I was struck by Paul Burka's article in this month's Texas Monthly in which Burka - who has long been in Bush's hip pocket - agonizingly airs out all of the grievances he holds against Bush's administration. Burka's comparison of Bush's record in Texas (which while not great, was better than many people realize) with Bush's record as president sheds light on how many opinion leaders in Texas feel about Bush right now:
But did Bush generally come across well in my stories? Sure. When there was something negative to write, I wrote it, but aside from occasional disagreements over issues, there wasn't a lot to be negative about. He had all the qualities of a great governor. He was a strong and popular leader. He had a mesmerizing personality. He was a uniter, not a divider - a centrist who fought the extremists in his own party. He had the courage to tackle the most important issues: public education and the tax structure. He had a great staff. He made appointments based on ability, not litmus tests. He had the decency to stay above petty politics. He was motivated by the public interest, not ideology. It's not "in the tank" if it's the truth. The defensiveness rests.
But I'm speaking of Governor. George W. Bush, the man I voted for in 1998 and 2000, not President George W. Bush. They seem to me to be two different people - not entirely so, but enough that there is cause for worry. I don't regret my vote in 2000; if 9/11 had to happen, I'm glad that it happened on his watch. He has captured Saddam Hussein and will never rest until the same fate is ensured for Osama bin Laden. But the sundering of the country along geographical and ideological lines into the political map of Red America and Blue America accelerated on his watch, and it started well before 9/11. I would have never imagined that the person I knew would have been in a Time magazine story as the "Great Polarizer." Or that he would kowtow to the extremists in his party. Or that he would allow his vice president to cast a shadow on his administration's integrity by maintaining secrecy on eneger planning. Or that his advisers would be at war not just with terrorists but each other. What happened to Governor George W. Bush? Where is the guy we sent to Washington?
The sentiment there is real. I know - I put in a little sweat equity into Bush's 1998 re-election campaign, and was actually considering voting for Bush as late as March 2000 - when I recognized that his campaign's vicious attacks on John McCain were simply indefensible (Burka notes, similarly, that he started to wonder about Bush's integrity during the 2000 campaign).
The lack of enthusiasm and general disillusionment many Texas journalists feel write now toward Bush is, I think, the number one reason why Texas will not be as "red" as it was in 2000 (hardly competitive, but closer).
At any rate, Burka still finds it necessary to laud Bush for his "grace", citing for example Bush's tendency not to refer to Democratic opponents as "Democrats" or "opponents" but instead as "some in Congress" or "some in Washington."
Listen to the man. When Bush talks about "some in Washington," he isn't trying to avoid partisan name-calling. Instead, he's compounding it. Everyone knows what he's talking about Democrats. And when he refers to them as being "from Washington," he's playing the class card, subtly implying that Democratic opponents are Beltway snobs who are out of touch with "Amur'ca."
Pretty "graceful," huh?
(Burka later wonders why Bush is letting Tom DeLay and the House Republican leadership bully the Democrats. Well, gee, Paul, let's see...).
Oh well. FYI, Burka's article is not online.