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Click Here: <A HREF="aol://5863:126/alt.conspiracy:595179">(Bush) Legacy --
Subject: (Bush) Legacy -- LARS-ERIK NELSON
Date: Mon, Feb 14, 2000 1:15 PM
Message-id: <889r9q$4me$[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

<A HREF="http://www.nybooks.com/nyrev/WWWfeatdisplay.cgi?20000224004R">http://

February 24, 2000


A Charge to Keep
by George W. Bush
253 pages, $23.00 (hardcover)
published by Morrow
(order book)

First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty
by Bill Minutaglio
371 pages, $25.00 (hardcover)
published by Times Books
(order book)

Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush
by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose
179 pages, $19.95 (hardcover)
published by Random House
(order book)

W: Revenge of the Bush Dynasty
by Elizabeth Mitchell
370 pages, $22.95 (hardcover)
published by Hyperion
(order book)

Governor George Walker Bush of Texas is the son of President George
Herbert Walker Bush, grandson of Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut,
direct descendant of President Franklin Pierce, and a thirteenth
cousin, once removed, of Queen Elizabeth of England. Uncles and
great-uncles were or are powers on Wall Street. As a child, he
vacationed at a family compound in an enclave north of Palm Beach,
Florida, along with families named Mellon, Doubleday, Ford, Roosevelt,
Whitney, Vanderbilt, and Harriman.

His family's seaside estate at Walker's Point, near Kennebunkport,
Maine, tempts the thought that the Bushes, in addition to more
traditional properties, own a rather nice piece of the Atlantic Ocean.
This pedigree is not mere background information; it is central to
Bush's life and his achievements. On his own, as three of the four
recent biographies clearly tell us, he has achieved little. With the
help of family and friends and an unparalleled network of loyal
financial backers, he has led a prosperous life in the oil business,
helped to run a baseball team, won the governorship of Texas, and
become the leading contender for the Republican nomination for the
presidency, all without much effort.

In his own mind, it seems, he is a superachiever. He brags that as
governor of Texas, one of the weaker governorships in the country, he
presides over the world's eleventh-largest economy. His autobiography
contains no mention of the financial angels who repeatedly bailed out
his failing oil ventures. In his version of events, he was the guiding
force behind the purchase of the Texas Rangers, rather than the public
face of the behind-the-scenes money men who actually put the deal
together. He seems to have no sense that others have prepared the way
for him, protected him, and picked up the pieces when he failed. As
former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower said of Bush père,
"He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple."

Thus we see such incongruities as George W. Bush, the "legacy"
admission to Andover and Yale, opposing affirmative action, which
would extend preferences similar to those that benefited him to
minority students and women. We learn that he regarded price controls
on American natural gas as European-style socialism, yet that he was
perfectly willing to use the state's power to seize property below
market value in order to build a new stadium for his baseball team. We
contrast his demand for high intellectual standards among minority
students with his observation after a visit to China: "Every bicycle
looked the same." And we read of his insistence on the importance of
individual achievement and personal responsibility—in a ghost-written

And yet it is not that simple. George W. Bush is an intelligent man,
with a formidable memory, enormous charm, and a sense of humor. His
political record as governor on occasion supports his claim to be a
"compassionate conservative," even though he has already authorized
more than a hundred executions. Within the Texas Republican Party,
especially since it has been seized by Christian conservatives, he is
a moderate—and to some of his fellow Texans, a dangerous liberal with
suspicious ties, through his father, to the Trilateral Commission and
the Council on Foreign Relations. Molly Ivins, who can be scathingly
critical of him, credits him with caring deeply about the reading
scores of minority students. His autobiography records that as
governor he worked out new ways to regulate tight-fisted health
maintenance organizations.

Ironically, in none of the four books under review is there adequate
attention to one of his finest moments, when as governor of Texas he
stood up to the national Republican Party and refused to go along with
a campaign to bar children of illegal immigrants from the public
schools. If he has succeeded because of his aristocratic advantages,
he has also on occasion displayed an aristocrat's sense of noblesse

Bush's spectacular career rebuts the notion that America has become a
meritocracy, in which we are all born equal and then judged upon our
intelligence, talent, creativity, or aggressiveness. Bush is an
aristocrat. His successes are in one way or another a direct
consequence of his name and family, and he has been exempt from the
normal competition—academic, financial, professional, political—that
confronts most Americans and sorts them on life's ladder. He comes
from that powerful and half-hidden world whose most important question
is not "What do you know?" but "Who are your people?" On the basis of
his own performance, he is more qualified to be King of England,
through his father's kinship with the Queen, than president.

Bush was a mediocre freshman in high school and yet won admission to
Phillips Academy, Andover, one of the country's most exclusive
preparatory schools, because his father had gone there before him. He
was a mediocre student at Andover, and yet won admission to his
father's alma mater, Yale, again as a "legacy." He was a mediocre
student at Yale and yet won admission to the Harvard Business School.
When he decided to fulfill his military obligation during the Vietnam
War by entering the Texas Air National Guard, he was promptly accepted
and granted a lieutenant's commission after a mere five weeks of basic

He entered the oil business with between $13,000 and $20,000 of a
family trust fund and failed at it—only to be bailed out repeatedly by
friendly investors who were willing to lose money in exchange for
association with the name Bush. He was invited to join a partnership
of investors who needed him as a front man for their purchase of the
Texas Rangers baseball team. He had to borrow his own share of the
investment, and then watched his $600,000 stake turn into $15 million
as the city of Arlington, Texas, built the team a new stadium with
public money.

He ran for Congress from a West Texas district in 1978 and lost,
despite no lack of funds from family and oil-business cronies. When he
ran for the governorship of Texas in 1994, he turned for help to Don
Carter, owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, who, in a taste
of things to come, wrote out a check for $100,000. And when he decided
to run for president in 1999, he raised so much money so quickly—more
than $60 million—that he was immune to the normal political risk that
early defeats in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries might
put him out of the race. Bush has enough money to survive right
through to the Republican convention in Philadelphia even in the
unlikely event that he loses every single primary.

George Walker Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on July 6,
1946, while his father was a Yale undergraduate, studying on the GI
Bill. His father and mother, Barbara, had been married while barely
out of their teens, in January 1945, after the elder Bush returned
from service as a navy pilot in the South Pacific. Two years after his
son was born, the elder George Bush graduated from Yale and set out
for the Texas oil fields in a deliberate effort to avoid his own
father's lifestyle, a 9-to-5 job in the financial district and a
commute to the suburbs.

George W. Bush has done just the opposite. He has tried in every way
to duplicate his father's life, following his path to Andover and
Yale, becoming a fighter pilot, entering the oil business, and running
for public office. Both he and his father are known for remembering
names and writing thank-you notes. In an uncharacteristically cruel
reference to his looks, Elizabeth Mitchell, in her book W, calls
George W. Bush "the monkey version of his father, with no unkindness
meant to George W. or simians." But the same could be said of his
life; his résumé tracks his father's so closely, and is peopled by so
many of the same friends and benefactors, that at times it is
difficult to keep their intertwined life stories apart. The younger
Bush's life is a slightly distorted, somewhat less attractive copy of
his father's. In one important way are they different: the elder Bush
was so intimidated by his mother, Dorothy, against bragging that he
famously drops the very word "I" from many of his sentences lest he
seem boastful. George W. claims credit for every success he was even
remotely near.

Young Bush lived what he regards as a typical middle-class suburban
life in Midland, Texas, which is true if you disregard the small point
that by the time he was ten, his father was a millionaire (at a time,
in the mid-1950s, when being a millionaire meant much more than it
does today). At seven, he suffered the traumatic loss of his younger
sister, Robin, to leukemia. Although the Bush family have made much of
their supposedly idyllic family life, in fact the senior Bush was
absent much of the time on his various oil ventures or political
explorations. He became a PTA leader, for example, but never showed up
at his own son's Little League games, although Barbara was a regular

After a year in private high school George W. was shipped off to
Andover, where he quickly became a social leader. Unlike his father,
who led the Yale team to a regional championship, George W. Bush was
not particularly good at sports, and again unlike his father, who won
a Phi Beta Kappa key at Yale, he was a slack student. An Andover
counselor warned him not to expect admission to Yale, but Bush applied
anyway and was accepted—becoming the third generation of his family to
attend the university.

In 1964, his father sought a Senate seat from Texas as a Goldwater
conservative, but was defeated in the tide that carried Lyndon B.
Johnson to victory. In a famous incident, George W. Bush recalls
running into the Yale chaplain, William Sloane Coffin, who supposedly
told him, "I know your father. Frankly, he was beaten by a better
man." Elizabeth Mitchell reports this story from Bush's point of view;
Bill Minutaglio says Coffin later wrote to Bush saying he could not
remember the encounter and could not imagine himself making such a
statement. Nevertheless, he asked Bush to forgive the incident, if it
had occurred. Bush replied, "I believe my recollection is correct. But
I also know time passes and I bear no ill will."

Both the Mitchell and Minutaglio biographies are filled with tales of
Bush's prep school and college pranks, extracurricular capers, quips,
and friendships. There is not much else to write about in those years.
At Yale, he was resentful of what appeared to him East Coast
arrogance, an odd grievance, perhaps, from one so privileged himself
who followed his father and grandfather into the Skull and Bones
secret society. He has complained, in later years especially, about
the attitudes of his classmates Nelson Strowbridge Talbott III (now
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott) and Gary Trudeau, the
creator of Doonesbury who so cuttingly questioned his father's manhood
in a series of comic strips. Bush narrowly escaped prosecution for two
college pranks and was involved in a scandal over the branding of
pledges at his fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon (also the fraternity of
his father and of former Vice President Dan Quayle). He defended the
practice, saying the brands were no worse than a cigarette burn.

DKE was a booze and party fraternity, and Bush was a heavy drinker, an
addiction he maintained until he turned forty. At one point, after
driving home drunk with his younger brother Marvin, then fifteen, his
father remonstrated with him. Bush challenged his father, "I hear
you're looking for me. You want to go mano a mano right here?"
Although he has endured much speculation about whether he ever used
drugs, there is no evidence in any of these four books that he ever
did. There is no evidence, further, that he was ever in a time, place,
or situation where drug use would have been more plausible than not.
J.N. Hatfield, a freelance writer, published a sensational charge late
last year that Bush had smoked marijuana and snorted cocaine while in
Texas in the early 1970s. But he offered no evidence to back up the
assertion (and some of his checkable "facts" proved to be false).
Hatfield's book, Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an
American President, was swiftly withdrawn by St. Martin's Press.

There are more serious controversies in George W. Bush's life than
drug use, none of them remotely criminal but all of them illuminating.
The first centers upon his service in the Texas Air National Guard.
Though the Vietnam War was raging while Bush was at Yale, he took no
part in protests or even discussions. In his autobiography Bush gives
the classic "hawk" explanation used by conservatives who managed to
avoid fighting in the war: "We could not explain the mission, had no
exit strategy, and did not seem to be fighting to win." If those three
missing conditions had been met, we may presume that Bush would have
been trudging through the boonies along with Pat Buchanan, Newt
Gingrich, Phil Gramm, Dan Quayle, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of that
blowhard army that shunned service in Vietnam because the war was not
being fought hard enough.

But Bush was not without political passion during the turbulent
Vietnam years. Minutaglio reports the following account from one of
Bush's fraternity brothers: "As he was standing shoulder to shoulder
with him at the bar, Bush began railing about how the nation's oil men
were being strangled by some suggested tax-break variances in the
oil-depletion allowance. The college fraternity brother remembers him
growing heated as he built his argument in defense of the oilmen in

Elizabeth Mitchell, whose book seems the most illuminating of the four
under review, gives the fullest account of Bush's acceptance into the
National Guard, at a time when, according to some of its veterans,
there was a long waiting list. By the time Bush graduated from Yale in
1968, his father was a congressman from Texas. A longtime family
friend, Sidney Adger, called Ben Barnes, then the Democratic
lieutenant governor of Texas. In a 1999 deposition Barnes testified
that Adger asked him to intercede for young Bush. Barnes duly called
the head of the guard, Brigadier General James M. Rose.

Bush and his father have seized upon this testimony as evidence that
the elder Bush himself never interceded to get his son a coveted slot
in the Guard. But in his interview with Lieutenant Colonel Walter B.
Staudt, the young Bush said he wanted to fly "just like his daddy,"
which surely would have invited the question, if Staudt had not
already known the answer, "Just who is your daddy?" The story does not
end there. Bush was commissioned as a second lieutenant in September
1968 after just five weeks of basic training, without even going
through officer candidate school, and immediately embarked on pilot
training. Curiously, in his autobiography, Bush fudges this
extraordinarily swift promotion. "I spent 55 weeks on active duty,
learning to fly, and graduated in December 1969. My dad pinned on my
second lieutenant wings, a proud moment for both of us." However,
there is no such thing as "second lieutenant wings" in the US
military. Second lieutenants receive gold bars; pilots get wings. Bush
has somehow conflated the two. We know he did not actually write this
book; it also appears he may not have read it.

He proved to be a competent pilot, and Mitchell informs us with a
straight face that he flew patrols from Ellington Field, "scanning the
Gulf Coast borders for enemy attacks and soaring over the oil fields
of Texas to protect the refineries."

Bush's oil career similarly paralleled his father's. His expertise was
in raising money rather than in drilling for oil. Like his father, who
was backed by his uncle Herbert Walker, the young George W. Bush used
an uncle, Jonathan Bush, to assemble investors for his first ventures.
Unlike his father, however, George W. Bush never found much oil. No
matter; the domestic oil industry of the 1970s made much of its money
by drilling holes in the tax code rather than in the ground. His first
company, called Arbusto (Spanish for "bush"), was, in Minutaglio's
words, "a possible win-win company; even if no oil gurgled up, it
could always take big tax write-offs."

His uncle Jonathan agreed that actually finding oil was not all that
important. "In those days, it behooved you to drill," Jonathan Bush
told Minutaglio. "You didn't have to do terribly well in order to do
well because you got so many write-offs. So it was an attractive way
to invest money and save taxes." Arbusto's secretary recalled, "I
really don't recall us ever drilling a well and making anything all
that great."

Nevertheless, Arbusto did poorly. Then an angel appeared. Philip
Uzielli, a friend of James A. Baker III (who had managed George Bush's
unsuccessful 1980 campaign for the Republican presidential
nomination), bought 10 percent of Arbusto for $1 million. At the time,
the entire company had a book value of only $382,376, both Mitchell
and Molly Ivins relate, so Uzielli spent his $1 million for stock
worth just $38,237.60. He wound up losing his money. Even with
Uzielli's cash injection and other money, including some from his
grandmother, Bush's oil company was sinking. Rescue came again, this
time from a benefactor named Bill DeWitt Jr., who merged his company,
Spectrum 7, with Bush's. The bottom line from this merger is that
Bush, who had invested $102,000, received a payback of $362,000. His
various backers, who had put up $4.66 million, received only $1.54
million—but didn't mind because of the tax write-offs.

Then Spectrum 7, too, started to go belly up. Along came yet another
savior, Harken Energy, paying Bush $530,000 in stock for a company
that was facing foreclosure. Eventually, Harken too fell upon hard
times. It won the right to drill for offshore oil in Bahrain just
before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 and threatened to control
the Gulf's oil reserves. This time, Bush managed to get out just
before the stock price dropped, leaving his partners and other
stockholders to take the loss when Harken's stock plunged.

Practically everything Bush touched in the oil business turned to
ashes, yet he always emerged both unscathed and, according to
Mitchell, oblivious. "George W. never seemed to acknowledge adequately
the role of the carpetlayers in his life," she writes.

  He had been able to raise the capital for Arbusto with the help of
  his Uncle Jonathan. Philip Uzielli, a good friend of James Baker,
  had bailed him out at the right time. He had been saved from fiscal
  ruin by the merger with Spectrum 7 that Paul Rea helped facilitate;
  and Harken had taken a gamble on George W. because of, among other
  reasons, the power of his family name. While George W. was a smart,
  well-liked boss and colleague, his insecurities prevented him from
  giving credit where credit was due.

George W. took time out from the oil business—but continued to earn
$10,000 a month as a no-show consultant for Harken—to help his father
win the presidency in 1988. He was a close adviser to his father, and
after his election claimed credit for firing the President's
curmudgeonly chief of staff John Sununu. According to Mitchell,
however, even that is an exaggeration of his role. The actual bad news
was delivered to Sununu by his own deputy, Andrew Card, after Card had
a talk with the President.

George W. Bush returned to Texas to be recruited as a partner in a
consortium that wanted to buy the Texas Rangers baseball team. In
Bush's version, he assembled the investors to purchase the team.
Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth said, however, that the
investors—plus himself and American League Commissioner Bobby
Brown—and not Bush had put the deal together. Bush quickly became the
public face of the team, sitting in a front-row seat beside the
Rangers dugout and acting as cheerleader. Ownership of the Rangers was
a spectacular financial success after the city of Arlington, Texas,
agreed to build a new stadium with public funds and turn it over to
the team essentially free. Ivins quotes a critic who describes Bush,
in this venture, as "a welfare recipient." When Bush eventually sold
his share, he pocketed $15 million on an initial investment of over
$600,000 after just eight years.

Purchase of the Rangers was designed to increase Bush's visibility in
Texas so that, like his father, he could go into politics. He had run
for Congress from a Lubbock-Midland district in 1978 and lost to Kent
Hance, then a Democrat. When he considered running for governor of
Texas in 1990, his plight was made clear to him by a female Republican
pollster, who told him, according to Minutaglio: "George, everybody
likes you, but you haven't done anything. You need to go out in the
world and do something, the way your father did when he left
Connecticut and the protection of his family. You just haven't done
shit. You're a Bush and that's all."

Bush's thin claim to qualification to be president rests on his
service as governor of Texas, a constitutionally weak job—his powers
are shared with the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the
House—that is apparently not even a full-time occupation. According to
Mitchell, Bush has spent many an afternoon playing solitaire on his
computer. As of this writing, he has spent less time as governor, five
years, than his rival for the Republican nomination, Senator John
McCain of Arizona, spent in a North Vietnamese prison.

Molly Ivins provides a close-up look at Bush's insider financial
dealings and governorship, and finds him to be a skilled and likable
politician, far more at home in Texas and with Texas's peculiar
back-slapping, guffawing ways than his father ever was. She challenges
his claims of having enacted a major cut in property taxes by pointing
out that local school districts promptly raised their own rates to
make up for the lost revenues.

In view of his background, it is not surprising to find that Bush has
been a protector of big business, championing laws that make it harder
to sue corporations and protecting his state's polluting industries
from environmental regulations. Ivins calls him punitive toward
welfare recipients and oblivious of children's health needs. Summing
up one convoluted episode concerning health care, she writes, "In
straightforward, nonbureaucratic English, because he is running for
president, George Bush attempted to (1) bar 200,000 children from a
low-cost federal-state health-insurance program, and (2) discourage
poor children from receiving free health care to which they are
entitled under federal law."

Bush's greatest controversy as governor was his refusal to halt the
execution of Karla Faye Tucker, who murdered two people and then found
Christianity while on death row. A worldwide campaign, including
appeals from the Pope and the Reverend Pat Robertson, attempted to
save her from becoming the first woman executed in Texas in the modern
era. Under Texas law, Bush says in his autobiography, he was permitted
only to give her a single thirty-day reprieve; he could not, he
claims, commute her sentence. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles,
which could have spared her, refused to do so, and the courts granted
no relief. Bush appears to have been anguished by the decision. One of
his daughters opposed him on it. Though a nominal Methodist, he has
consistently disregarded his church's opposition to capital

But Bush's worst political moment came after Tucker's execution, when
in an interview with Talk magazine, he mocked her final pleas for
life. Tucker Carlson, a conservative writer with no apparent reason to
damage Bush, asked the governor to describe what Karla Faye Tucker had
said in a "from death row" interview on the Larry King Live television

"'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'don't
kill me,'" Carlson reported. "I must look shocked—ridiculing the pleas
of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and
cruel, even for someone as militantly anti-crime as Bush—because he
immediately stops smirking."

What can be said in favor of his governorship? Bush has pursued a
personal campaign for improving literacy for young people and has also
made genuine efforts to "reach out," at least rhetorically, to black
and Hispanic voters. Even though largely Hispanic south Texas is one
of America's great blighted areas, he nearly won a majority of
Hispanic votes in his astonishing 69 percent reelection in 1998 and
even picked up 27 percent of the black vote. In Texas, his brand of
politics clearly works.

Ivins and her coauthor Lou Dubose are adept at sorting through the
intricacies of Bush's oil deals, the Texas Rangers baseball
transactions, and the power balance between Texas's weak governorship
and powerful legislature. Ivins has both a penetrating mind and a
light touch, but some of her mannerisms—like repeatedly writing about
the "oil bidness"—become cloying, even to her. She defends the
spelling of "bidness" in a footnote by informing us that this is how
the word is actually pronounced. Yes, and Texans also tell us they
have let Chrahst into thur horts, but we need not beat it to death.

Of these four books, the biographies by Minutaglio and Mitchell are
excellent, especially when we consider that their subject would be
hard put to complete a legitimate full-page resume without padding it.
Bush's autobiography, written by his communications director, Karen
Hughes, is a slapdash affair, filled with homilies about love and
family while never acknowledging all the benefactors who have greased
Bush's way through life. It contains many excerpts from his speeches
and is strewn with compliments to the various people he has named to
government office. For all their cold-eyed scrutiny, Ivins, Mitchell,
and Minutaglio do a better job of making Bush seem like a human being
than his own autobiography does.

On the basis of the evidence, there is nothing in any of these books
that appears to qualify Bush for the presidency, with the exception of
his ability to win votes in Texas and raise money from big-ticket
contributors. He is energetic, friendly, and a natural cheerleader. He
is certainly not stupid, but when we consider his remarkable energy as
a campaigner he appears to be unaccountably lazy in other respects.
Although his father was envoy to China, ambassador to the United
Nations, vice president for eight years, and president for four,
George W. Bush seems not to have been paying much attention to the
substance of his own father's job. He is currently learning to recite
the lines being fed to him by a team of foreign-policy advisers, many
of them inherited from his father's administration who now say a
Restoration is at hand.

Given his lack of national political experience, Bush may be at the
mercy of such advisers. He has gotten some of his stock responses down
by rote, but in a television interview on January 23, as he answered a
barrage of questions, he appeared completely confident—and deeply
interested—in only one issue: a defense of the intangible-drilling
cost tax deduction for investors in the oil industry.

On other issues, he seems much less sure-footed and, as he campaigned
across Iowa in January, he offered proposals that answered the various
demands of conservative Republicans without seeming to realize that
they could be contradictory. For example, he threatened to "take out"
any weapons of mass destruction that Iraq deploys, which satisfies
Republican hawks. Yet if he is willing to react to such threats with
preemptive strikes, why is he also advocating a Star Wars missile
defense? A preemptive strike on missile launchers would be far cheaper
and safer than the multibillion-dollar Star Wars missile defense,
which has yet to pass an operational test. Yet many conservatives are
devoted to an antimissile shield, first advocated by Ronald Reagan,
with almost religious fervor.

Bush also made it a point, while in Iowa, to appear at religious
centers that provided community and social services. This served a
two-fold purpose: first, to highlight his own religiosity in a state
where 42 percent of Republican caucus voters identify themselves as
born-again Christians, and second, to further a conservative
antigovernment agenda by channeling federal money to "faith-based"
service providers rather than using government itself to dispense

Use of faith-based service providers has become accepted orthodoxy in
the Republican Party, and Bush has embraced it, even though it runs
counter to his warnings in a speech at the Manhattan Institute last
year that Republicans should not seem to be instinctively
antigovernment. While many such organizations work efficiently, they
are inherently exclusionary, if only because there may be many people
in need who are unwilling to turn to a church or synagogue for help.
In addition, these government-funded religious organizations appear to
be somewhat less accountable to outside scrutiny and, as a recent
scandal over day-care vouchers in New York shows, subject to

Bush clearly has no shortage of confidence. As he looked out at the
possible Republican field for 2000 he could see former vice president
Dan Quayle, former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander, Elizabeth Dole,
and Steve Forbes and conclude correctly that he could outraise any of
them. (John McCain had virtually no national name recognition until
quite recently.) He is good at making a friendly impression on the
campaign trail, though he is not a particularly good speechmaker. And
he had been around his father's White House often enough not to be
daunted by the majesty of the presidency or by the quality of the
people he met. He drilled his hole and, for the first time in his
life, hit a gusher.

But Bush's biggest vulnerability as he seeks the White House is that
the more you look at him, the less you see. Every achievement, with
the exception of his 1998 reelection as governor, evaporates on
scrutiny, even minor ones like his supposed firing of Sununu or his
vaunted Texas tax cuts. Perhaps it won't matter. Maybe he understands
the real world—a world in which the most important question is "Who
are your people?"—better than the rest of us. In his own life, so much
has been handed to him. Why not the presidency?

    —January 26, 2000

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