Well, say hello to . . . what? The New New Texas? The New Old Texas? This is going to be a tough one to figure. For one thing, the Bombastic Bushkin (as George W. Bush is called) is not your basic Republican coot, like Bill Clements. Nor is he a rustic redneck in the tradition of Clayton Williams. And despite his East Coast schooling, he ain’t no preppy like his father. He is, in truth, an odd new breed: part gentry, part good ol’ boy, part city slicker, part Midland. He’s also our first baby-boomer governor. He jogs. He owns a NordicTrack exercise machine. He lifts weights at a health club. He drives his twin thirteen-year-old daughters around in a Chrysler Town and Country. At night, he lies on a dilapidated tan leather couch that he won’t let his wife, Laura, get rid of and flicks from one TV station to another with his remote control.
Because George W.’s campaign was so precisely execute—he never strayed from the issues or allowed the more colorful parts of his personality to emerge—your probably assume he’ll be just another standard conservative politician. Sorry, fellow Texans: The new governor is unlike any politician you’ve ever seen. Who else do you know who takes pride in the fact he can sit through a major league baseball game for nine innings without once going to the bathroom? While some political scientists might call such bladder control an act of magnificent discipline, don’t forget that this is the same man who, during Nolan Ryan’s historic 300th pitching victory, was seen on nationwide TV sitting behind the dugout picking his nose.
A lot of people—even his close friends—are not quite sure how to describe Bush. “He’s got his eccentricities, that’s for damn sure,” says an old Midland friend. “I can remember in the seventies, while everyone else was wearing boots and blue jeans, George W. was walking around town in these flimsy Chinese slippers that embarrassed the hell out of all of us.” At one point during the governor’s race, Bush made a campaign stop before a group of famers at a barn in Nacogdoches, and then flew immediately to New Orleans to meet some rich contributors. When he was told by the anxious hostess that he smelled like cow dung, he grabbed a bottle of Drakkar eau de toilette, doused himself, and then cheerfully worked the room, shaking hands with the fat cats, all of whom kept sniffing the air and giving him suspicious looks.
Now that you’ve gotten your first whiff of our new governor, you too might be a little confused about him. He’s such a newcomer to Texas politics that no one is sure what to expect. At the moment, you might think of him only as the guy who loves boot camps, hates welfare mothers, and wants to put more juveniles in jail. But after reading our primer to the real George W. Bush, perhaps you’ll see that his New Texas could be a lot more interesting than you ever imagined.
GEORGE AS OTTER
To some who know him, George W. resembles Otter, the unflappable fraternity rush chairman in the 1978 movie National Lampoon’s Animal House . Otter, you’ll recall, was a handsome guy who looked like he knew how to have a good time. He’d walk up to strangers and say with a cocky grin, “Damn glad to meet you.” Then he’d lead them into one escapade after another. No matter how much trouble the frat house got into, Otter escaped unsullied.
It’s not insignificant that George W. was president of the Dekes, his fraternity at Yale University. Until he stopped drinking eight years ago, he was a notorious partier. He still greets almost all his male friends with a collegial, “Hey buddy,” and just like Otter, nothing seems to phase him. When Richards tried to bait Bush in the campaign by calling him a jerk, and when she accused him of losing $371 million in various business ventures, he just shrugged and used her allegations to his advantage—especially with his friends, telling them they had to pay for lunch because he was seriously in the hole and needed to save money. So here’s the first thing you should know about George W.: It’s impossible to shake his confidence. Even when he shot a killdeer and had a public relations fiasco on his hands, he turned the whole episode into a joke. “Hell,” he said, “it’s a good thing it wasn’t deer season, or I might have shot a cow.”
GEORGE AS PIGPEN
At the start of the gubernatorial race, Bush bought six dark suits at Dallas’ Culwell and Son so he’d have something decent to wear on the campaign trail. For all his breeding, George W. is not exactly a snappy dresser. The Midland Country Club still gives out a prize in his honor for the club’s worst-dressed golfer. Although he’ll never stoop low enough to wear the laughable plaid jackets that Bill Clements favored, he is a consummate Thrift Shop Republican. In private he dons Haggar jackets, wrinkled sport shirts, and jeans—a style that his spin doctors say suggests a complete lack of pretentiousness. His old friends, on the other hand, say Bush is simply too cheap to buy nice clothes.
What’s more, Bush is inherently unable to keep his office clean. People who got to see his Dallas office were treated to a portrait of near-anarchy. Baseball books and newspapers littered the room, and most of his framed photographs were stacked against the walls because he never had the patience to hang them. His secretary would come in, throw some faxes on his desk, and walk out. Since he didn’t have a coat rack, Bush threw his jacket on the floor. “This is how I like to work,” he would say unapologetically.
Soon, Bush will have a convenient way to hide the Pigpen side of his personality. The governor will actually have two rooms: an outer reception area that