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February 27, 2005 - A good right hook...

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The Doug Weal tapes that came out last week – those 1998 to 2000 private conversations Bush didn’t know his friend was recording. The basic news story is here.


Howard Fineman provides the best analysis – and explains why Bush is such a lovable bad boy - and recommends the Wead tapes to Jacques Chirac.  But Chirac probably didn’t listen to them before Bush’s visit to Europe last week.  He should have.


The win-at-all-costs president

Secret tapes show Bush’s combative side

Howard Fineman - MSNBC - Updated: 2:58 p.m. ET Feb. 23, 2005


Fineman suggests two stories that put the tapes in perspective -


As a boy in Maine, he was the oldest of many cousins and would set the rules for summer games at the family compound. “If he was losing he’d change the rules — or take the ball and leave,” one cousin told me. Then there was the time when, as a new kid, just up from Texas at his prep school Andover, Bush was tripped and mocked early in an intramural soccer match. He waited for a chance to exact revenge — then blindsided his foe so viciously he nearly broke the boy’s ankle. “He spent that match angling to take me out,” said the Andover alum, now a successful businessman. “And he did.”


The second story?


At the time of the tapes, the governor of Texas was worried, almost obsessed, by the threat posed to his chances by a guy far richer and ideologically vetted than he: Steve Forbes. A key to Bush’s strategy was to scare others out of the Republican nomination race by amassing a hoard of contributions and endorsements, and by drying up those resources for the other candidates. The idea was to render the race a fait accompli before it even started.


It was easy to muscle the hapless Dan Quayle. As Poppy Bush went around quietly soliciting contributions for his son, the elder Bush let it be known that the Family would track gifts to other candidates, including Quayle. The former vice president had little chance in any case, but the Bushes were not taking chances. “They stepped on his air hose,” a Quayle adviser later told me.


But there was no stepping on Forbes. The guy had untold millions of dollars of his own, a geeky fearlessness that made him oblivious to threats and close, deep ties to the libertarian wing of the conservative movement in the GOP. Forbes’ dad made life miserable for Bob Dole in the ’96 Republican race, and Bush was worried that he might well do the same to him in the year 2000.


Bush’s response? To Wead — who might pass word along to Forbes — Bush threatened to take his ball and go home, then wait for the moment of payback. Were Forbes to win the GOP nomination by attacking him too hard, Bush told Wead, he could forget any support from the Bush family, including from his brother Jeb, the governor of Florida. Forbes “can forget Texas,” Bush tells Wead. “And he can forget Florida. And I will sit on my hands.” In other words, Bush would rather see the Democrats win the White House than a Republican who humiliated him by defeating him in the nomination race.


While he fretted that Forbes might play too rough, it was of course OK for Bush himself to do so. Taking the measure of Al Gore in the summer of 2000, demonizing him as “pathologically a liar,” Bush was getting an angle on his foe — and cited family tradition. In 1988, then Vice President George H.W. Bush ran a campaign that used cultural “wedge” issues to savage the candidacy of Democrat Michael Dukakis. “I may have to get a little rough for a while,” Bush the Younger tells Wead. “But that is what the old man had to do with Dukakis, remember?” Of course he remembered: Dubya and Wead had worked together on that campaign.


Fineman concludes that no Bush really wants to play rough.  But you have to win.  So you have to play dirty.  That’s life.  And folks understand.


Most curious.  And this explains what was discussed in August 15, 2004: The Bad-Boy Vote - an item with the college photo captioned “George Bush delivers illegal, but gratifying right hook to opposing player.”  He’s still got that right hook.  And more than half the voters love him for it.




Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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