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GOVERNOR WAFFLES CAN'T LEGGO HIS EGGO'S. Wednesday's San Antonio Express-News devoted all three of its editorials to gun control, castigating George Bush for his waffling on the issue and calling for stronger controls, more of them, and now. The editors noted that Texas has the most gun shows in the nation and unlicensed sellers are not required to run background checks on the people who buy the guns. Although Bush said he would support a bill to stop such sales, he said it was too late in the session to do so. The editors disagreed: "The state bill is easily revivable with help from Bush and could go into effect as early as Sept. l. Texas should not wait for Congress to correct its flaw." Then came the warning: " Bush's waffling does not bode well for a presidential campaign."
As it unfortunately is so often the case with Dubya, it all comes down to money. In this instance, it's the NRA money which reaches both the Texas governor and his supporters: " Common Cause reported this week that the National Rifle Association has pumped almost $8.4 million into congressional campaigns and national political parties in the past decade....The NRA's generosity with campaign contributions has had an impact in past debates and unfortunately is likely to be factor again this year." Is that why Bush suggested that the gun show bill be considered on the federal, rather than the state, level? After the Colorado shootings, gun advocates attempted to shift the focus to the evils of the internet. But there, again, the NRA has its hand in: "The NRA consistently resists gun-control efforts and undoubtedly will continue. This year, the commendable Internet Gun Trafficking Act sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is on the NRA's "anti-gun" list." The Schumer bill would limit internet gun sellers to licensed dealers who would ship guns to a local dealer for a background check. The NRA and those whose campaigns are supported with NRA money do not want that.
Today in the NYT's "Political Briefing" column, B. Drummond Ayres, Je. summerizes the Express-News' editorials, reporting that "Democrats say Bush is waffling, trying to duck a real stand for as long as possible, a charge they have leveled at him on other issues, as have some Republicans." Caught between a political desire to say something presidential about the Colorado shootings and an equally pressing political desire not to cross the NRA, Dubya indicated his preference for Eggo's. "What did Senator West (D-Dallas) think of a call for Federal intervention by a Republican Presidential hopeful? 'I'm not going to get into Presidential politics,' he said. The chief sponsor of the House bill, Representative Debra Danburg, a Houston Democrat, did not hesitate to jump in. "Smells like Presidential politics to me." Smells like stale waffles to us. 4/30/99
SON-OF-A-GUN GUV SHOOTS OFF HIS MOUTH. Scant hours after the school shootings in Colorado on April 20, the Texas House Public Safety Committee killed House Bill 1199, which would have required people who sell guns at gun shows and flea markets to run background checks on those who want to purchase guns, just like gun store owners have to do under present Texas law. The Texas State Rifle Association had incorrectly told its web site visiters that if the bill passed Texans would "lose the freedom to attend and enjoy gun shows." On the other side of the issue, "law enforcement officials said illegal gun sales (at gun shows and flea markets) go virtually unchecked." George held a press conference the day after the Colorado shootings, calling it a "tragic moment." "What do you think about instant background checks at gun shows?" one reporter asked Dubya in a follow-up question. "I support that," he replied. Clay Robison wrote in the Houston Chronicle that people on both sides of the issue said Bush "apparently hadn't lifted a finger to get the bill passed."
"Rep. Bob Turner, D-Coleman, chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, said the governor's post-Littleton comments were 'a bit of a knee-jerk reaction probably. To this moment, the governor has never talked to me about the bill,' said Turner, who voted against the measure. 'He (Bush) never called me. His staff here who work with us in the House every day, all day have never visited with me at all about the bill,' he added. Turner said background checks at gun shows would take too long." The other side was equally baffled by the Guv's response: "Rep. Debra Danburg, D-Houston, the House sponsor, laughed when a reporter asked if the governor had made any effort to advance her legislation. She said she learned of Bush's interest only when she read about his comments 'after the vote to kill the bill occurred in committee.'" If the House bill is now dead, what about the Senate? "Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, the Senate sponsor of a similar measure languishing in a Senate committee, challenged the governor Monday to take an active role in trying to revive the proposal. 'I think the governor, given his popularity in the state of Texas, has the power to resurrect that bill,' West said." West later added, ""If he wants this issue addressed, all he has to do is help line up the political support to get it done."
While neither side said that Bush's gun control statement was an attempt to exploit the Colorado tragedy for political gain, it was clear that following his talk with action would dispell any such thoughts. Unfortunately, yesterday in Dallas Dubya said "it's too late in the session to revive" the House bill, ignored the languishing Senate bill, and, most surprisingly, said " (gun show and flea market gun checks) really need to be worked out at the federal level." Aside from failing to lead, passing the buck, and adding new waffling behavior to previous procrastinations, this statement comes out of the mouth of a man who plans to run for President on the proposition that states should do more and Washington should do less. Has our Governor decided that states are incapable of forging the needed laws to control weapons and the right to do so should be turned over to the Feds? Or is this just one more in a growing list of comcon cons? (DMN 4/23,4/28; HC 4/26) 4/29/99
WHY GEORGE'S ROSE GARDEN STRATEGY IS IN TROUBLE. Texas Monthly's resident pundit offers three reasons: the Guv's presidential aspirations have distracted him from his legislative work, he has a slow learning curve, and he's practicing bad politics. 4/28/99
MENSCH CLAIMS BUSH IS GUILTY OF "COMCON C0N." Jeremy Lott, whose newsletter site was awarded the "Conservative Site of the Day," wants us to feel his pain: "Isn’t compassionate conservatism just Republicanspeak for 'I feel your pain?' Isn’t it just a huckster’s way of hawking his own virtue? Should we really vote for one candidate over the next because he wants us to take his word for it that he is more compassionate?" 4/27/99
GEORGE'S ACTIONS BELIE HIS WORDS IN THE WAKE OF COLORADO VIOLENCE. Last evening the Governor appeared at a meeting of 900 people in Wimberly, a small Hill Country town south of Austin, to help them deal with the news that four of their students were planning to set off homemade bombs at the Junior High School. "He...urged parents to instill in their children a love of others and a respect for life and property." Yet, Bush is unwilling to back the hate crimes bill that is coming up for debate in the Texas legislature this week, and his ineffectual and misguided leadership allowed passage of three pro-gun laws "at a rapid clip this week, some within hours of the Littleton, Colo., tragedy." Although the Guv supported the bill, "the House Public Safety Committee voted to kill a proposal to extend criminal background checks to gun shows and flea markets, where some law enforcement officials said illegal gun sales go virtually unchecked." (This makes other gun-sales laws ineffective.) A pro-gun bill allowing Texans to carry weapons in their cars without concealed weapon permits passed with George's approval. (Prepare to be stopped for a traffic violation by very nervous officers.) Another passed bill that George is behind forbids cities and counties from filing lawsuits against gun manufacturers. "Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, R-Lampasas, ... said she was pleased that the Colorado shooting did not derail gun bills in Texas, as it has in other states. 'I'm very proud that committee members did not allow themselves to react in a knee-jerk reaction. They used their heads on this legislation.'" Last Wednesday Bush said, "love, not gun control, was the best way to prevent shooting sprees like the one in which 15 people died in a Colorado school." (DMN 4/23)
As for hate crimes, Bush took a clear position on the subject a day after the Jasper hate killing, saying, "all crimes are hate crimes." Although "Texas has a law addressing crimes motivated by bias or prejudice, critics say it is too weak and vague to be effective. It doesn't define which groups of people are specifically protected from hate crimes." Unfortunately for Bush, politically, even a simple majority of white, male Republicans do not agree with his anti-hate crime position. A recent Scripps Howard Texas Poll says an overwhelming majority of 71% of Texans want harsher penalities for crimes motivated by hate, including crimes based on sexual preference hatred. But Bush hates hate crime bills, and he appears to particularly hate hate crime bills that protect gays from hatred. His spokesman recently put it this way: "(The Governor) will consider carefully legislation to rewrite the Texas hate-crimes law, (but) he has said he doesn't support special rights based on sexual orientation" Since he has never really explained his problem with "sexual orientation," perhaps part of George's position is based on homophobia, pure and simple. Another partial explanation has been offered by Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, a House co-sponsor of the hate crimes bill: While the public "overwhelmingly understands the basic premise of equality this country was founded on, (survey respondents to the Howard Scripps Texas Poll) weren't necessarily those who vote in Republican primary elections." 4/26/99
AS BUSH FACES GROWING LEGISLATIVE DEFEAT, AIDES DECLARE VICTORY Clinton may wonder what "is" is, but here in Texas people are wondering what "victory" is. In his various interviews Bush brain man Karl Rove names a number of favorite books, but fails to mention the ones the Bush team is apparently following to describe the Guv's growing negative legislative record: Orwell's Brave New World and Huxley's 1984, where the propoganda machines call black "white," up "down," and defeat "victory." Just how dumb do they think voters are? (Very dumb.) And just how short do they think voter's memories are? (Very short.)
Meanwhile, in today's San Antonio Express-News, Carlos Guerra tells it like it is: "Most of the governor's program is gone....So what does a governor do when the Legislature reduces his proposed tax cuts in half, uses the money saved to dramatically increase his school funding proposal and quadruples the teacher pay raise he promised? Declare victory, of course!" And Guerra's isn't the only negative voice. On Friday the WSJ's Jackie Calmes said "things have gotten a little thorny" in George's rose garden: "On some state issues, (Bush) doesn't dive into detail. His views on electricity deregulation, for instance, are little more clear to state lawmakers than his Kosovo stance in the first days of the Balkan bombing. Since taking office in 1995, he gets credit for signing into law major overhauls of the state's tort law, juvenile-justice system, education code and welfare. But legislators suggest privately that he adopts issues they already had on the table, lets them hash out controversial details and then declares victory." Such politicians have traditionally been called "bottom feeders."
SAFIRE'S POP QUIZ HAS GEORGE LOOKING LIKE A SLOW STUDENT. The NYT columnist's two-part interview with the Guv, concluded last Monday, suggests that William Safire had Bush at a disadvantage: "Although his staff had failed to warn him that the stated purpose of my visit was to examine his foreign-policy views, Governor Bush could not very well throw me out of his office. So he gulped and took the plunge that he mistakenly thought would be premature." The tone of the two articles and the writer's asides suggest that he wasn't very impressed by George. Rather, the Guv comes off sounding earnest and schooled, but not very bright. Perhaps Bush was being disingenuous in places, but that only further served to tick Safire off. The first part of the interview is concluded with Bush saying, ""I've been studying up." The second part doesn't begin any better: "In our last episode, Gov. George W. Bush of Texas reluctantly began to expound on his foreign-policy mindset." The use of "episode" and "mindset" tips us off to what's to come. Safire grows weary of George's inability to speak up and speak out, leading to this conclusion: "Nettled by the suggestion in (my) last question that he is manipulatively sitting on his lead, (Bush) leaned forward and volunteered: 'I am a candidate and I am going to be the nominee. I think I am going to be the President. I have got strong principles and values, and I am surrounding myself with good, smart people who understand my principles and with whom I am going to become more knowledgeable. I am going to understand specific areas better and better as time goes on.'" George comes off sounding like an apologetic student talking to a stern professor. Safire adds nothing, letting the quote speak for itself. The day part two was published, Bush denied he ever said, "I think I am going to be the President." When confronted with the actual quote, his reply was, ""Then I misquoted, then I misspoke myself." (HC 4/19) 4/24/99
YOUNG GEORGE, TEXAS POLITICS, AND THE REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST. (Second item.) Before leaving Yale in the Spring of 1968 with an undergraduate degree in history, Junior was somehow able to gain entrance into the Texas Air National Guard rather than being drafted into Vietnam war service. Two years later he managed to obtain a release "from full-time guard service, allow(ing) him to dive into his father's 1970 Senate campaign" against candidate Lloyd Bentsen, Jr., whose son also somehow gained membership in that same unit. Writing about those early Bush years in the Houston Chronicle, Alan Bernstein tells us George "traveled the state giving speeches on his father's behalf, helped coordinate college interns for the campaign and, on one occasion, strolled shirtless behind his father on a charity walk, smirking in the Houston heat."
One of the most puzzling items in Bernstein's lengthy piece is his report of a present-day comment by Houston art supply dealer Benton Russell, then running for that same U.S. Senate seat under the banner of the Liberal Peace and Freedom Party, a splinter group once headed by Dr. Benjamin Spock, pushing for the rights of women and minorities as well as the legalization of pot. While Bush was campaigning vigorously for his father in a losing cause, Russell recalls that George "helped organize voters for the Peace and Freedom Party and for the cause of electing progressives to the Houston school board. 'He just liked our issues better than his father's,' Russell said. The governor said he has no recollection of that ever happening, and that he would have done nothing to undermine the candidacy of his father, for whom he has shown vigilant love and respect." Now, Tom Fleck in Houston Press reports an explanation for the two contradictory accounts: "Several Democratic veterans suggest that in fact Bush could have been helping his dad by organizing for Peace and Freedom."
The Democratic primaries that year featured a bruising Senate battle between Ralph Yarborough and Bentsen, whose "meda campaign tarring Yarborough as a leftist infuriated liberals." While the Yarborough Dems would not have voted for Bush's father, they might have voted for a liberal alternative to Bentsen. "Any votes diverted from Bentsen directly helped Bush. Thus the politicos' suspicion that what Bush was actually engaged in was a cynical effort to help his father by feigning interest in the splinter party." In Bernstein's Houston Chronicle story we're told "this was the time that, contends liberal activist Benton Russell, Bush...helped the Peace and Freedom Party, stopping by its Almeda Drive headquarters several times a week and distributing campaign literature and voter registration cards in the African-American neighborhood." 4/23/99
GUV QUESTIONS COOL, "URGES LOVE, NOT GUN CONTROL." The Bush presidential band wagon is in need of some repair work, as a number of George's key legislative initiatives are doing poorly these days. In particular, his voucher bill can't find its way out of Senate committee and his education package is facing a similar fate. However, damage control is ongoing. Rather than legislative failure and general ambiguity and obfuscation in his remarks to reporters, Bush political advisers are chalking his problems up to "exaggerated expectations that have built up among many Republican voters." One unnamed senior aid is quoted as saying, "Expectations are out of sight. There's no real way we can meet them." His handlers have George adding to the spin: "``I realize the expectations are very high and I realize I'm not nearly as cool as some people may think." Licking his wounds from his Kosovo press fiasco, the Guv has been keeping a low profile this past week, perhaps to call attention to William Safire's guarded two-part NYT's interview with him on foreign policy.
Bush attempted to get back on track yesterday at a press conference in which he discussed the revised education bill: "I fully recognize oftentimes the governor doesn't get everything he wants. But I want tax cuts. And I'm going to keep saying tax cuts." (He didn't say anything about the other part of the revised education bill dealing with teachers' pay.) (DMN 4/22) Perhaps he was more "on task" with his comments about the tragedy in Colorado, saying he wished he could pass a law to have people love one another, but not commenting upon his unwillingness to back Texas anti-hate laws. Similarly, he said he "favored instant background checks for gun buyers, but stopped short of calling for tougher anti-gun measures." (Reuters 4/21). In 1995 Bush backed and signed into law legislation that allows Texas to carry concealed handguns. Yesterday he said, "I don't know if we need metal detectors in every school in Texas. I don't think we need that. I certainly hope we don't need that." (HC 4/22) 4/22/99
ARE BUSH AND GORE DWEEDLE-DEE AND DWEEDLE-DUM? The New Republic's Dana Milbank suggests that G-Dub's "ideology is, at first glance, a conservative message, based on the notion that traditional values will help prevent poverty and other ills. But, deeper down, Bush's approach, warts and all, should sound familiar--and possibly comfortable--to some liberals. He assumes that government can be a force for good and that it has a responsibility to help the weak. Bush's stances so far on national issues such as Kosovo and abortion have been full of ambiguity and obfuscation, seemingly dictated more by tactic than by principle. Still, beneath Bush's mush is some evidence that he's trying to introduce a government-friendly conservatism to a party often hijacked by harsh and selfish ideology." But in so doing, some believe he is indistinguishable from Gore.
"Gore's livability agenda, proposals to rescue communities from urban sprawl, are part of the same quality-of-life genre that inspires Bush. Young Bush and Gore, of course, are both scions of powerful political fathers, educated in prep schools and the Ivy League. Both men are correspondingly cautious and tend to favor small initiatives to sweeping change. Gore also grasps the limited government philosophy that is a pillar of Governor Bush's thought....Former Clinton official Lanny Davis, a fraternity brother of Bush's at Yale (and a Gore backer), says: 'Among all the Republicans running, [Bush] comes closest to the centrist Democratic philosophy.' Bush, says Davis, is 'as close to Bill Clinton and Al Gore as he could be politically. George Bush is on the forty-seven yard line in one direction, and Al Gore is on the forty-seven yard line in the other direction.'"
However, Milbank points out, citizens can consider a number of differences upon which to base their votes: "Though their coalitions overlap and their philosophies intersect, there will still be plenty to separate Bush and Gore. Bush leans toward private-sector solutions, while Gore errs on the side of government intervention. Bush backed legislation allowing Texans to carry concealed firearms; Gore is a strong gun-control advocate. Gore is famously green, while Bush, backed by business and oil men, has been advised by the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Fred Smith, who wants public land privatized and says that the 'EPA is a massive mistake.' Their differences on abortion and organized labor are equally stark. The two men also will be forced to placate the hardcore interest groups in their parties: Gore and labor, Bush and fundamentalists. If they are nominated, the choice for many voters may come down not to the men but to their fellow travelers: Bush's Bob Barr or Gore's Ted Kennedy?" 4/21/99
HOUSTON CHRONICLE SENIOR EDITOR SINKS BUSH IN A SEA OF ONE-LINERS. James Howard Gibbons wonders why our George claims to be a leader in that he regularly demonstrates a "reluctance to reveal his thoughts on a wide range of subjects." Gibbons is so disappointed in the Guv's lack of leadership that he can only laugh and invite us to do the same.
"Texans who call the governor's citizens assistance office are told that there are so many bills in the Legislature that Bush cannot possibly be expected to have an opinion on any of them. Echoing an earlier comment by the governor, an aide named Bryan said Bush would deal with legislation only after the bills had reached his desk for signature or veto. (Bryan refused to give his last name, saying he was afraid some citizen might do him harm.) Bryan's supervisor, Sarah, said she was afraid not only of the citizenry but of the trouble she would get into if the governor found out she was talking to a newspaper man. (She would not be comforted by assurances that the governor was a compassionate man without a vindictive bone in his body.)"
"Perhaps Bush's most successful demonstration of leadership this session was his strong support for emergency tax cuts extended to Texans whose oil wells are beginning to peter out. The governor's urge to bolster the fortunes of distressed oil-well owners should settle any doubt about what Bush means when he calls himself a compassionate conservative. Compassionate liberalism involves using the resources of government to bolster the fortunes of people who never had an oil well to begin with."
"Bush's Coolidge-like devotion to reticence reminds me of the drama critic in the Old West who said of an actor's performance in King Lear : 'He played the king as though under the apprehension that someone was about to play the ace.'"
"New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani recently visited Austin and praised Bush's leadership ability, comparing the governor to Ronald Reagan. Unlike Reagan in his prime, however, Bush is not an amiable dunce. Posing as one would not become either the governor or the large and important state he supposedly leads." 4/20/99
BUSHWORTH'S EXIT STRATEGY FOR GETTING OUT OF TEXAS. Although Dubya would find it difficult to come up with quotable comments as ditsy as Dad's, you can't say he's not trying! But while Dad's dahs resulted from inarticulate, distracted boredom , W.'s comes from a strange willingness to sometimes tell the truth. Bulworthisms. When you read some of the things Bush is quoted as saying, it's easy to imageine close-up's of Warren Beatty talking to reporters. Bush reporters have been known to double-check George's published quotes in disbelief prior to using them. Thus, it's easy to believe Bush might have said, alluding to the Kosovo situation, "Vulcanized," rather than "Balkanized." (He said "Balkanized.") Take, for instance, the growing suspicion that Bush's $2.7 billion tax plan is dying a slow death because it lacks legislative support.
In its May issue, Texas Monthly's Paul Burka writes that George isn't doing his usual hands-on work with legislators on both sides of the aisle, evidenced in the previous two sessions. Yet, he tells reporters that he can't talk about specific issues as a presidential candidate should because he's too busy working on state legislation. Perhaps the answer is, as one statehouse wit has it, "You can see him if you're from Iowa." That and his on-going seminars with visiting consultants on what one has to know in order to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate.Further, the last time Bush asked lawmakers for a property tax cut in 1997, it turned out to be a negative sum for most voters, just like it's shaping up to be this time, even if the state can find the money to finance the plan, and it can't, unless the books are cooked. What it all comes down to, Burka suggests, is that Dubya is trying to cut property taxes that the public is not particulary complaining about at the expense of the voters' concern for education. Ironically, in so doing, "the governor finds himself opposing the very thing he has built his reputation on": education. Why is he doing this, and how does he expect to get away with it?
First of all, just as Dubya is is really interested in wholesale consumers of electricity--large companies--when he says that electric deregulation will benefit consumers, he is really interested in owners of vast property holdings who have given millions to him in campaign contributions over the years, not the average single-family homeowner. Secondly, he honestly seems to believe that just about any property tax cut, no matter how small, can be made to look gigantic under the magnifying glass of Karl Rove's spin. Talking about the Guv's proposed $2 billion property tax cut last week, one Dem in the House said, ""I'm not going to say it's deader than Napoleon in his tomb, but right now I don't see any realistic scenario where $2 billion in property tax relief is feasible." George's answer to that was pure Bushworth: "The process is ongoing," he said. "It's very possible to have a sizable tax cut. We'll define 'sizable' when we see exactly what happens." That's the truth. Dubya's exit strategy is to take whatever he can get and call it a victory, whatever it will be. Not only does Rove and company believe voters have very short memories, he also believes that millions of dollars in sound bite ads will get more votes than the facts. But he sure wishes Bushworth would make his job easier by not being so quick to blurt out the unvarnished truth to reporters. 4/19/99
REMEMBER, YOU HEARD IT HERE SECOND! On Wednesday Mugger, the Jewish World Review's loose cannon, took The Boston Globe's David Nyhan to task for having the audacity to suggest that Gore will thrash Bush in the '00 elections. Nyhan wrote, "Despite polls showing Vice President Gore trailing Republicans George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole in preliminary trial heats, my personal tout sheet rates Gore the most likely successor to Clinton, followed by Bush, Lamar Alexander, John McCain, and Bill Bradley, in that order. The rest? No shot." (4/9/99) Mugger tells us that "Nyhan especially likes the chances of Alexander, who he says has built such strong organizations in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire that he’ll be in the catbird’s seat should Bush stumble along the way. That’s wishful thinking, but Nyhan—clearly worried that Bush has it in the bag—comes up with this stunning statement, perhaps to purposely delude himself and his readers."
This, according to Mugger, is Nyhan's stunner: "The decision of New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg to put his statewide organization behind Bush is significant. Bush is top-heavy with endorsements from governors and lobbyists....But we’ve seen big winds out of Texas blow themselves out before. John Connally, Phil Gramm and Ross Perot sputtered despite huge war chests. Bush reminds some of Ted Kennedy in 1980, a front-runner with piles of dough who peaks the day he announces. Bush has everything a candidate needs—except a set of crisply defined goals, and maybe the stomach for the fray." Mugger accuses Nyhan of sloppy thinking: "Texans Nyhan cites—Gramm, Connally and Perot—indeed amassed a prodigious amount of money, but not one of them collected as many endorsements as Gov. Bush; not one of them had the Republican establishment flocking to Austin to beg them to run, Colin Powell-style; and not one of them had the aura of invincibility that Bush now possesses. In addition, look at the flaws of each of the Texans Nyhan writes about. Connally was up against Ronald Reagan; Perot’s a kook; and Gramm, although he’d make an excellent president, was saddled with a homely face and an even more off-putting accent"
After going on to defend Bush as having a set of core beliefs and a strong platform that will appeal to voters, he makes three fairly rational predictions: one, Dubya's running mate will be Pennsylvania's Gov. Tom Ridge, a pro-choice tax cutter in a pivotal state; two, given Gore's work in California and the its weak GOP, that state is a longshot for George and he needs to look to the Midwest "to add to his southern and Rocky Mountain base; and three, Dole will probably bail out before the primaries and a deal will be struck with Forbes, the billionarie publisher's reward being a prestigious administrative position. Remember, you heard it here second! 4/17/99
SATURDAY SPECIAL: DOES G-DUB CROSS THE LINE FROM COCKY TO ARROGANT? Last fall's DMN had a story about George as a teen mouthing off to Dad after ploughing into a neighbor's mail box. At around the same time the NYT's magazine section had a long piece on our Guv which included a story about him as a fully-formed adult being kept away from foreign dignitaries at state dinners for fear of what he would say to them. While Karl Rove came up with the "young and irresponsible" defense last year, the Bush camp seems determined to define "young" as "being in the past." This distortion of the meaning of the word is having its effect locally. Austin resident wit and Statesman reporter John Kelso claimed yesterday that he briefly mooned a group, but it was in his youth: "I think I was 49." Last fall a visiting lady reporter was charmed by George's behavior but did find him a bit "cocky." A recent NYT piece had insiders claiming he was not shy in directing his visiting political seminar teachers to the "bottom line" when they became too emeshed in arcane details. We also know that Dubya's press conference joking is a calculated ploy on the part of his spinners to soften the edges of hard questioning and to provide a contrast to stiff ol' Al Gore. In other words, a lot of the Bush wit is calculated. But it's based on his normal personality, and a question generated from the April 26 issue of New Republic is when does being cocky cross the line into arrogance? A troubling story has George saying to a group of high level visiting advisers-- ex-cabinet members, members of government, university professors--"I'm going to be the next president of the United States," he said. "I need your help, not to become president--I'll take care of that--but to be a good president." If this is the way he talks to them now, prior to even announcing that he is running for president, what will be Bush's attitude toward them, as well as us, if he ever made it to that office? (More on the NR piece Monday.) 4/17/99
The total. $7.5 million came from individual contributors and the remaining $100K came from PACs. 54% of the total given by 23,000+ contributors came from inside Texas.
The leading city. Dallas gave over $1 million, and the leading zip code in Dallas was Highland Park.
The leading Texas contributors. Among the 5,000+ that gave the legal individual maximum of $1K: "Members of the wealthy Moncrief family of Fort Worth for at least $6,000; the oil-rich Hunts of Dallas, including Ray Hunt and Mrs. H.L. Hunt, chipped in a combined $4,000. " Today's San Antonio Express-News adds, "San Antonians contributing the maximum $1,000 included B.J. "Red" McCombs, GOP state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, Tom and Nancy Loeffler, Lowry Mays, Ernesto Ancira, H.B. Zachry, Bob Bomer, Houston Harte, James Cavender, Curtis Gunn, Henry Catto and B.K. Johnson." Steve Hicks of Austin also gave the max.
Other leading states. California ($457K), Michigan ($402K), and Florida ($376K).
Non-Texans. "Among $1,000 contributors to the son were former members of President George Bush's Cabinet, including Commerce Secretary Barbara Franklin and Defense Secretary Richard Cheney. Others from the former president's network of supporters who contributed $1,000 donations to George W. Bush's presidential bid include: Ivan Selin, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; EPA Administrator Russell Train; press secretary Marlin Fitzwater; Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage; special trade representative Carla Hills; White House counsel Boyden Gray; Deputy Chief of Staff Robert Zoellick and Ambassadors Walter Curley (France) and Paul Lambert (Ecuador). Federal law limits individual donations to $1,000. The report indicates several husband and wife contributions, but not in the case of former Bush campaign spokeswoman Mary Matalin. Although Ms. Matalin contributed $1,000, her husband, Democratic consultant James Carville, did not give." (DMN, 4/16) "The Huizenga family of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- including high-rolling car dealer and sports mogul H. Wayne Huizenga -- also gave Bush $4,000."
Expenses. While taking in over $7 million, less than $1 million has been spent thus far for offices, personnel, mailings, catering, out of state fund raising expenses, particularly in Florida and California, and consulting. For example, over $12K has been spent on entertaining at the Governor's Mansion. On the other end of the scale, only $29.70 has been spent on the New Hampshire primary campaign, for a P.O. box. One of the largest out-of-state expenses thus far was a $5,000 rental for the banquet room at the Phoenix Ritz Carlton for President Bush's fundraiser for his son earlier this month. (AAS,4/16)
Karl Rove. Dubya's political consultant finds himself in a special category. While he gave the maximum $1,000 to the campaign, his consulting company was paid more than $200,000 for its services, making up about 25% of the Bush campaign expenditures this month. During the '98 gubernatorial campaign Rove's company was paid about the same percentage of Bush's total costs. (Note. A complete listing of Bush prez campaign contributions may be downloaded at the Bush Exploratory Committee web site.) 4/16/99
DUBYA "GULPS" AND TAKES THE "FOREIGN-POLICY PLUNGE" WITH WILLIAM SAFIRE. Although Safire shows "visible dismay" at one answer, George confides, "I've been studying up." 4/16/99
GEORGE HAS OVER A QUARTER MILLION REA$ON$ FOR BACKING ELECTRIC DEREGULATION, AND NONE OF THEM WILL HELP THE "RESIDENTIAL CONSUMER." (THAT'S YOU!) In his "State of the State" message last January, the Guv gave this reason for backing a bill to deregulate the electric industry in Texas: "I look forward to working with Senator Sibley...on an electric deregulation proposal that will cut costs for consumers while making sure electricity is available and reliable." When Bush says "consumers," he doesn't mean you. Yesterday's Lobby Watch explains that "Texans most likely to lose out in a deregulated power market are those who exert little to no PAC or lobby influence in Austin—residential consumers." On the other hand, "The leading deregulation champions include: private, unregulated, wholesale vendors of electricity that want to cherry pick the biggest industrial consumers from existing monopoly markets; and large industrial electricity consumers (represented by the Texas Coalition for Competitive Electricity) that have the most clout with which to wrangle price concessions in an unregulated market." It turns out that their combined campaign contributions make these "deregulation champions" the #l contributors to the Bush '98 gubernatorial campaign. In fact, the individual contributions to Dubya from Robert McNair of Colgen Technologies and Key Lay and Richard Kinder Of Enron Corp. add up to $250,000, dwarfing the $121,000 in contributions from the Hicks brothers, previously cited in some reports as having made the largest contributions to the Bush warchest.
"A major challenge to (deregulation) lawmakers has been the powerful (regulated) investor-owned utilities, which have long enjoyed monopoly control of their markets. Investor-owned monopolies generated the most PAC power in the 1998 cycle, spending $1,827,159, or 71 percent of the total. These Big Boys demanded major concessions for the break up of their monopolies. To entice them, the (deregulation lawmakers are) promising to: free utilities from the Public Utility Commission; and force residential consumers to eat far more than their fair share of the $3.2 billion in “stranded costs” that utilities incurred through investments in nuclear boondoggles. The (deregulation lawmakers) also want to use deregulation to compel filthy utility plants to install pollution controls. But (they) put residential consumers on the hook for these costs." Lobby Watch notes that "Political Action Committees (PACs) linked to electricity-generating companies spent almost $5 million in the last two election cycles, as the Texas Legislature has debated proposals to deregulate electricity sales....In 1997... a Houston Chronicle analysis found that six key lawmakers wielding deregulatory clout in 1997 took $41,000 from PACs and executives of companies with a direct stake in the issue; 71 percent of this money came from investor-owned utilities. Sen. David Sibley, R-Waco, (Bush's point man in the Senate as sponsor of the deregulation bill, ) received more utility money--$17,750—than any other member that the Chronicle tracked." With Bush looking after the interests of the "deregulation champions" and Sibley looking after the interests of the "investor-owned utilities," there's no one with matching power to look after the needs of the residential consumers Bush and Sibley supposedly serve. (That's you!) 4/15/99
TEXAS "DIRTY AIR" TRACED BACK TO BUSH "DIRTY MONEY." An environmental group report showing that Dubya received $560,000 in campaign contributions from "industries seeking to remain exempt from state environmental regulations" has led the group's spokesman to conclude, "This is a foretaste of what would happen if Bush were to become president....Would our federal environmental protections become voluntary or would he require our biggest polluters to make reductions? He'll face the same issues at the federal level." 4/14/99
LIFE IN THE BUSH LEAGUES. THE PLAYERS SPEAK.
"The size of the contributions does not affect how legislators vote." (Texas Utilities spokesman.)
"If you're going to follow a Rose Garden strategy, you better be sure you have a Rose Garden." (Reagan aid Lyn Nofziger)
"It's kind of like the woman who plays hard to get. The more you are merely fantasizing and not meet the real woman, the higher your expectations get." (A Quayle campaign manager about absentee Bush's chances in Iowa.)
"I like the (state executions) law the way it is right now." (George on why he doesn't want to exempt the mentally retarded from state executions.)
"The process is ongoing....It's very possible to have a sizable tax cut. We'll define sizable when we see exactly what happens." (Guv-Dub on his tax plan.) 4/14/99
BUSHWORTH AGAIN. Bush was in his early forties in 1988. "At the 1988 Republican Convention, Hartford Courant associate editor David Fink struck up a conversation with George W. 'When you're not talking politics,' Fink asked the vice president's son, 'what do you and [your father] talk about?' 'Pussy,' George W. replied." 4/12/99
HEY, MISTER, DON'T BLAME IT ON US'N ! (No link.) A participant on a Bush e-mail site offers this explanation to counter those who question Guv-Dub's intellectual prowess: "Intelligence. Despite his accomplishments, Texans have an unfortunate reputation for not being too bright... this could rub off on Bush." 4/3/99
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