What do Bush, branding and secret societies have in common?

Skull and Bones tries to keep things quiet, Michigan is too close to call and the Democrats debate in Harlem.

Published February 22, 2000 7:52PM (EST)

Both George W. Bush and his father were members of a secret society in Yale called the Skull and Bones, and George W. was a member of a fraternity that branded its members. Slate ties all the threads together around a recent gossip item alleging that the secret society is warning its members against any publicity. Why? Is it fear of harming George W.'s viability as a candidate or a firebreak against a new film titled "The Skulls" that bears an amazing affinity to Skull and Bones?

Down to the wire in Michigan

Michigan and Arizona Republicans go to the polls Tuesday to elect their favorites for the presidential election, but with polls showing John McCain with a clear lead in Arizona, both Bush and McCain are devoting most of their time to Michigan.

The fight for Michigan looks just as dirty as South Carolina, but there isn't enough time for the Michigan race to reach as far to the bottom. Pat Robertson recorded a phone message that accuses McCain advisor Warren Rudman of being "a vicious bigot who wrote that conservative Christians in politics are anti-abortion zealots, homophobes and would-be censors." Meanwhile, ex-Jack Kevorkian lawyer Geoffrey Fieger has been running ads claiming that Bush and Michigan Gov. John Engler are "dumb and dumber." McCain has come out brawling, accusing Bush of "character assassination," while Bush either is turning the other cheek or has decided that the better contrast to make is with President Clinton and Al Gore.

The latest polls show a dead heat. And while some reporters on the McCain beat are depressed that the candidate who injected some verve into the campaign may be down and out, others are finding ways to enjoy Bush's toss the orange game and Time asks what will happen to the Republican Party if he wins.

What is the Gore dance?

The two Democratic candidates engaged in a sharp debate Monday night at Harlem's famous Apollo Theater. The crowd was demonstrative and included a number of prominent celebrities, some of whom spoke frankly to interviewers. Whoopi Goldberg, an Al Gore supporter, said that she "had better put-downs [to make] sitting in my seat" than Gore had.

Bill Bradley and Gore took aim at affirmative action and racial profiling. In a refrain from previous debates, Bradley asked Gore why he hadn't asked President Clinton to issue an executive order to stop racial profiling. Gore shot back, "You know racial profiling practically began in New Jersey, senator." Never mind the fact that presidents have virtually no authority over the nations' highways.

Bradley also accused Gore of being conservative: "What you see is an elaborate what I call 'Gore dance.' It is a dance to avoid facing up to your conservative record." Gore countered with the accusation that Bradley had gone negative and was dividing the party: "The problem is these attacks don't solve any problems. They do divide us as Democrats. They distract us from the real enemy -- the right-wing extremists, Confederate-flag-waving Republicans who are trying to roll back the progress that we have made."

After the debate Bradley picked up another high-profile black endorsement when film director Spike Lee said that he'd appear in a Bradley ad. "Right or wrong, black people think President Clinton can do no wrong," Lee said. "But I don't think that means we should automatically transfer that allegiance from Clinton to Al Gore."

The full text of the debate is available courtesy of the New York Times.


"It doesn't matter how much advice you give someone. It matters how much the candidate takes." James Carville on CBS's "Smoke Filled Room."

Poll positions

The latest post-South Carolina Zogby/Reuters poll shows Bush and McCain neck and neck in Michigan, 41 to 43 percent. Undecided voters could be key -- they account for 11 percent of the total -- but if Republicans come out in force or if non-Republicans don't come out, then McCain could be seriously hurt. The poll assumes that 48 percent of all voters will be non-Republicans.

The post-South Carolina American Research Group poll also gives McCain a statistically insignificant lead, with similar assumptions about voter participation.

On the trail

On Tuesday McCain is in Arizona while Bush remains in Michigan. Gore sits out the day resting in Washington while Bradley campaigns on Long Island in New York.

By Max Garrone

Max Garrone is Salon's Vice President for Operations.

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