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When the going gets tough, Bush quickly crumbles. Related Gully Coverage

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U.S. Election 2000
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george w. bush

Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush with boil. Nov. 10, Austin, Texas. Eric Draper

Election 2000

Bush Presidential
Dry Run, Day 13

by Toby Eglund

NOVEMBER 20, 2000. As the George W. Bush presidential dry run enters its 13th day, a complete picture of a Bush presidency is beginning to emerge from behind the known partisan outlines of the Bush character. Even for those who voted for him, the unintended subtext of the new Bush images should be unsettling--a forlorn Bush with a boil, a wistful Bush playing at being fellow Texan LBJ at his Texas ranch, and a suddenly elated Bush in cowboy hat waving to the media.

Disturbing Snapshots
One fresh revelation is that, when the going gets tough, Bush, a total stranger to crisis, quickly crumbles. That's the boil picture.

A second, equally unexpected discovery is that, when the going gets even tougher, an exhausted Bush not only crumbles, he hides out in his remote ranch, two hours away from civilization. For the past thirteen days he's let others take care of the mess while he essentially tuned out the world--no meetings, not even the pictures of cable or satellite TV to upset him. His tenuous links are reportedly only a couple of phone conferences a day with his aides, and email. That's the mock LBJ picture.

A related development, not unexpected, but still startling in its crude execution and untimely timing (even before Inauguration Day!) is that under siege, Bush jettisons his (phantom) cabinet and calls his dad's old hands to handle the crisis. He begins to feel better. See also the LBJ picture.

A third and final revelation is how quickly the black cloud lifts and Bush's sunny disposition returns, when the crisis begins to recede, the tables turn his way, and the order of the world according to the Bushes appears on the verge of being restored. That's the pixieish, waving Bush with the cowboy hat.

Free Media Ride
Americans have now had the opportunity to see Bush behave under pressure. His up and down behavior should be cause for anxiety, if not serious concern. But has anyone noticed? Probably not. All eyes have been on the farcical goings-on in Florida. And the media, still terrified of being accused of "liberal bias," continues to give Bush a free pass, instead of examining what Bush's painfully obvious emotional roller coaster portends for the country.

One of the few who has, the Washington Post's David Von Drehle, on November 19, began on a defensible, if overly cautious, track "Bush has been the distant board chairman of a disciplined corporation," but he quickly disintegrated into the deferential Bush spun sugar that the media, including the Washington Post and The New York Times, has been regurgitating since last year: "He chose a plan—unyielding opposition to hand recounts—and has instructed his team to follow it relentlessly. He has delegated operations to a trusted staff, led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III. His job has been to project an avuncular confidence." This is Bush as Ike.

Unfortunately for the country, every single Bush sighting and utterance during his boil ordeal, from still photos to audio tracks, did not telegraph cool Ike, but a scared, confused, out-of-his-depth man on the verge of a breakdown, an impression only deepened by the more recent media ops, attesting to an almost miraculous recovery.

Splintering Platform
Bush ran on "character, integrity, and leadership." His thirteen-day presidential dry run has been a test of all three. He has flunked it. No one should be gleeful about this. The entire nation should hold its collective breath, cross its many fingers, and hope that Bush does better when what's at stake is something more important to the country than who wins an election.

Related links:

Bush by Bush. Texas Governor Office's official site. Includes Texas trivia quiz.

For the George W. Bush for President Store. You can buy a Bush-logoed stanley steel travel tumbler with slosh-proof drink thru lid for only $11.50.

In Depth

Bush Plus
U.S. politics and the Bush administration All about George W. Bush, Dems, Greens, GOPs, and the morass of U.S. politics.

Color and Cash
race and classThe Gully's complete coverage of race and class, two intertwined pillars of American society.

New World
new worldOur Americas. Politics, democracies, failed utopias, and the sullen heirs of colonialism: from Canada to Argentina.

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