Like Father, like Son: Bush Set to Take Oath

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 19, 2001 | Go to article overview

Like Father, like Son: Bush Set to Take Oath


Byline: Frank J. Murray

George Walker Bush thrived for 54 years in the shadow of George Herbert Walker Bush, but at noon tomorrow, the son will eclipse the father he idolizes.

For the second time in American history, the eldest son of a U.S. president assumes the powerful office previously entrusted to his father. That distinction long was unique to John Quincy Adams, who became the sixth president 24 years after his father and namesake retired as the second.

George W. Bush will become the 43rd president of the United States at the Capitol ceremony conducted by Congress and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Among the thousands of witnesses will be his father, the 41st president and like his son a Republican, and the 42nd president, William Jefferson Clinton, a Democrat whose character both Bushes attacked as a staple of their presidential campaigns.

"I will return honor and dignity to the White House," the younger Mr. Bush said. "The current president pledged the most ethical administration in American history. As it turned out, he fell about 41 presidents short."

He campaigned against Vice President Al Gore as if Mr. Clinton were the opponent, telling voters a Gore victory would be "the equivalent of a third Clinton term."

Mr. Bush - something of a Dick Cavett lookalike who favors the informal Ralph Lauren blue-jeans mode - vows to govern from the Oval Office as he did in two terms at the Texas Governor's Mansion in Austin.

"I'm a person who does in office what I say I will do," Mr. Bush says, citing as proof of candor his notice to Texas voters that he might seek the presidency without finishing his second term. They re-elected him anyway, with a 69 percent landslide.

The new president - who likely will place his $16.9 million fortune in a blind trust - made his money in the oil business and as managing partner of the group that held a 53 percent controlling interest in the Texas Rangers baseball team.

In that job he showed his disdain for letting the courts settle every fight when he stood against 18 other team owners seeking to fire baseball commissioner Fay Vincent.

"It makes no sense to go to the courthouse to determine whether we can change the contract we made with this man," Mr. Bush said.

Unlike many predecessors, Mr. Bush came late to public office, and he is not a lawyer. In his first campaign, a 1978 run for Congress, he won a tough Republican primary and lost to Democrat Kent Hance.

He turned to oil and baseball for the next 16 years and then ran for governor against Democratic incumbent Ann Richards, who derided him as "Shrub" and "Prince George . . . who doesn't have a clue."

But he was elected then and again in 1998 to govern what became on his watch the second most populous state.

Mr. Bush was active in all three of his father's presidential campaigns, including the 1980 effort that led to the elder Mr. Bush serving eight years as President Reagan's vice president.

By announcing the Texas delegation vote at the 1988 Republican National Convention, the younger Mr. Bush had the honor of putting Vice President Bush's nomination "over the top" to oppose Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

In 1991, Mr. Bush took a key role in his father's re-election campaign. After progressively increasing involvement, he engineered the 1992 shakeup of a campaign leadership dominated by a triumvirate of financial and political specialists: general chairman Robert A. Mosbacher, chairman Robert M. Teeter and campaign manager Frederic V. Malek.

Working behind the scenes Mr. Bush cleared the way for James A. Baker III to take over the campaign, just as he quietly had laid the groundwork for the 1991 ouster of chief of staff John Sununu, devoting several weeks to persuading Mr. Sununu that he had become a liability and must resign.

In those days, friends and White House aides called him "Junior," while his father called his fishing and boating partner "Little George. …

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