Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Stetson-Size Agenda for Texas INTERVIEW GEORGE W. BUSH

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Stetson-Size Agenda for Texas INTERVIEW GEORGE W. BUSH

Article excerpt

ONE of George W. Bush's first actions as governor-elect of Texas was to fill the job of secretary of state - and upgrade the position.

Tony Garza, a Hispanic judge, will handle the usual duties of overseeing elections and corporate filings. But he will also act as a sort of US secretary of state for Texas, dealing with Mexico and developing border policies.

The addition of a foreign-policy role to the job underscores the importance Mr. Bush is likely to place on ties with his neighbor south of the border - and affairs beyond the state.

In an interview in his transition office here, Mr. Bush, looking governor-elect-like in dark suit, outlined an agenda that encompasses state, national, and foreign affairs. International portfolio

Just hours after his Dec. 1 inauguration as president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon had two visitors in his waiting room - former President George Bush and son George W. The Mexican president promised to do all in his power to ensure best-ever relations with Texas. "I am going to take him up on that pledge," the younger Bush says.

To be sure, dealing with Mexico comes with the governorship. In his enthusiasm for the task, however, Bush is reminiscent of the former president. The two men differ in style, which Bush attributes to his father's formal, elite Eastern upbringing in contrast to his own in Midland, Texas, against a backdrop of "tumbleweeds and dust storms and Little League baseball."

But their philosophical substance - what many describe as conservative without xenophobia - is the same. Where a Ross Perot-type conservative sees risks to avoid in the foreign arena, the Georges Bush see opportunities to embrace.

Make that "enormous opportunities" in the case of Mexico, whose Christmas shoppers are flooding malls in San Antonio and other Texas cities. Bush calls Mexico "crucial" to the Texas economy.

On illegal immigration, Bush takes a strict stand on border enforcement but a compassionate, or at least pragmatic, view of those who slip through.

He commends Gov. Ann Richards, the Democrat he defeated, for suing the federal government over the cost to states of illegals. He calls for the newly Republican Congress to provide the manpower to control the border.

But Bush also says he understands Mexico's anger at California's Proposition 187, which seeks to end most aid to illegal immigrants there. He says he does not share the resentment many Americans feel toward illegals. Having encountered them "all my life," Bush speaks admiringly of those who undergo hardships to come and earn more for their families. Once they are here, it's only "good public policy" for Texas to educate their children, he says. New Federalism

Bush has a short message to Congress on federal-state issues: "Free us."

"One of my missions is to help redefine federalism," he says. He's looking for less federal intrusion and more local control. …

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