Page 5


Beavis and Butt-head. One can only hope that when he typed that passage, Burka was looking upward and chuckling hysterically. We have often been told that once he indeed declares, Bush’s “honeymoon is over,” because the national press will not be giving him the free ride he’s enjoyed from the Texas media. The early evidence is not encouraging. The growing refrain of “he’s beginning to look … presidential” is already sounding like a Morning-in-America television campaign in the making and it hasn’t cost the candidate a dime. The New Yorker’s Joe Klein, for example, made an earnest pilgrimage to Texas and Florida after the November election, and was quick to endorse as self-evident the Bush brothers’ claim to the support of minority voters and to a new face for conservatism. More recently, Klein surveyed the field and declared all the likely candidates, including Bush, “Third Wayfarers: free traders and globalists, foreign-policy activists, defense hawks \(even Clinton has proposed a in practical compassion or conservative idealism, or some combination of those four words, when it comes to domestic policy.” Bush as a neo-liberal centrist on its face that’s not likely to make the candidate happy, but to the extent it makes him less threatening to most New Yorker readers, who will be looking for a more respectable Clinton, it should. Klein is so delighted with the booming economy \(he seems to have permanently confused his own bureverybody will be just too happy to vote \(“a country so successful to occur to the pundits that so many citizens have turned their backs on the electoral process because it has increasingly become a ritualized anointment of the status quo to which we are all called to pay patriotic homage. And at the ceremony, the journalists have their appointed roles. Writing about the candidates, especially those most likely to succeed, is an exercise in elevating the mundane into the heroic, in manufacturing a President equal to the illusion of our national mythology: the biggest, the bestest, the most wonderfullest country on earth. Most fascinating about the national Bush coverage has been how much gee-whiz and good-golly have already leaked into the rhetoric, as reporters fall all over themselves to paint George W. Bush by the campaign’s chosen numbers: that is, he’s not an Old Boy, he’s a Good ol’ Boy. This is most obvious on television the first day in Iowa heralded Bush’s arrival “like a Texas twister” and dutifully featured close-ups of the Bushean belt buckle and monogrammed cowboy boots. But it has also become one of the main themes of the early print reporting. The national newsmagazines have each dutifully published profiles emphasizing Bush’s Midland background and downplaying his family’s upperclass roots. He’s a Bush, they keep repeating, but he’s not like that other Bush. The most extreme but still representative example was Jeffrey H. Birnbaum in the April Fortune, explaining to the country’s middle management why they should put aside all presumption in judging George the Younger. A reformed carouser who speaks with the zeal of the converted, George W. is more passionate, more spiritual, more substantive, more charming, more quick-tempered, more wily, more witty, more conservative, and politically more astute than George H.W. ever was. Don’t expect him to tell people to read his lips. The gist of Birnbaum’s cheerleading message was that Dubya is much more like Reagan than his dad and by that he meant, quite literally, he will be able to sell reactionary policies much more readily. Like Reagan, George W. wants to shrink government, cut taxes, spend more on the military, reduce trade restrictions, and promote vatism,” he is putting a smiling face on ideas that many Republicans share, but tend to lecture about with a frown. In other words, sunny George W. is to miserly Newt Gingrich what rosy Ronald Reagan was to scary Barry Goldwater: an upbeat communicator of a conservative vision. Now there’s something to look forward to. To the extent that reporters have criticized Bush thus far, it has been for not being quite as conservative as he claims to be echoing a persistent charge from the Republican right. Birnbaum says as much, and it’s a refrain that ran through similar profiles in Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News. Such criticisms, of course, are less about skeptical inquiry than they are about making Bush appear safe for the national mainstream. Even the Monthly \(in its new boss-stroking sister publication, gave Burka room to dither over whether Governor Bush had been quite so supportive of Texas business to merit his overwhelming lead in the C.E.O. polls. Some industries, Burka sniffed, were helped more than other industries. So there. Burka also offered additional evidence that the Governor’s conversational pearls on business, as on all other subjects, are truly compelling. “The educated child is more likely to become an employee,” Bush informed his amanuensis. Write that down. The reporting on Bush has not been uniformly positive. The New York Times has been occasionally skeptical about such matters as Bush’s entrepreneurial rsum and his enthusiasm for tort reform \(enabling the Governor to snort with distaste at a recent press conference, “Oh, well, the But for the most part, the Times has been either laudatory or exculpatory of the Bush record, in the time-honored magisterial manner of the national newspaper of record. The New Republic, Clinton-hating but Gore-daffy, has uttered a few words of neoconservative consternation. But the single best article to appear nationally on Bush and his record was published in the April 26 Nation: “Running on Empty,” by my esteemed colleague, Louis Dubose. If you haven’t already, get it and read it or check out Lou’s updated editorial in this issue. Readers of the Observer know we abhor tooting our own horn, but the painful truth is that this pissant journal is far too often the only dissenting voice from Texas cited in the ongoing national media coronation of the Bush Who Would Be President. We’re described in various curmudgeonly terms, as the “liberal Texas Observer,” or the “dissenting Texas Observer,” or my own personal favorite \(from the Monthly’s one of “the usual suspects.” Now there’s a role for a proud reporter: Kaiser Sosa to George W. Bush and his thinly disguised con game marketed as compassionate conservatism. We’ll take it. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13 JUNE 25, 1999 -.411111111.1111111101104110006111111101111.0.01,1060000*.