Who Is George W. Bush?

Note to Slate and the Yankee Media: You want conservative. I’m still trying to get the straight skinny. The national pundits who are trying to pin the donkey’s tail on Bush are missing the point. It’s not whether he’s conservative or a flaming liberal. These terms are so dang muddy and reek of Old Texas, back when it was a one-party (Democrat) state, before it became a one-party (Republican) state all over again. They don’t speak to those MOR wishy-washy McCainites you fell in love with back in February, much less all us apolitical centrist-but-not-really libertarian shmoes. The economy, education, environment, quality of life, vision in planning, an individual’s control of his destiny— these are the things I’m waiting to hear the generously endowed national media expound upon, not Evans and Novak or Matthews or King or even dear Slate spinning the typical D.C. talk. (Which raises the bigger question. If George really is the decent fellow I saw in my close-up encounters, why on God’s earth would he want to leave the cushy gig he’s got in Austin for the District and all the nitpicking and headaches that go with that job?)

You could start by taking a break from examining the lint in G.W.’s navel for traces of coke to ponder his record as the leader of Texas, to see if he might or might not be able to step into the national footprint.

You might find what’s good for Texas is good for the rest of the nation. Or maybe not.

Take education. Yes, Paul, the improvement of TAAS test scores have been on Bush’s watch, but there’s a whole lot more to education than that. How do our SATs stack up nationally? Hope it’s higher than our teachers’ salaries. Real leadership would be pressuring the legislators to raise those teacher salaries high enough where they could actually afford to live in Austin. And wasn’t it Bush family nemesis H. Ross Perot who started this whole education reform movement in Texas with No Pass No Play in the first place? Have Texas schools become such a model that schools in Illinois, California, and New York want to be just like us?

Same goes for the environment. I’m not sure the rest of the nation is too hot about emulating our air quality standards either, much less the toothless enforcement powers of our version of the EPA, but I may be wrong. And where exactly does he stand on the Endangered Species Act, which may not mean much to you but sure does to me.

Or guns. Or the death penalty. We’re OK with them. But I know we’re not like everywhere else in the United States.

The one thing his record might not reflect if examined by the national press is the economy. Texas has enjoyed a pretty good run as of late, but I have the feeling practically any tinhorn, even Clayton Williams, could have ridden this wild horse, and even as we’re profiting from high tech and NAFTA here in Central Texas, we’re suffering with congestion and higher prices all around. I’m more concerned that a guy could run through $60 million in less than a year just to run for political office in the primaries. He spent that money like a drunk liberal.

In the end, it may actually boil down to the vision thingie, and I’m still not sure where G.W. will want to go, if he gets to drive the bus. Will I be able to relate? That’s what I keep asking myself.

Sure he appears to have more decency and character than Clinton, but I believe Gore does, too. And I don’t know if I’ll be able to forget some of the pandering back in the primaries.

One last thing, just among us Texans: Hey, did ya’ll notice when he was campaigning post-New Hampshire, how the farther he got from home, the thicker and more twisted his accent got? What was up with that?

Joe Nick