George W. Bush
Texas Monthly’s first profile of George W. Bush was published in 1989, when he was thinking of running for governor. In some respects, Patricia Kilday Hart noted, he was an unlikely candidate: “His reaction to issues is largely ad hoc and, despite extensive briefings by Republican legislators, somewhat uninformed.” And for that matter, Bush had never held elected office before. (He had run for Congress in 1978, but he lost.) On the other hand, Bush did, as he told Hart, have good name recognition. His grandfather, Prescott Bush, had been a United States senator from Connecticut. His father, George H. W. Bush, was President of the United States at the time.
While the younger George decided not to run in 1990 (the office went to Ann Richards, a Democrat), W. did eventually go on to become one of the most influential and controversial Texans of all time. He was born in 1946, in Connecticut, but the family moved to Midland when he was a toddler, because his father was in the oil business. He went east for his education—Andover, Yale, and Harvard—but came back to Midland and got into the oil business. He liked baseball, so he bought a stake in the Texas Rangers. He met a school librarian, Laura Welch, at a backyard barbecue, and married her three months later. When he told his mother that he was leaving the Episcopalian church for the earthier denomination of Methodism, she picked up the phone and called Billy Graham for advice.
Bush was, in other words, apparently determined to be his own man, and mostly incapable of it. In 1994, when he did decide to run for governor, he was still trying to get out of his famous father’s shadow. He snapped when executive editor Skip Hollandsworth asked whether they could talk about the relationship: “’Are you going to write that kind of article?’ he asks me, his voice getting edgy. ‘One of those pseudo-psychological me-and-my-dad stories?’”
The stakes were higher than they might have seemed. Democrats still controlled the state legislature and many statewide offices, but they were adrift in terms of message. Republicans were simultaneously emerging as the party of power and showing signs of strain, as hard-liners were increasingly dissatisfied with the pragmatic, business-minded conservatives (from both parties) who had historically dominated Texas politics. The result was that Bush came to power at a critical moment in state politics. “He is in a position to be a pivotal figure in Texas history,” senior executive editor Paul Burka wrote in 1994, immediately after the election.
Somewhat improbably, Bush seemed to become just that. One hundred days into the governor’s first term, Burka offered an update: Bush was “batting a thousand.” He had campaigned promising to pursue four things—education reform, tort reform, welfare reform, and tougher juvenile justice laws—and made headway on all of them, with an unaffected manner that mollified the left while insulating him from the far right. Over the next six years, the governor’s career wasn’t perfect, but it turned out to be better than anyone expected: knowledgeable, disciplined, and determined.
By the end of the decade, the Republican takeover of Texas politics was complete, and Bush, who was reelected in 1998, had a record that would propel him to the Republican presidential nomination. On the national stage, however, Bush seemed to undergo another transformation. “A lot of people—even his close friends—are not quite sure how to describe Bush,” Hollandsworth wrote in 1995. A decade later, that was still true. “What happened to Governor George W. Bush?,” Burka asked in 2004. “Where is the guy we sent to Washington?”
Today, George and Laura Bush live in Dallas. He has largely avoided the post-presidential spotlight, perhaps because he wants to make way for the next generation of Bushes; his nephew George P. Bush is apparently running (for something) in 2014. Maybe he’s not sure what to think either. But George W. Bush has surprised everyone before.
In 2004 Dan Rather tarnished his career forever with a much-criticized report on George W. Bush’s National Guard service. Eight years later, the story behind the story can finally be told: what CBS’s top-ranking newsman did, what the president of the United States didn’t do, and how some feuding Texas pols got the whole ball rolling.
Two years after leaving office under a cloud of controversy, with a historically low approval rating, George W. Bush is reentering the spotlight and, with the groundbreaking of his library, launching his post-presidency. The question is, What will he do now?
George W. Bush wants to be governor of Texas. He says he’s not following in his father’s footsteps, but his name, his career, and his ideas about politics seem an awful lot like Dad’s.
“All you’ve got is a famous name,” a Republican operative told George W. Bush. But six years later he was governor, and six years after that he was president. And six years after that, his place in history—not to mention the fate of the world—is a little uncertain.
George W. Bush says he doesn’t have time to think about his legacy, but the rest of us have no such trouble. We asked some of the smartest people we could think of—prize-winning historians, presidential scholars, White House vets—to predict how 43 will be judged and to suggest what, if anything, he can still do about it.
In word and deed, the George W. Bush now residing in the White House bears little resemblance to the Texas governor I gladly sent to Washington. That’s why I’m so ambivalent about reelecting him.
This was the summer of George W. Bush’s discontent, when sixteen specious words in the State of the Union address threw the White House into disarray. Can his 32-year-old mediameister, Dan Bartlett, get the message and the messenger back on track?
Once upon a time, the Central Texas town of Crawford was like Mayberry: Everyone knew everyone, no one talked politics, and the air was ripe with the aroma of hogs. Then the leader of the free world bought a little place west of the Middle Bosque River, and nothing was ever the same again.
The first test was whether primary voters thought he had what it takes to be president. It was touch and go for a while, but he passed. Now George W. Bush has to get the rest of the country on his side. An inside look at his plan for doing precisely that.
What are George Bush’s weaknesses as he heads into the fall campaign? We asked six Texas Democrats— a former governor, a former lieutenant governor, two wannabes, and two wiseacre pundits—to make the case against him. They pulled no punches.
Meet the superheroes of George W. Bush’s campaign for the presidency: a quartet of brainy advisers who are helping him to refine and sell his ideas on the economy, foreign policy, and the like.
He’s the front-runner even before he has officially entered the race, but sky-high expectations are the least of the obstacles George W. Bush faces in his quest for the White House.
In the last legislative session, George W. Bush’s moderate program won over Bob Bullock, Pete Laney, and other top Democrats. But this time, Bush’s agenda is more partisan, and Republicans are measuring his presidential potential—so Texas politics is going to get ugly.