Skip to comments.In Bush Country
Posted on 08/19/2002 7:28:01 AM PDT by Darlin'
Somewhere in the middle of the Texas flatlands about 100 miles from Dallas, just as you pass Lake Waco, the earth takes a dip and woods spring up on either side of the road. Except for the tell-tale dryness of the earth, you feel like you've entered another state altogether. Then a clearing reveals a grain elevator with a sign on the top announcing "Bush Country."
Soon you are passing humble clapboard houses with pigs and vehicles in the front yards and a trailer house to the side, until you find yourself at a railroad crossing and the top of a one street town. This is Crawford, population 750. The first store on your right is The Yellow Rose of Texas where you can get "antiques, antique jewelry, guns and ammo," and other luxuries of a life that is as near to the vanished American frontier as you are likely to find. It's a fitting home for a President who likes to return, as he puts it, "to remind myself what the real world is like outside of Washington."
The Trailways bus that has taken my wife and me, and about 30 others from Dallas to Crawford continues on past the town until we come to the ranch where the afternoon's activities are scheduled to take place. It is not the Bush ranch itself but a neighbor's. One might guess the owner is a veteran from the arch over the entrance to his driveway. Over a trio of wagon wheels adorning the arch is the metal sculpture of a Huey helicopter, widely used in the Vietnam War. Everyone on our bus notices it.
There are about 200 hundred of us, selected, according to the invite, because we are friends and supporters who helped Bush in his campaign for the White House.There are people here like Dan Branch a Texas lawyer I had previously met who worked with Karl Rove and had volunteered to spend the weeks in Florida where the 2000 campaign headed off Gore's attempt to overturn the election result in three pre-selected Democratic counties.
On our bus there are people from Broward and Palm Beach and Dade, names to remember as Bush navigates the nation through a perilous war zone. Also important to keep in mind is that Al Gore, couldn't find a voice to help his country for eight months after 9/11. He was too busy deciding who he was and when to shave. When he did emerge, it was only to resume his mean-spirited attacks on the President from the place where he had left off, almost two years before. It was as though for him there was no space to serve his country in between his campaigns to serve himself.
The day's event was held in a large white festival tent set across from a tractor barn. As we passed through security a greeting party was there to receive us, consisting of Rove and Karen Hughes, and White House political director Ken Mehlman, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and RNC chairman Marc Racicot and co-chair Ann Wagner, RNC finance chair Lou Eisenberg and RNC political director Jack Oliver. One participant wore an organge cap with the inscription "W in 2004," which said all that had to be said.
Inside I also met a friend, Josh Bolten, who had been a speaker at one of my "Restoration Weekends" and is one of the President's top domestic advisors. I'm sure Josh played a major role in organizing the Baylor economic summit the week before, but when he asked me what I thought of it I had to say I really hadn't paid much attention. I have regarded all the Democrat attacks on the Administration on the economic front as pretty pathetic, a desperate straining after political straws. The problem is that straws can only break the camel's back when the animal is already near collapse, and this camel -- or elephant -- appears to be as strong as it's ever been.
I asked Josh what he was up to, adding that of course it was a stupid question. His response made me glad I had asked it, however. He said that he had been with the President all month, and liked being in Crawford, "because the President has time relax, and to step back and look at the big picture." This underscores the idiocy of the media's carping at Bush's Crawford retreat. The media is more aware than the rest of us of the mind-numbing schedules that even ordinary politicians, let alone presidents, must follow. In the interests of all of us the press should be clamoring for the commander-in-chief to take more respites than he does.
Rove began the program with a Power Point presentation of the state of the electorate as reflected in the polls. The polls he used were ones conducted "by our friend James Carville" and they told a tale which should buoy Republican hopes in a year that everybody knows puts a lot at stake, and the outcome is up in the air.
For eight months Bush's polls have been 68% or higher and as high as 90. For comparison, there was only one month in the entire 8 years of Clinton's presidency that his approval ratings reached 70%. Currently, if memory serves, Bush's approval ratings among independent voters is still at an astronomical 80%. Also striking is the fact that Carville's polls showed the generic preferences for Congress as even. Rove who has an uncanny eye for statistics from the past recalled that in 1994, the year Republicans took the House after 35 years of Democrat rule, the generic polls showed Republicans 6 points behind at a similar distance from the election.
The polls also showed that voters trusted Republicans more than Democrats not only on defense but on the economy too, and this was after the ceo and accounting scandals that took so many investors and employees down. The public has become much more sophisticated about the economy than it has been in the past, Rove suggested, a by-product of the participation of so many Americans in the stock market itself. Voters do not think that government can make the economy fly, although they do think government can affect it for the worse.
The most impressive Carville statistic, however, was probably that 53% of Americans believe that George Bush favors the interests of working familes and Americans. This fact -- a tribute to Bush's common touch and compassionate outreach -- is going to be a hard one for Democrats to overcome.
After Rove spoke, Karen Hughes gave a more personal talk about her current role as mother and political advisor, and then we lined up around the edges of the tent, and the big vat of peach and blackberry cobbler, for the photo op.
Let me jump ahead here for a moment because the President spoke to us briefly afterwards. He was dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, relaxed and in a good mood. He said that just as he expected he had found that the Presidency meant living inside a bubble. Pause. "But it is a very comfortable bubble." Pause. "The food and travel are good" -- pause -- "and when you're President there's no road rage."
He liked being in Crawford, he said, because he could take a walk and not have people looking at him. He said he never forgot for a moment that the office of the presidency was greater than the man who held it. That he was always conscious that he had the office in trust, and of the privilege it was for him to serve.
It was a short down home speech and he broke its flow frequently for off-the-cuff jokes, which the crowd roundly enjoyed. But its combination of levity, warmth and moral seriousness showed why his popularity has stayed so high so many months after 9/11 -- higher than any president's in history including Roosevelt's after Pearl Harbor. The more Americans get to know this man, the deeper and broader his support will become.
I have been through the presidential photo line on several occasions and know how brief the face-to-face moment can be. Especially since I was with my wife and would be placed beside the First Lady, while she would stand next to him. As I approached him and he flashed a smile of recognition, I had the pending decision over Iraq on my mind, and wanted to say something to him which would reflect how I and others felt about his courage and vision. I was not about to offer him any policy advice. It would be presumptuous and foolish of me to shoot a sound-bite in his direction on such matters.
Those of us who have been privileged to observe George Bush up close -- even as briefly as I have on a few occasions in the past -- know that he is a serious and intelligent man. He is also a man with a moral core who will weigh his decisions carefully, and will digest first the military and intelligence material necessary to make them. You can never doubt the gravity of this man when it comes to the responsibilities of his office. In the end, one's sense of him is that he will make his decision according to what he believes is right, which is the real source of most Americans' confidence in his leadership.
So what I said to him was this: "Your heart is where America is. Trust it and you'll be right." Which he knows anyway, and which is why we have trusted him with our fates.
"So what I said to him was this: Your heart is where America is. Trust it and you'll be right." Which he knows anyway, and which is why we have trusted him with our fates.
I'm glad you enjoyed ir. I wish we'd both been there. LOL
What a wonderful read! This is so refreshing after the constant carping about "the month long vacation", etc.
A bit of local flavor for you -- U.S. Highway 84 runs East/West through McLennan County. You take it west to McGregor and turn right at the stoplight to get to Crawford. The highway has been renamed "George W. Bush Parkway" through Waco, Woodway and McGregor by overwhelming consensus of the city governments. No waiting around here to honor this fine man.
Thanks, I'm trying to stay safe but it is beginning to look like we might be in for a long wait. It is very unsettling.
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