His Fantastic Four

Meet George W. Bush’s Brain Trust—the advisors (and future cabinet members?) who are preparing him on a host of presidential issues—inculidng the difference between Kosovars and Kosovarians.

One year ago this month, while Condoleeza Rice was visiting George Bush at his summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, she acquired an inquisitive jogging partner. In the sprawling seaside compound’s gym, Rice—who had served as a foreign policy adviser in the Bush administration—found herself in a detailed dialogue with her former boss’ son George W. Bush as they ran side by side on treadmills. “We talked a lot about America’s role in the world,” she says. “He was doing due diligence on whether or not to run for president.”

Within a few months that chat-and-sweat session led to regular briefings on global affairs. As Bush began the grueling marathon that is an all-out bid for the White House, he chose his new workout buddy to prepare him for the kinds of questions that would confront him on the campaign trail—and, possibly, as commander in chief. And not just her. Despite a huge lead in the polls, Bush realized early on that he could stumble without a team of advisers to assist him in getting up to speed on the major issues. While he’s comfortable talking about education, welfare, and the like after nearly five years as the governor of Texas, he’s less so on other national and international matters. Indeed, he has already made rookie mistakes that have been magnified by the scrutiny he now receives as the front-runner for the GOP nomination. When he talked about “Kosovarians” (they’re Kosovars) and “Grecians” (Greeks to the rest of us) and confused Slovenia and Slovakia, the national press reacted as though he’d spelled potato with an e on the end.

Last December, to save him from precisely those kinds of embarrassing gaffes and help him give shape and substance to his nascent campaign, Bush loyalists began signing up a team of the nation’s foremost conservative intellectuals. Among those leading the charge was an old Harvard Business School classmate, Indianapolis businessman Al Hubbard, who had served as deputy chief of staff for Vice President Dan Quayle. Along with Bush’s political guru, Karl Rove, Hubbard summoned to the Governor’s Mansion writers and thinkers whose career experiences and public positions mirrored Bush’s “compassionate conservative” bent. In the months since, the members of this brain trust have prepared briefing papers and convened for half-day discussions with the governor. “George has a clear vision of where he thinks America should go,” Hubbard says. “What these folks have provided are the details of how to get there.”

Every team has its stars, of course, and Bush’s is no different. Four people have emerged as his chief policy advisers, and if history is any indication, who they are and what they think will have a powerful impact on the tenor and the direction of a Bush presidency. Campaign advisers, after all, often end up as Cabinet members. Bill Clinton had Warren Christopher and Robert Reich, who went on to become Secretary of State and Secretary of Labor, respectively. George Bush the elder had James A. Baker III, who became his Secretary of State. 

Whom does George W. have?

Condoleezza Rice, 44

Education B.A. in political science from the University of Denver, where she became enamored with Russian in a class taught by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s father, Joseph Korbel. M.A. in government and economics from the University of Notre Dame. Ph.D. from the School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

Career highlights Began teaching political science at Stanford University in 1981; appointed provost in 1993. Special assistant to the president on Soviet affairs from 1989 to 1991. Accompanied President Bush to summit meetings in Washington, D. C., Helsinki, and Malta.

Philosophy The end of the cold war has changed the world order; the U.S. must work hard on its relationships with its friends and allies to make sure it maintains its role as a dominant world leader. “You can’t have the Soviet Union collapse and not have the world change,” she says.

Why Bush? After gabbing in the gym, Rice says, they “clicked” during a conversation last fall at the home of former Secretary of State George Shultz. “We discussed it and agreed that if he decided to do this, he had to lead from his own instincts, not from someone else’s. It’s important for anybody who is going to be president to have a foreign policy that is organic to one’s self.” And, indeed, Bush’s “core principles” haven’t been dictated by his advisers, Rice says. “He is very much his own person.”

Role in the campaign “I think of myself as an option quarterback,” says Rice, who—like Bush—is an avid enough sports fan that she uses sports metaphors. Like other advisers, she lays out various scenarios, but he gets the final say. “He isn’t shy about asking questions,” she says. “It’s never just one person holding forth. It’s always his briefing.”

Lawrence B. Lindsey

Education B.A. in economics from Bowdoin College. M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.

Career highlights Special assistant to the president for policy development in the Bush administration from 1989 to 1991. Member of the Federal Reserve Board from 1991 to 1997; studied “community re-investment”—government-backed spending in poor neighborhoods—at the behest of Fed chairman Alan Greenspan. Now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.

Philosophy The government’s efforts to build a Great Society—like most well-meaning policies aimed at helping the poor—have failed. “I think it has to do with human nature,” he says. “If you pay people not to work, they’re not going to work. You give people an incentive to get up in the morning when the damn alarm goes off. If you live off the state, you’ve had a wasted life.” Still, he acknowledges that government has a role. “I don’t want to see people cheating other people. Government is the enforcer. There is a regulatory piece. People shouldn’t take advantage of the environment, for instance. But you don’t micromanage.” Does this make him a compassionate conservative? “Sure, why not?”

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