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George W. Bush: 7 Minutes of Unfit Command

It is a mainstay of TV’s situation comedy formula, a story line familiar to generations of Nielsen households. A primary character expresses overconfidence, and is dismissive when questioned about their preparedness for an upcoming momentous event. Fast forward to said pivotal scene, and we find the character pale and speechless, sporting the proverbial ‘deer in the head lights’ stare, as the hilarity ensues.

That was my first impression, as I watched the 7 minutes of never before seen footage of George W. Bush, in that Florida classroom on 9/11, featured in Michael Moore’s powerful documentary. Which begs the following question – what can possibly prepare you - as Commander In Chief of the last superpower - for the moment when your Chief of Staff leans over and tells you the country is under attack? What details of your life experience give those who have entrusted you with such a heavy responsibility, the confidence that you’re equal to the task?

George W. Bush certainly had an ideal blueprint, albeit a daunting one to replicate. The following is from Maureen Dowd’s Bushworld:


“Even as he acted out with alcohol and pranks and a lackadaisical record at school and the National Guard, W. was also emulating his dad’s stuffed resume-Yale, Skull and Bones, fighter pilot, Midland oilman, politics-and usually falling short. Where his dad was captain of Andover’s soccer and baseball teams and Yale’s ’48 baseball team, W. had to settle for head cheerleader and self-appointed role of ‘Stickball Commissioner’ at Andover.”
- Bushworld, M. Dowd, Introduction pgs 11-12


George W. Bush’s short, but lucrative stint as a Texas bidnessman of several hats, reads glowingly at the hands of a Republican Party biographer, a palpable taste of Midland, Texas oilfield dirt and tumbling tumbleweed included. However, in a chapter entitled Life in the Oil Patch: Bush’s Oil-Field Career, from Molly Ivin’s Shrub, we’re given insight and a historical perspective, on when the young Bush (CEO, owner, entrepreneur) meets adversity. From 1978, in the ‘by-God West Texas awl bidness’, on through to his parting of ways with Harken in 1990, his losing streak of failed business ventures (mainly due to ineptness or inattentive management style), were all bailed out or rescued by wealthy friends of Bush 41. More surprisingly, W. always seemed to emerge from yet another business debacle of his making, wealthier in cash and future contributors.

As you watch George Bush during those telling 7 minutes, the obvious fear and the very strong sense that none of his spinning cylinders were making contact, exposes one more weakness – a lack of empathy.

In 1998, the Texas House overwhelmingly passed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Bill. Named for the Black man who was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to his death the previous summer, the bill extended special hate crime sentencing guidelines, and expansion of the Death Penalty. Bush not only opposed the bill saying:


‘…all crimes of violence are hate crimes…’ ‘Then he quietly worked to keep it bottled up in a Senate Committee…’
-Shrub, M. Ivins pg. 98

Due to enormous pressure on the Texas Legislature and the mounting unfavorable media attention, the bill finally made it’s way to Gov. Bush’s desk – which he refused to sign. Bowing to political pressure, Bush agreed to meet with Renee Mullins (daughter of James Byrd Jr.), who had been flown in from Hawaii to lobby the Legislature. Again, from Shrub:


‘It was probably a mistake. According to Diane Hardy-Garcia (lobbyist for the Lesbian & Gay Political Caucus) who accompanied Mullins to the meeting, the governor seemed very uncomfortable. Mullins asked Bush why he opposed the bill, and he told her he hadn’t read it. “She gave him a copy and he threw it on his desk,” Hardy-Garcia said. Then she asked, “Will you help us? He said, ‘No.’”

“She was crying, and he didn’t try to console her or even offer her a Kleenex,” Hardy-Garcia said. “He was cold, icy, to her.” Shrub, M. Ivins pg. 100

Posted by Bert M. Caradine at September 10, 2004 8:29 PM