My Heart Belongs to Daddy

By Judis, John B. | The American Prospect, August 28, 2000 | Go to article overview

My Heart Belongs to Daddy

Judis, John B., The American Prospect

You can't judge most presidential candidates simply by their retinue of advisers and fundraisers, but Texas Governor George W. Bush may be a special case. Neither major party has nominated candidate with so little national experience since the Republicans sent Kansas Governor and former oilman Alf Landon up against Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were governors when they ran, but they had also participated for decades in national political debates and had accumulated their own opinions and experts and advisers. Except for minor posts in his father's presidential campaigns, George W. Bush has had no experience in national politics.

If he is elected, he will be unusually dependent on those who have this kind of experience. And guess whose administration these men and women will come from. The clearest sign yet of the young Bush's lack of self-reliance came in his choice of former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney as his running mate. Cheney is a charter member of former President George Bush's political fraternity. These former proteges, advisers, and retainers don't necessarily agree on every issue; they haven't been meeting secretly to plot the future, but they do share a common outlook on world affairs--one that would deeply influence another Bush presidency.

The senior Bush's fraternity can best be understood as a set of overlapping circles. Like the rings of spotlights that shine down on a figure skater, they promise to bathe the young Bush with the same colored light as his father. One circle consists of hundreds of former Bush administration aides and officials. These include Cheney, retired General Colin Powell, former National Security adviser Brent Scowcroft, former National Security aide Condoleezza Rice, former White House policy adviser and Federal Reserve appointee Lawrence Lindsey, former Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz, and former State and Treasury official Robert Zoellick. Lindsey is the young Bush's chief economic adviser; and Rice, Wolfowitz, Scowcroft, and Zoellick are his chief foreign-policy advisers.

The second overlapping circle consists of investment and corporate consulting groups that have been established by Bush pere alumni and that could be expected to influence and to stock a new administration. At the forefront is Washington's Carlyle Group, which employs former Bush officials Jim Baker and Richard Darman, and the former president himself, who has traveled on behalf of the investment group to Asia and the Middle East. Also important are the Thayer Capital, founded by Fred Malek, who ran the 1988 Republican convention and managed Bush's 1992 campaign; the Atlantic Partners, founded by Bush's former NATO Ambassador Alton Keel; and the Scowcroft Group and its satellites, which employ a host of former Bush administration officials. These groups of what Michael Lewis called "access capitalists" specialize in promoting foreign investment in countries like China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, where the key to success is access to foreign government officials.

The third circle comprises men who, like Bush the elder, have become rich off the oil industry--whether as drillers, refiners, suppliers, corporate lawyers, financiers, or landowners. They range from Cheney, the CEO of Halliburton, one of the world's largest oil equipment companies, to Kenneth Lay of Enron, a Houston oil producer and services company, to Saudi Prince Bandar and the royal family of Kuwait. Through his brief career in business, George W. Bush has also acquired some oil contacts himself, including Don Evans, who is his finance chairman, and Dallas investor Richard Rainwater. These CEOs, bankers, lawyers, and investors probably constitute the single largest donor group to his presidential campaign. You can't discover that from looking at Federal Election Commission records because many oil-related donations come from law firms like Houston's Vinson & Elkins or Dallas's Jenkens & Gilchrist, which depend on energy clients.

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