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Knowing that he needed to endorse George W. Bush for his presidential run this year in order to run against Gore four years hence if Bush loses, Johnny Mac met with Bush in Pittsburgh yesterday and answered reporters' questions during an awkward press conference. As Time reported, "it was obvious that he and George W. Bush do not make a natural ticket. The pair looked like strange bedfellows indeed at their post-summit press conference in Pittsburgh Tuesday, visibly awkward as they stood at a double-wide podium and passed the spotlight back and forth in front of reporters."

Since Mac didn't use the "I endorese" phrase in his announcement, a reporter asked if he were willing to do so. "I endorse Governor Bush, I endorse Governor Bush, I endorse Governor Bush, I endorse Governor Bush, I endorse Governor Bush, I endorse Governor Bush," surrendered McCain in a wry singsong...."And I enthusiastically accept," said an overshadowed Bush from over McCain's shoulder, a little too loudly....Bush had brought along his cowboy grin, but it had a forced quality; he seemed painfully aware that this was McCain's show....He also paid a couple of obligatory compliments, calling McCain a "friend" and a "good man" and saying, "I look forward to working with him." Just don't count on it being too often," adds Time reporter Frank Pelligrini.

It was clear that Mac and Bush were just going through the political motions in Pittsburgh, doing what needed to be done. There were no hugs, little handshaking, and a rushed, awkward tone to the proceedings. Perhaps both men were thinking back upon what was perhaps their last previous private interchange during a commercial break at the South Carolina debate. As Time had reported, "Bush grasped McCain's hands and made a sugary plea for less acrimony in their campaign. When McCain pointed out that Bush's allies were savaging him in direct-mail and phone campaigns, Bush played the innocent. 'Don't give me that shit,' McCain growled, pulling away. 'And take your hands off me.'"

Bush's sincerity and honesty came into question during the remainder of the South Carolina and New York campaigns. In the final days of the South Carolina primary, reported Time, "Bush supporters unaffiliated with his campaign passed around leaflets highlighting Cindy McCain's addiction long ago to painkillers and the family's adoption of a Bangladeshi girl. And although McCain doesn't believe Bush directed those attacks, the Governor's silence about them was as wounding as if he had. In New York the Bush campaign aired a radio ad that selectively picked from McCain's record to attack him as an opponent of breast-cancer research, an affront made worse by the Texas Governor's seemingly callous response when he was told that McCain's sister had suffered from the disease. "John got pretty worked over by these boys," says Senator Chuck Hagel, a McCain supporter and intermediary between the two camps." Obviously, the poison, bitterness, and anger remains.

--Politex, 5/8/00


It causes me a great deal of pain to accuse Bush Watch of biased and one-sided reporting, but what else am I to do? While Politex was busy demonstrating that Bush's target voter is a middle-class, middle-aged, uninformed white male who isn't exactly firing on all eight cylinders in the brains department (see below), I was reading in the Christian Science Monitor that Bush's target voter is a middle-class, middle-aged, uninformed white female whose intellectual internal combustion couldn't power a go-cart. Now, how can this be?

According to one James N. Thurman, "Bush is getting in touch with his feminine side." I must say, my initial response was to wonder whether this behavior has any particular wardrobe ramifications, and if so, whether anyone has alerted Gary Bauer, and if so, whether Bush will still be allowed to speak at the Republican Convention. Having finished the entire article, however, I conclude that Thurman is not saying that Bush has become a transvestite or a drag queen or Condoleeza Rice. It appears that he has become a "sensitive male." When he isn't being a ditto-head. You see my confusion here?

Thurman notes that Bush's poll numbers are improving with women voters: "And Republican women officeholders think they know why. While their candidate may not take particularly women-friendly stances on issues like gun control, capital punishment, and abortion rights, lately he's been focusing more on issues like education and preventing domestic abuse." Now, I know I'm a news junkie, and you know I'm a news junkie. So how is it that I missed Bush's major new policy initiative on preventing domestic abuse? Was I too busy watching him attack the first ever female Attorney General for removing a six-year-old from an exploitative bunch of relatives on the verge of instigating riots? Am I to understand that Bush now takes domestic violence as seriously as he does breast cancer research? Or is this Thurman guy just nuts?

Ah, but it isn't just those "feminine" policy issues. "Personal qualities come into play as well. . . . Bush's female supporters stress his skills as a listener, and point to the women surrounding him as important influences. 'He's a person with a great mother, great wife, who listens and respects women,' Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R) of Washington says." I always thought that Bush looked a little bit like a bunny in the headlights whenever you asked him a question more complicated than "Can I give you some more money?," but I must be too much in touch with my masculine side. Apparently, he's not confused, he's listening. Because of those fine little women at home who raised him right. Whom he respects.

According to Dunn, Thurman reports, this respect for alpha-females is a characteristically Republican thing: "the Republican party was the first to get behind women's suffrage, the first to send a woman to Congress, and the first to appoint a woman justice to the Supreme Court." How true. Of course, the Democratic party was the first to run a woman for vice president, and Barbara Bush, the "great mother," was the first vice president's wife to call her a name that "rhymes with rich." Which raises the obvious question, "Was George W. listening?"

The really fearful part comes next: "Rep. Connie Morella (R) of Maryland thinks Republicans tend to come in second among women not because the party hasn't championed women's issues, but because it hasn't adequately communicated their successes. 'I have long felt Republicans have done a lot for women, but have not known how to talk about it,' Morella said." Right. All these years they've been making constant vicious, sexist Hillary jokes--even going so far as to pick on Chelsea--and what they really meant to communicate was "I respect you, honey, and I don't take you for granted. Honest. Have you ironed my shirts yet?" Those poor shy guys.

Hence my conclusion: the target Bush voter is feminine, not feminist. She is dumb enough to fall for the same sorry excuses over and over again. She prefers to see women in the roles of "mother" and "wife," not, say, "appointee" or "running mate," and her major issues are her children's education--not her own--and her ability to avoid getting beaten up. Since she is so indifferent to economic and criminal justice issues, we can assume she is affluent and white. She's young enough to have kids in soccer league, but old enough to identify with Laura Bush. She's probably married to a 44-year-old male who drives a nice car, works in a brokerage house or sells insurance, isn't very bright, and likes to bloviate at the coffee bar when he isn't listening to Rush. . . .

Oh. I get it. Never mind. --Doris in Des Moines, 5/3/00


O.k., here's the deal. The state of Texas will give you $26,000 a year to work 12 hour shifts with no overtime pay until you put in 240 hours of comp time, which you probably won't get to use because there's no one to take your job when you're off. Be a Corrections Officer in a Texas prison under Governor Bush. You remember Governor Bush? He's the guy who wouldn't push through a pay raise for your prison guard job during the last legislative session in Austin because he needed every cent he could get for his tax cut legislation. Now, naturally, you have to pay the piper, because the Texas prison system is crumbling all around you. Bush, of course, is elsewhere, paying Lt. Gov. Perry pro rata to watch out for you. Uh-huh, uh-huh.

"I suggest that the governor of Texas get his rear back in this state long enough to call a special session to fix the mess in the prison system before the mother of all prison riots occurs," writes Molly Ivins this week in her syndicated column. "How many times does he need to be warned? How much clearer could this possibly be? Texas prison guards are underpaid and overworked; the prisons are understaffed, and more guards walk off the job every week, leaving the prisons more dangerous for everyone in them, guards and convicts alike." Apart from the really poor wages for life-threatening work, Bush has saved some tax-cut bucks in a time of prosperity by cutting back on the training of Corrections Officers, putting them at even greater risk.

"In the last 10 years, class sizes for officer recruits became cumbersome and then ridiculously large. Single instructors teach up to 100 recruits at a time, making hands-on training prohibitive. Dangerously little time is spent on self-defense and other basic safety tactics.... Yet even with the state's training academies running at full bore, the agency cannot keep up with the rate of attrition. According to an internal security report leaked to Carlos Guerra of the San Antonio Express-News, the agency found that in 10 prisons surveyed, up to 27% of critical security positions were left unfilled," reports Nate Blakeslee in the Austin Chronicle.

Last December Daniel Nagle, a prison guard and Union spokewman, came to Austin and stood outside of Bush's Governor's Mansion with his fellow prison guards to call attention to the terrible conditions in Texas prisons. "Low pay, high turnover, and poor training were turning Texas prisons into powderkegs," reports Blakeslee. "Inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-guard assaults were up across the state. Union members rallied at the Governor's Mansion, where they called for a special legislative session to raise the starting salary for guards, currently about $19,000 per year, or 46th in the nation. Nagle reportedly told supporters at the rally that "someone would have to be killed" before [the Texas Department of Corrections] got the message. Two weeks later, he was murdered." At that time, Bush was getting ready for his New Hampshire primary campaign. He did nothing about the state's prison emergency.

"Officers claim... Texas prisoners are out of control. 'The inmates have seen us on TV, saying we're shorthanded. They say, 'Hey, you better watch your back,'' said [officer] Mario Muņiz. That's good advice. Today's inmates are more violent in general, many officers say, more likely to be in gangs, more likely to be serving longer sentences with less to lose. The union cites a tremendous increase in assaults by inmates on staff, from just 132 in 1988, to over 2,000 in 1999." Yet, the TDC under Bush is cutting back on training. "In a highly publicized letter to Gov. George W. Bush, Charles Godwin [TDC's training director] called for the resignation of the executive director and the board, noting that in the midst of a staffing crisis, training hours have been cut (by 80 hours in 1997) and academic standards lowered. At the same time, Godwin complained, the budget for training has been reduced 21% while the number of trainees has jumped 41%. Godwin's allegations could not have come at a worse time for the agency," adds Blakeslee, "which has suffered a string of embarrassing headlines -- including an escape from death row (in which short staffing was cited in the official report), Nagle's murder, an unrelated riot at the same unit the following week, and the sudden resignation of the chairman of the TDCJ board -- that suggest the agency is losing control of the system. (Most recently, on March 17, the agency announced a rare system-wide lockdown to search for weapons and contraband, apparently in an effort to forestall an imminent gang war.)" Goodwin is soon to be ousted from his job for his trouble, and Bush never responded to the Goodwin letter.

The bipartisan rallying call during the last legislative session was "Don't embarrass the Governor." That meant, "Do what he wants and don't make waves, 'cause he's gonna run for President and won't Texans be proud if he makes it?" "The consequences of George W. Bush's determination to get a big tax cut last session are now showing across the board," writes Ivins. We already had a remarkably tight state government. Now we're trying to do even more with even less in our notoriously low-tax, low-service state. It is an open secret that one state agency after another is over-budget. No matter how messy things are next session, we can't wait until next year to do something about the prisons."

This is so typical of Bush. He's much better at getting pet legislation passed than he is at doing the job he's been elected to do. It's been that way from the very beginning of his political career and nothing indicates a behavioral change if he were to become president. Even though he was elected to look out for Texans, and that includes our prisons, he's really just looking out for #1. He's gotten his showcase tax cut. Let someone else clean up the mess he's left behind. --Politex, 5/2/00


You know those fawning "ditto-head" callers that populate conservative talk shows like Rush Limbaugh's each day, defending their generally selfish views of the world? It turns out that they're Geoege W. Bush's target constituency. A new poll last week indicated that Bush held a double-digit lead over Gore with white males in their thirties and forties, which happen to make up the majority of the listeners tuned to the political raido shows. That would explain why Bush was willing to travel over seven hours by plane to and from Austin to New York on Saturday to give a ten-minute speech at the National Association of Radio Talk Show Hosts' conference in New York. Yet, the evening before, he couldn't make a 200 mile hop from Austin to Dallas to talk to the 400 members attending the National Conference of Black Mayors, although he had been invited to attend months in advance. Educated, professional black males apparently do not fit the profile. What do we know about the most typical Bush voter, the political talk show listener, and what would this say about the tone and temprement of a Bush presidency?

"Just in case you thought there's no method to talk radio's madness, here's the sermon straight from a high priest of the airwaves. Cater to a testosterone-heavy crowd under 54, ask unfair and biased questions, adopt the concerns of cornpone radio commentator Paul Harvey as your worldview," writes The Houston Press's Tim Fleck. Fleck managed to get a copy of Clear Channel Communication's news/talk content guide, a kind of how-to crash course for beginning Rush wannabees. Its author sees the target audience as "men 35-54. A bulls eye target of a 44-year-old male. Drives a nice car, works in a brokerage house or sells insurance....Female demographics just don't seem (generally) to have the same vulnerabilities to the news/talk format as males." And stay away from males in their 60's, the guide cautions. "Hosts sometimes feel desperate for calls, any calls. Too bad, don't take bad calls, be prepared to monologue when there are no appropriate callers....You never have to be rude or short. My favorite is to simply tell them that all the lines to the studio are full right now, can you try again tomorrow. Callers don't get the fact they are already on the studio line." And don't base your talk on too much knowledge," the guide continues. "Don't be too smart for the room. No one likes to be talked down to."

Since the guide was written for all news/talk hosts, not just those with political talk shows, the challenge is to dumb down politics without making it meaningless. Let's work with the guide on this question. Hosts should "ask questions that are inherently unfair....An unbiased and fair view of the world is boring, uninteresting, and uninspiring. Leave fairness and balance to the newsroom." As Fleck explains the guide on this point, "questions and issues are anything the ideal middle-aged male is talking about at the office water cooler or the coffee bar or in trying to impress peers or the opposite sex. 'You are resonating every day, every hour, every minute with that 44-year-old male in the target demographic right? Excellent.'"

By now it should be pretty clear that Bush is the perfect candidate for this level of political discourse. He's definitely not too smart for the room, his smirking is a sign that he wants to impress the guys and gals around the water cooler, and his built-in dumbed-down sensibilities are perfect for intellectual and emotional interaction with his target demographic "ditto-heads." Reuters tells us that after Bush gave his 10-minute Gore attack speech to the talk show hosts in New York, breaking his pledge of "civility" in less than a week, he went on to "give four short radio interviews, including one with the sports network WFAN." Looks like Bush is trying out for the wrong job. His demographic fits "AM Talk Show Host" better than "President." --Politex, 5/1/00

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