Profile- George W Bush: The Cowboy Who's Gonna Round 'Em Up ; Results, Not Ideology, Are What the Presidential Candidate Will Promise Republicans at This Week's Convention. but Will His Texan Charm Placate the Far Right?

By Marshall, Andrew | The Independent (London, England), July 3, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Profile- George W Bush: The Cowboy Who's Gonna Round 'Em Up ; Results, Not Ideology, Are What the Presidential Candidate Will Promise Republicans at This Week's Convention. but Will His Texan Charm Placate the Far Right?


Marshall, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)


Deep in the heart of Texas, according to the old song, "the stars at night are big and bright". George W Bush, the Republican candidate for President of the USA, is neither. At 5ft 11ins, he is a good two inches shorter than Al Gore, his Democratic opponent, and nearly four inches shorter than Bill Clinton. And his frequent gaffes have given the impression of a man who, while by no means an idiot, is not the sharpest tool in the shed.

But he sure is a Texan. And Mr Bush will frequently remind us of that at the Republican convention this week, telling us in his west Texas drawl how much he loves Emerka, explaining his sussesses, and setting out why he wants to be Prezdint. His very nickname, Dubya, comes from the west Texas pronunciation of his middle initial.

Yet his relationship with Texas - which is both profound and ambiguous - says a lot about this man, and the curious paradoxes of his personality. It helps to explain why some people see him as the best hope for his party to recapture the White House after eight years of Bill Clinton; but others regard him as nothing more or less than a tool.

Through his youth, his early years in business, his time as Governor of Texas and now his run for the White House, Mr Bush has always had to accept comparisons and contrasts with his father. George Bush, the patrician who ran the Republican Party, the CIA and then the country, was loved by many, who saw him as the standard- bearer of old-fashioned Republicanism, conservative but not ideological. Others loathed George the father, the emblem of upper- class East Coast wimpishness and privilege.

George the son wants and needs to transcend both images, and his strong links with Texas - stronger than those of his father, brought up in the north-east - help to do that. "Unlike his father, George W Bush will never have to fend off accusations that he lacks Texas roots," wrote Clifford Pugh of the Houston Chronicle. "While the Texas governor doesn't have Lyndon Johnson's deep drawl, there are traces of his west Texas upbringing in almost every syllable."

That Texas drawl symbolises two other things as well. Mr Bush is not part of the semi-permanent Washington population, the crowd of lobbyists, hacks, politicians and lawyers who run the country. He is, like Bill Clinton, part of the wider America; Mr Gore was brought up in a luxury hotel in Dupont Circle, a 15-minute walk from the White House.

And Mr Bush has his roots in business, not politics. He ran an oil company; he has got his hands dirty. And he ran a baseball team, the Texas Rangers. He understands how the numbers have to add up, and he is more concerned with getting results than with ideology. That is the message, one with which Mr Bush will hope to heal the many entrenched divisions between the centre and the right of the party.

These messages will be embedded in this week's convention, in the videos, films, speeches and off-the-record briefings with which the party will launch Mr Bush on the trail to the White House. He "has mellowed into the noble underdog, champion of Everyman, populist and smart", says the Washington Post, quoting Karl Rove, Mr Bush's Macchiavellian campaign advisor. "He got his values from Midland, Texas, where people don't care if you went to Yale, or what your name is - where you get ahead based on hard work and luck."

There is an element of truth in it; but much to gainsay it as well. And one of the main exports of Texas, let us not forget, alongside oil and cattle, is myth. It is not for nothing that it has given us some of the most enduring cultural images of America - the cowboy, the Alamo, the oilman and the cattle baron - but also some of its most modern cultural icons: the western novels of Larry McMurtry or Cormac McCarthy, the television show Dallas or Willy Nelson's bitter-sweet music.

Mr Bush is a Texan, in the sense that he was brought up there.

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Profile- George W Bush: The Cowboy Who's Gonna Round 'Em Up ; Results, Not Ideology, Are What the Presidential Candidate Will Promise Republicans at This Week's Convention. but Will His Texan Charm Placate the Far Right?
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