abuse. Suddenly there’s a growing sense that the national press might get beyond drugs and begin a careful examination of George W. and “the character thing.” The character issue was brought into focus in the first issue of Tina Brown’s new monthly magazine, Talk. A Bush profile in the avoids most hard political questions. But it somehow provides a critical look at the character of the man who would be president, and perhaps unwittingly, Tucker Carlson portrays a candidate who is both magnetic and disturbing. Former Democratic political consultant Mark McKinnon slipped into the confessional mode when describing Bush’s political magnetism. “When I met him, I was like a married guy who sees an attractive woman at a party,” McKinnon says. “I didn’t want to like him. But I couldn’t help it.” The politically philandering McKinnon, who is working on Bush’s media team, formerly worked for Ann Richards. “He is also a former songwriter for Kris Kristofferson,” Carlson reports, leaving the reader to wonder how difficult it was to get that out of McKinnon. McKinnon said he had retired from politics and vowed to spend more time with his family. “Then he met Bush,” Tucker writes, and the rest, McKinnon evidently believes, will be history. Serving to illuminate the brighter aspects of Bush’s character are McKinnon; a tattooed beer-drinking biker whom Bush steps out of the crowd to embrace at an Austin political rally; and crowds of Bush admirers. Bush himself reveals the dark side. Most disturbing is his callous mockery of Karla Faye Tucker, the first woman executed in Texas in more than 100 years. Bush, who refused to consider a thirty-day stay for Tucker and did not push his parole board to consider clemency, later denied that he made light of the execution of Tucker in the interview. But the offending passage is hard to refute. Bush said he refused to meet with TV interviewer Larry King, when King came to Texas to report on the Tucker execution. Then his comments get weird: “I watched his interview with [Tucker] though,” Bush said. “He asked her real difficult questions, like ‘What would you say to Governor Bush?” “What was her answer,” I wonder. “Please,” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, “don’t kill me.” Bush was also generous in his use of the expletive “fuck,” a sure turn-off for Christian-right voters. Conservative syndicated columnist George Will was so disturbed by the Talk profile that he actually did some reporting, reviewing a copy of the Larry King/Tucker interview and finding that Tucker had said nothing similar to what Bush told Carlson. Will wondered what Bush was thinking, or if he was thinking and asked if Bush has the character to serve as president. Gary Bauer, one of Bush’s rivals in the Republican primaries, called a news conference and handed out copies of the Talk profile, while describing Bush’s behavior as “inappropriate, disgusting, and profoundly disturbing.” Bauer, whose Family Research Council provides him the strongest Christian credentials in the primary pack, also asked why Bush doesn’t know the abortion rate in Texas The Talk profile has fueled what could become more than a passing examination of Bush’s character, and might increase pressure on him to answer some hard questions about his private life and his political vision. While Talk provided insight into Bush’s character, the August 16 issue of The New Republic took a hard look at Bush’s record and his cozy relationship with big businesses. John Judis spares the reader gushing accounts of Bush’s childhood and his boyish charm, pausing only to provide a look at what happens when charm isn’t enough. Fielding questions from poor kids in a Baltimore summer program called The Door, Bush stumbled when a little girl asked him if he would raise the minimum wage if he is elected president. At a loss to respond, he tells her it’s up to Congress, then adds that he worries about “pricing people out of work.” Judis writes, “Her question punctured the Pat-the-Bunny un reality of that hot summer after noon. Bush’s answer was a re minder that, behind the mask of compassion he has donned for this campaign, he is a die-hard conservative on the issues that have historically been among the most important to American voters those that pit the interests of business against those of ordinary workers and consumers.” “The press,” according to Judis, “has also been misled by Bush’s lack of a strong theoretical or ideological foundation for his economic views, which they mistake for evidence of his moderate pragmatism. While it’s true that Bush’s economic views are reflexive rather than reflective, all his reflexes are conservative.” Judis rips into Bush’s record on business-friendly tort reform, which has made it harder for people to sue companies and, not surprisingly, has produced a windfall for insurance companies which continue to raise rates even as claims drop. Judis also lays out Bush’s dismal environmental record, especially his successful effort to protect the state’s worst polluters by preventing true closure of the grandfathered plant loophole of the Texas Clean Air 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 17, 1999
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