THE MOST MEMORABLE quote of the 1988 Democratic National Convention came from Ann Richards, then the Texas state treasurer and one of the party’s brightest rising stars. “Poor George,” she said in the keynote address, referring to George H. W. Bush, then vice president of the United States. “He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” The line became instantly famous. Richards was elected governor of Texas two years later, and the irony was lost on no one when, after four years in office, she went down in bitter defeat to the son of the man she had so mercilessly derided.
That election ended her electoral career, launched W. toward his own elaborate political destiny, and might well have been the last anyone heard about Bush versus Richards. But the story does not end there. As it turns out, the silver-tongued Ann, like the silver-footed forty-first president of the United States, also has an ambitious, successful, and highly partisan eldest child. Her name is Cecile Richards, and she is the proximate political antipode of George W. Bush, as pure a creature of the Democratic left as he is of the Republican right. She is 47 years old, a striking six-footer and longtime labor organizer with a bright, explosive laugh who can stop a room when she walks into it just as her mother can. A full decade after W. beat Ann at the polls, Cecile, who like George W. made her first big political splash in Texas in the nineties (and like him went to a fancy private school and an Ivy League college), has become one of the key leaders of an unprecedented $250 million campaign being waged outside the Democratic party whose sole purpose is to drive George W. Bush from office. Think of it as Bush-Richards III.
Cecile Richards is president of America Votes, a Washington-based coalition of 32 of the biggest, richest, and most influential unions and liberal interest groups in the country. They include the AFL-CIO, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the Sierra Club, the NAACP, the League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood, and the American Federation of Teachers. Together they represent some 20 million members. They also include the new wave of powerful independent political committees—so-called 527’s, named for their IRS designation—such as America Coming Together, the Media Fund, MoveOn.org Voter Fund, and Victory Campaign 2004, that are raising and spending large amounts of unregulated, unlimited “soft” money that political parties can no longer accept because of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform of 2002. (The other kind of money, “hard” money, is strictly regulated by federal law: Donations to national candidates