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The newly sworn-in Texas Governor, 1995 Alan Pogue that the true royal lineage be re-established. A lot of this is pure-dee horseshit, of course, from the oafish scions of new American money, and especially in the early chapters of First Son one often feels sorry for author Minutaglio, because his official subject keeps skittering off the page. There’s just not much to say about the young Georgie, after you’ve pointed out his passion for and incompetence at baseball, his safely wild streak, how little his friends remember of him. This all tells the reader a great deal, but it’s mostly between the lines. The family as a whole is indeed more interesting, and in curious ways: the obsession with competition and ranking; the formal negotiations between relatives over family business; the oft-proclaimed resistance to inwardness and reflection. Games and sports seem virtually compulsive: when her young daughter Robin dies of leukemia, Barbara Bush’s response is an exhausting round of golf. Smitten by loss, some people throw themselves into work, but in this world, jobs are a hobby or a distraction. Games are real. There is also little of George W.’s own beliefs, except as they advance the narrative. When he finally decides to run for governor of Texas, his chosen issues \(tort reform, welfare reform, law and order, cisely the convictions of the candidate than of surveyed Republican focus groups and suburban swing voters, which is of course why they work. Minutaglio notes this platform, Bush’s broadcast of it, and moves on, to campaign style and pace. He has grasped that particular ideas don’t really mean much to Bush himself, except as strategy, and if the need arose he could just as easily exchange them for something else. Those looking to discover George W. Bush’s convictions should look elsewhere; what he stands for that is, the people and interests he represents are everywhere present in this book. Overwhelmingly, they ain’t you and me. Yet despite the lackluster central figure, a handful of secondary characters draw attention. There is the mysterious Doug Wead, a still-persistent Bush advisor on the Christian Right who, it turns out, was the catalyst for the legendary dismissal of John Sununu from the first Bush White House, and apparently still has the Governor’s ear. There is the lamentably wasting-away, Lear-like Bob Bullock, who rails against fellow Democrat Ann Richards and her Hollywood friends, and somehow comes to a deathbed alliance with the alien Bush cause of an unexpected emotional connection with Bush the father. There is Barbara Bush, the apparently sedate matron whom her sons make clear is the real enforcer in the family. And there is even the minor tragic figure of Poppy Bush himself, the real government wonk, permanent yes-man from Congress to U.N. to C.I.A. to presidency, now rapidly being abandoned both by events and his son’s campaign, which looks more and more for its symbolism to Reagan the Winner rather than to Bush the Loser. One after another of the Republican hangers-on longingly describe George W. as “really a Reaganite,” and what they mean is, he’s not like his dad. Or at least they hope so. Columnist George Will demanded and received first shot at First Son, and instead of renewing his mewling complaint that the Candidate lacks gravitas, Will acknowledged that the book confirms George W. is no “intellectual” but then neither, insisted Will, was FDR or Reagan. To that one can only say: there are apples, and there are oranges, and there are also kumquats. The demagogic defenders of “Western Civilization” and “high intellectual standards” are now reduced to proposing ignorance in a president as really not that bad, that bozos too have their virtues. So it is that Edmund Morris’ meretricious new biography is finally comforted by what he memorably calls Ronald Reagan’s “encyclopedic ignorance,” insisting that the Emperor founder of a mighty new age for the Imperial Republic was clothed with virtue under all that nakedness. The Emperor’s devoted disciples dearly want to believe they have found a new champion in Texas, nekkid as a babe. They may well be right. ACLU CENTRAL TEXAS CHAPTER invites you to our noon Forum the last Friday of every month. Furr’s Cafeteria Banquet Room in Northcross Mall, Austin. For information. 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 29, 1999