Republican presidents,...so he will have to translate his state achievements into national politics. This will be no easy feat." Politex adds, most folks on the national level have yet to understand that being a governor in Texas offers far less hands-on experience than in most states, and George is best at what he has been born to and trained for: getting money for business ventures and administering the use of it to his advantage. He filters the world through two key metaphors: "money" and "business." (B)
Timing. He's not strong in the early primary states and "the media will be looking for signs that the front-runner is weak." (C)
Attitude. He "grumbles," he "bristles," and he's "testy." "How is he going to react to the relentlessly adversarial and the often unfair coverage of a presidential campaign? If the compassionate conservative runs without passion, the intense pressure of a presidential campaign will eventually strip the cover from his ambivalence, and George W. Bush will not be the next president of the United States." (F) 3/4/99
BUSH BOOM! SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT A HECTIC DAY: ANALYSIS
The Vision Thing."I do have a compelling reason to consider running for president: I want the 21st century to be prosperous, and I don't want anybody being left behind," Bush said. "America must be prosperous so people can realize their entrepreneurial dreams." Taking a page from Clinton's play book, George emphasizes the economy with a nod to diversity. But what about the majority of Americans who are not entrepreneurs? George's vision of America appears to be based on his experiences and those of a limited number of Americans.
Inner Circle Confusion."Bush said his press secretary, Karen Hughes, chose Tuesday to make the announcement because it was Texas Independence Day." The Guv rode the dead horse of indecision as far as it could go, but it was beginning to collapse over a week ago with contradictory statements by Dubya, Rove, and others, and it was better to make an early announcement than to have the continuing miscommunications became an embarrassment.
When He Made Up His Mind.Ken Herman tells us it was around January 19th, far in advance of the CNN interview which aired Feb. 2: "As many Texans suspected, Bush said he made up his mind to head down the presidential path weeks ago, right around the Jan. 19 inauguration that started his second term." Is it fair to say that, between Feb. 2 and 25, Bush was telling us an untruth when he said he had yet to make up his mind?
Trouble at the Capitol. Now that George is in the presidential swim, will he promise campaign contributors that Texas obligations will not hinder his campaign work? Here, it's Catch-22. The Guv needs a good legislative record to take to the national audience, but his bills are doing poorly at the moment. Clay Robison reports that the energy tax break, a franchise-tax exemption, and a crack down on social promotions are being slowed in the House. The social promotions bill, a Bush national conerstone, is in particular danger. "Major fights also are brewing over the governor's proposals to cut school property taxes by $2 billion, establish a pilot program of tax-backed vouchers for private schools and require parents to be notified before their minor daughters could have abortions." Some legislators claim the voucher bill is DOA.
Don't Hold Your Breath.It looks like you may have to be content with Politex's formal announcement of Bush's presidential candidacy last December, because, like Clinton, G-Dub might never make a formal announcement. Wayne Slater has confirmed what was reported here last week, "The 52-year-old Republican (Bush), whose high poll numbers have made him a front-runner for the GOP nomination, said he plans to remain in Austin until the Legislature adjourns May 31. He then will travel around the country to gauge public opinion before deciding whether to formally enter the race. 'I don't have a formal date in mind yet,' he said of a timetable for deciding whether to run." (Note: The Dallas Morning News now has a "Bush Campaign" page at its web site.
Bad News, Good News. The bad news is, unlike nearly all major newspapers online, Austin's Statesman does not post editorials or op-ed columns at its Austin 360 site. The good news is in today's editorial it joins our voice in suggesting the Guv back up his talk with action: "Bush's flirting is growing wearisome. And eventually, the governor will have to account for what he says about compassion and opportunity in Texas and what he does about leading on health care for children, appointments to boards of regents and important legislative issues." 3/3/99
BUSH ANNOUNCES THAT FORMING OF EXPLORATORY PRESIDENTIAL COMMITTEE WILL BE ANNOUNCED IN FRONT OF NATIONAL MEDIA SUNDAY "His announcement...appeared to keep the guessing game alive by putting off a final decision on a possible candidacy until a later date."(Earlier Reuters report.) The Governor's Mansion will be too small for the anticipated media crowd, so folks are guessing where the announcement will take place. One thing's certain, the Guv's promised to furnish more details on Sunday. The committee's $ goal has already been announced: $55 million; also, it wants to get $25 million in a hurry to scare off other candidates. (Fox TV News) 3/2/99
ONLY TEXAS REPORTERS INVITED TO GOVERNOR'S MANSION FOR TEXAS INDEPENDENCE DAY SURPRISE SCOOP. Although the timing was days earlier than anticipated, the expected Bush 2 p.m. CST announcement of the forming of an exploratory committee followed on the heels of a noontime music, food, and speech Texas Independence Day celebration across the street at the Capitol. 3/2/99
BUSH STAYS FOCUSED ON PREZ POLITICS AS HIS ED BILL HITS ROADBLOCK. Texas House members prodded Bush aides with "pointed questions" about the Guv's educational proposals yesterday as George was MIA, attending to his plan to announce a money gathering presidential exploratory committee today. He also met with a GOP North Carolina delegation that delivered political pelf to him, suggesting that he consider Elizabeth Dole as his running mate. Back in the kitchen, Midland oilman Don Evans has been dubbed campaign manager and Jack Oliver has been put in charge of fund-raising. Oliver has a list of 120,000 donors, previously constructed for social conservative Sen. John Ashcroft. 3/2/99
GEORGE, I FEEL YOUR PAIN! REPORTER "PROCESSES" POLITEX THROUGH HIS "MEAT GRINDER." Q: How would you describe the importance of grassroots support for GWB on the Internet? A:If you define "grassroots" as non-professional support by the common man or woman, grassroots support for Bush on the internet can be determined by the quality of the web site. The clunkier it is, the more grassroots it is. For example, the Iowa and the Nebraska grassroots sites are very professional, big bucks sites. I understand that Limbaugh's Bo Snerdley has something to do with the Nebraska site. That's not very grassroots. A Bush Watch reader felt that the Iowa site was too anonymous and seemed to be particularly interested in name gathering. The B2K site is fairly non-professional and clunky, but the original moderator was a political pro and some of those who write in appear to be selling something. Then there are one or two picture and Bush quote with e-mail address sites that are clearly amateur but do not appear to add anything to the mix, at least at the moment. Of course, once Dubya makes the announcement that he's running, Bush sites will sprout like mushrooms. Grassroots...mushrooms...get it? (The reporter selected the 33 words in italics from the written interview q&a for the quote attributed to Politex in his article. Elision dots were not provided. "Dubya" was deleted without editorial indication.) 3/2/99
BUSH PUSH COMBINES MCKINLEY'S ORCHESTRATED FRONT PORCH CAMPAIGN AND THE COLIN POWELL DRAFT "THAT NEVER WAS." In January Politex likened Dubya's pretend draft to a re-write of a Frank Capra 30's movie, but poli-guru Karl Rove actually had an 1896 fake draft in mind. Seeds were spread over a year ago when Dad started calling local officials in primary states. Then George sent them gubernatorial campaign videos last summer and has been writing and calling them since. After the election, Rove got to work, in New Mexico, for example: "Described as an isolated, spontaneous outburst of support, the effort to round up support in New Mexico was, in fact, carefully coordinated with Rove from Austin, according to the leader of the effort there." The political pilgrimage to Austin makes for good press and helps Bush to keep his promise not to leave the state and to use a well-known Clinton line that's worked: "I can't be distracted from the job the people elected me to do." However, the growing evidence of how hard and how long the Bush camp has been working on the Republican nomination in the face of George's claims that he hasn't made up his mind to run might remind some of other well-known Clinton lines that have led many to distrust anything he says. 3/1/99
DRUDGE BECOMES SKINFLYNT: IN POLITICS NO NUDES IS GOOD NUDES. Read all the sludge that's fit to print about a "campaign 2000 star." Talking about the 2000 campaign, here's yesterday's take on the Guv's "young and irresponsible" past. 3/1/99
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