...It never seemed likely to me that the big money boys of the GOP would trust their fortunes to the blithering fool they set forth as president. Let's just say that I wouldn't be surprised if some conversations before the fact took place.-Digby 02/04/07
I have long grappled with the question: How did Dead-eye come to be de facto president? In particular, was it always the plan of the Republican power brokers? The short answer is yes, if you start the clock on always in 1998. But the roots of the Junior presidency go back farther than that.
How Junior came to run for president in the first place.
According to Wayne Slater author of "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush", it was Rove, who had worked for Daddy Bush, who first saw Junior as presidential material. Here is how Slater tells the story in 2004 on Frontline.
The first step in Rove's plan to ride Junior to the White House was getting him to run for and win the Texas governership.
The first time I really saw [Junior] was in 1991, 1992, the Republican National Convention, where I would see him on the floor and with the Bush family and so forth. There'd been widespread discussions before 1990 that George Bush was a guy to watch [in] the political landscape. ...
The key instrument of those discussions was a political consultant who was working at the time in Texas, a guy named Karl Rove. Rove was largely unknown outside a small circle of friends in the Republican Party in the mid- and late 1980s. He was involved in various political campaigns. He had worked for the father when the father was with the Republican National Committee.
Rove, in 1990 -- I believe it was February or March or April of 1990 -- was sitting in Austin, Texas, with another political consultant. They were talking about some political campaigns that were on tap that year. And he said, "You know, this guy George Bush, very impressive guy. I think I could make him governor, and here's how you would do it." He explained how it would be done.
"George Bush, very impressive guy, you could make him president. Here's how you'd do it." He already had, in 1990, in effect a sort of early blueprint to make George W. Bush the president of the United States.
I don't think at this point Rove gave any thought to how Junior would govern once he was in office It was unlikely that he even cared; for Rove it was all about the process. He only considered what he needed to do to get his boy to Washington.
Karl Rove increasingly became the political figure in Texas behind the scenes. He represented every Republican. At one point, every Republican who would run for office and win the nomination in Texas had Karl Rove as his client. The one guy he didn't have was George W. Bush, a guy he had known for years, a guy whose father he had worked for and a guy he had to convince, "You can run for governor. And I can make you governor."
George Bush was skeptical. He didn't think he was going to win. He didn't think he could win. George Bush believed the press. The press was that Ann Richards, the incumbent governor, this extraordinarily attractive figure, a national titan, this Democrat who became a star in Texas, was unbeatable. In fact, George Bush's mother even said to him, Barbara Bush said, "You can't beat Ann Richards."
But Karl Rove knew he could, and he basically worked him. He explained to him with the numbers, with the commitment, with the conviction how he would do it. Effectively, what Karl Rove said was, "The numbers are working in your direction. There are people who will vote for you. The Republican Party is emerging as a constituency that can elect you."
"Two, you will run against her in a way that you will never attack her." Whatever we think about liberation and equality and so forth-- The idea, especially in 1994, of a man publicly attacking a woman on a political stage was something that would be political suicide.
Rove went out of his way to make sure that Bush would never appear to attack Ann Richards, at least in public --that everything he talked about would be above board and about policy. And the policy they talked about more than any other policy was her failure as a governor.
The one area where she had failed, in Bush's eyes, was in the area of criminal justice -- people who should be in prison who weren't in prison. The rise of juvenile crime was something that concerned a lot of Texans, although the statistics under the Richards administration basically showed that, actually, by the time she was running for reelection against George Bush, crime was actually falling.
It didn't make any difference, because the campaign, run by George Bush and Karl Rove, convinced people that crime was at its worst. They believed it. It was a weakness. They exploited it brilliantly.
The power brokers step in.
There was something else that was happening politically at the time; not only was George Bush learning the policy that he needed to know if he was going to be a candidate. Karl Rove, his political operative, was putting together the politics, the infrastructure that he needed, which would pay off ultimately in support and money down the road.
He began a front-porch campaign of people from around the country. These are political leaders, mayors, governors -- influential types who would shuttle in and out from different places. They would have little lunches with George Bush. A group from a California and Arizona and Florida would fly in and talk to George Bush as he ostensibly was trying to figure out, "Do I want to run for president? What would happen? Can we talk about this?"
Inevitably, we -- the press -- would be called over to the mansion afterwards. A group would come out, absolutely dazzled by this George Bush person, and would talk about, "He ought to run for president."Bush himself would say, "Well, I'm still thinking about it."... When he was a reluctant candidate, or seemed to be, at a time when in fact he had decided he was going to run for president. This was all show.
Once Rove had begun to sell people on the idea of President Junior, George Schultz summoned the callow Texan to Stanford to give him a look see.
It is highly unlikely that those heavy hitters thought that Junior was suited to be president, but it is not unlikely that they determined Junior would be a suitable front man for an experienced, but unelectable, person who would be the de facto president. By summer of 1998, it looks like they settled on Dead-eye for the job.
According to author James Mann, who wrote the Rise of the Vulcans book about Bush's inner Cabinet, Shultz initiated a discussion with George W. in the Spring of 1998, whereby the future President sat down in Shultz's living room on the Stanford University campus, in order to be vetted (in effect) to run for President.
At that meeting were Martin Anderson, the former advisor to both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan; Abraham Sofaer, a former Shultz aide; John Cogan and John Taylor, two economics professors; and Stanford's provost, and Shultz protege, Condoleezza Rice. After the "scholars" associated with the Hoover Institution indicated that they thought Bush would make a good Presidential choice, Bush invited Shultz, Rice, and Anderson down to Austin, Texas for a follow-up meeting in the Summer. Out of that meeting, which was joined by Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, came the public decision for Bush to run for President.
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