Commenting on Mr. Clinton's praise of Bill Bradley as having "a good life story," Terry Golway writes, " Of course, it is hardly a wonder that Mr. Clinton should cite Mr. Bradley’s life story rather than some actual accomplishment in assessing the candidate’s strengths. Mr. Clinton, after all, sold us on his life story as a way of winning the People magazine vote in 1992. The man certainly understands the vapid nature of modern American politics." The question is which came first, conniving politicians or lazy reporters?
Molly Ivins suggests it's the reporters' fault. She terms reports of the latest Bush gaffe or the color of Gore's suit "piffle," and " the most annoying aspect of all this piffle is the brain-dead defense that we in the media are writing about froth because the country is in a high state of peace and prosperity, and so there's nothing important about which we need to ask the candidates....The media are supposed to get candidates to give us something besides pat soundbites on [the] issues. The anodyne pabulum that passes for political discourse is the main reason that Americans are so turned off by politics." But are such voters in the minority, political junkies who can safely be ignored by the candidates? Is the majority or the electorate turning into a nation of blank stares, waiting for a political personality to turn them on? A recent New York Times/CBS News poll as well as a reporter's analysis of Bush's visit to South Carolina this week suggests that's the case.
According to the poll, while 86 percent of the voters who backed McCain could give a specific reason for their support, only 61% of the Bush supporters could. One such voter, trucking company manager Derrell Kinley, when asked by Frank Bruni why he liked Bush, could only respond "with a prolonged silence, then caromed through a series of broken sentences before acknowledging he had no detailed reason. 'Maybe it's because of his father,' Kinley finally said. 'I associate George Sr. with Ronald Reagan, who I liked a lot. I associate George W. Bush with his father.' He paused. 'It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?' But, he added, 'that's the way it works out.'" Bruni found that level of response to Bush fairly common during the two days he spent following thecandidate around in South Carolina. Ironically, by the end of Poppy Bush's presidency in 1992, only 29 percent of the voters looked upon him favorably. Yet, a CBS poll a few weeks ago had 38% percent of the voters identifying George W. Bush as the president's son, while only 5% identified him as Governor of Texas, suggesting that name recognition is a strongrer reason for backing Bush than his political expertise.
"Five months and several major policy speeches into his presidential campaign," Texas reporter Ken Herman writes, " Bush still is attracting support based on who he (and his family) is rather than what he is proposing." Jane Jones, Bush co-chairman in South Carolina, says, ""I don't think you elect a president on an issue, because he has to deal with everything. I think George W. can do that." University of South Carolina political science professor Blease Graham adds, ""Candidate image, more than issues or party identification, weighs heavily in the behavior of the South Carolina voter." But the lack of voter interest in policy appears to be universal in this country. Andrew Smith of the University of New Hampshire's Survey Center puts another nail in the coffin of informed opinion in our democracy: He believes folks "don't have the time or the interest to really look into and even try to understand the policy positions or the issues that the candidates are going to have to respond to." Smith believes that the populace is too busy with other, more pressing, interests: surfing the net, movies, cable TV, computer games...
Since Bush, himself, is a product of his culture, we shouldn't be too surprised that he doesn't have much time to think about policy, either. Armed with the latest in pocket electronics, he's able to indulge his true passion on a minute-to-minute basis, baseball games, scores, and statistics. According to Joe Conason, "the problem with George W. isn’t that he doesn’t know the names of all the foreign leaders with whom he may someday have to contend. The problem is that, like Alfred E. Neuman, he seems too complacent about his rather dim understanding of the big world."
Accordingly, an unthinking electorate plays perfectly into George W. Bush's strengths. From the very beginning of his adult political life up to the present day, Bush strategist Karl Rove has kept the candidate away from interviews, press conferences, Q & A's, debates, and the like as much as possible, and Bush communications spinner Karin Hiughes has done as much as she could to steer her man around the dangers of a modern media campaign. To them, the less we know about Bush's limitations, the better. However, if Herman, Jones, and Smith are correct in their assessment of the typical American voter as we count down to the 2000 election, It. Doesn't. Matter. Ken Herman observes that "Bush uses the time after speeches to dive into the crowd for hand-shaking and photo-taking rather than taking questions at the microphone from the crowd. The technique lends energy to the events but does little to illuminate his positions on the issues." But as retired factory worker Janie Liptak of Pickens, South Carolina puts it, even though she doesn't know "a whole lot" about his position on the issues, she knows that "he seems to stand for the right things....And I love Barbara and George."
"Department of Public Safety records show security for Bush has cost Texas taxpayers more than $1.8 million this year, compared to $285,874 last year. Bush has raised more than $57 million already for his presidential bid, and the governor should repay the state for the additional security. The governor deserves protection. But Texas taxpayers should not be forced to help pay the tab for Bush's presidential race." San Antonio Express-News Editorial 11/27/99
On 11/21/99 George W. Bush stood in for Karen Hughes, author of the Bush autobiography "A Charge to Keep," on "Meet the Press." Here are some readers' responses to the interview: "As a straight single adoptive mom of two sons, I am outraged at Bush's ignorance. With the hundreds of thousands of kids here and abroad forever awaiting familes, how DARE he say that I'm not good enough to be a mother!"...Russert: "Nobody out there who could compromise you?" Bush: "...just as I've done as the Governor of Texas."..."Bush implied his campaign is working on a fall attack on Gore and his behind-the-scenes relationships with Russian leaders."...Bush: "I learned a lot of history as a history major at Yale, but more than that, I made great friends."..."Bush needs to learn that it's 'nu-cle-ar,' not 'nu-qu-lar.'"..."What really made me sick was.. his last remark that he did not want this country to be a country of the 'haves and have nots' -- what does he think he has done to Texas?... Bush in the White House means a remake of the whole country to be just like Texas -- so look at Texas carefully before putting 'Dubya' in the White House."..."Bush said he would promote sexual abstinence for teens as an "ideal," and in Texas it appears that he punishes those who fall short of the "ideal": while Texas is fifth in the number of teen births, it's forty-fifth in pre-natal care given to mothers." comment?...
Another Texas First: Poorest 3 Counties in the U.S. (Institute Applied Economics, Univ. N. Texas)
See "El Gobernador" for more information. Also, More Texas Firsts.
Dubya's Yale Report Card. The November 8 issue of the New Yorker published Bush's alleged report card in its "Talk of the Town" section. While his grades average out to a "C," he got even lower grades in --get this-- political science, foreign relations, and economics. Guess George wasn't kidding when he said that if he becomes President he'll depend upon his advisers for ideas and opinions in those areas. He's also said that he'll get someone to take care of cultural events, Virtuecrat Bill Bennett, perhaps. That should allow Dubya to focus on using federal money to service wealthy friends and corporate contributors, religious institutions, and private education, talking in vague generalities and Bushisms about "entrepreneurship" "faith-based institutions," and "education reform" at press conferences and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. 11/10/99
Alpha Al to Don Imus: "Don, I need an adviser to tell me how to communicate to old men and I was wondering if you might have some time....The other day I was talking to Utkir Sultanov. You know, the prime minister of Uzbekistan. And he asked me, ’Did you send a birthday card to Hamed?’ That’s of course Hamed Karoui, the prime minister of Tunisi. I had just been talking about him with Ion Sturza, the prime minister of Moldova. We’re old friends. We actually met through a mutual friend, Lennart Meri, the president of Estonia....Not knowing the names, I think that’s kind of understandable....I think that it is troubling that [Bush] doesn’t know that it’s important to stand up for democracy and that a military coup overthrowing democracy is not good news." 11/9/99 (On Video)
"It was just inebriating what Midland was all about then." --from a 1994 interview, as quoted in First Son by Bill Minutaglio
"It is incredibly presumptive for somebody who has not yet earned his party's nomination to start speculating about vice presidents."--Keene, N.H., 11/22/99
Bush Adroitly Turns the Tables. Bush to Reporter: "What I'm suggesting to you is, if you can't name the foreign minister of Mexico, therefore, you know, you're not capable about what you do. But the truth of the matter is you are, whether you can or not."
Bush Spends Five Minutes Meandering on the Internet. Dubya has started taking questions from his audiences and now we know why he's avoided doing so in the past. "When asked about the threat of rural areas getting left behind in the Internet age, Bush replied, 'As the nature of our economy changes, if our children are not educated, not just in reading and writing but right and wrong, the American dream will not touch every willing heart'.... He gave numerous examples of changes brought by the Internet and said rural areas could prosper if they are included on the information 'highways.'--Will Lester
Another Reporting of Bush's Internet Answer.Again, the questioner had asked Bush how he would deal with the threat of the internet leaving rural areas of the country behind. "He spoke of opportunity and education, of teaching children right from wrong along with reading and writing, and of the American Dream. He talked of 'a nation in a global world,' of tension and uncertainty and values, of people wanting to live in communities 'where if somebody sees my child running across the street they won't hesitate to say, 'Look both ways before you run.'' He touched on the ability of home-schoolers to download curriculum via computer, and told of a man having an ear examination through the Internet. 'Anyway, my only point is it's a very optimistic time, and one of the main reasons I'm running for president, though, is remember that as the nature of our economy changes, we'd better be careful because people could be left behind.'"--Peggy Fikac
HOW DOES BUSH STACK UP ON CHARACTER EDUCATION? 11/3/99
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