Who Is George W. Bush?

[Received yesterday.]

Pam and everyone,

Sure, I remember that meeting in his office last year. I left blabbing to anyone who’d listen what a decent, down-to-earth, real guy G.W. was. I also remember how hard he’d worked to position himself in Texas as a centrist, so well that the God Squad members of the state board of education absolutely despised him.

South Carolina burst that li’l bubble. It’s made me rethink everything. How far will this guy go to get a vote?

He’s still a nice guy, I believe, but I’m wary that he keeps the company of Ralph Reed and Marvin “Bring Back the Crusades” Olasky as advisers. These guys scare me, especially Olasky, since we’ve been able to read his columns over the past few years in the local daily. He may be the guy who coined the term “compassionate conservative,” but his writings telegraph the message that he’s really a One Way or the Highway true believer, which isn’t journalism, where I come from.

Nor does George deserve any kind of pass whatsoever on environmental issues, since his strategy regarding Texas has been largely Do Nothing, Then React, but only when necessary. At least we can brag, We’re Number One! when it comes to air pollution. And we ascended to that position on his watch. He’s had two legislative sessions to give cities and counties more power to control growth and sprawl; instead, he’s overseen a legislature that has passed laws to hamstring Austin and other cities from controlling their destinies, while counties still have virtually no tools to protect their natural resources. It’s one thing to suggest we need to decentralize power from the federal to the state level. I resent that trickle-down sentiment doesn’t translate to more local-government control in Texas. And don’t get me started on the carbon plants on the Mexican side of the border that have been major contributors to making Big Bend National Park one of the most polluted of all the national parks, despite being 250 miles from the nearest city. He may be a weak gov, but he does have a bully pulpit to work from.

Finally, I’m really bugged by this perception he’s strong on education. As a parent with two children in public schools, my perspective is that he has ushered in an era where testing has taken precedent over learning in the classroom. Telling other parents “My kid tests better than your kid” is not a point of pride, believe me. I will say, though, the changes wrought in the public education system have made my wife and me more open to home schooling, only it ain’t for religious reasons.

Then again, Gore’s no great shakes either.

My apologies for being so crabby, but it is Monday.

Joe Nick