Bush flunks education test

Schools' record is not quite a winner, and candidates' wallets get thinner. Bush shakes up campaign as Gore does the same, and McCain gets invited to dinner.

By Alicia Montgomery
Published April 21, 2000 7:40PM (EDT)

George W. Bush's education record may be more myth than miracle, according to a report in the Washington Post. National experts say that Bush relies too heavily on scores from the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills in measuring academic progress and that test preparation is given priority over other lessons in many Texas schools. "Texas has got to seriously think about the tradeoffs here," said Walter Haney, a researcher at Boston College who studies test statistics.

The report further asserts that Texas teachers devote class time and after-school and weekend study sessions to helping students cram for TAAS exams. The repetitive nature of the test preparation reportedly drives up Texas dropout rates, and improvement in minorities' TAAS scores doesn't translate to greater achievement by minorities on national exams.

The New Republic led the press in scutinizing the Texas miracle in an earlier article by Jonathan Weisman.

Revamping a Bush-league campaign

The New York Times reports that a group of Washington insiders plans to address problems in the learning curve of the Austin-based Bush team. Amateurish mistakes by the Bush campaign have prompted grumbling among Republican leaders for months, and the inside-the-beltway crowd is charged with bringing the campaign's efforts up to speed.

According to USA Today, several veterans of John McCain's campaign have also signed on with the Bush squad, including former manager Rick Davis and advisors Vin Weber and Ken Duberstein.

Mystery adman gives again

The Washington Post reports that the Republican National Committee pocketed a $100,000 donation from Charles J. Wyly, sponsor of the much-maligned attack ads aimed at McCain in the primary season's waning days. In other money matters, the Associated Press reports that Bush's campaign spent more than $10 million in March, while Al Gore's campaign spent less than $5 million. Though Bush has $6.8 million left, compared with Gore's $3.8 million, the vice president is expecting a boost of $6 million in federal matching funds from the government. Bush has rejected matching funds to avoid having to comply with federally mandated spending caps.

Conservatives comfortable with "compassion"

The Bush campaign's leftward swing won't cost him conservative votes, according to the Washington Times. Despite his meeting with gay Republicans and his relative silence on the issue of family values, Bush retains the trust of politically savvy social conservatives. "I feel our conservatives are getting more sophisticated about the political process," said Lynn Windel, an Oklahoma conservative and Republican National Committee member. "They understand a part of this is that to win the presidency, you have to go claim that middle ground."

Not all conservatives are so forgiving. Former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer seriously faults Bush for what he sees as the Texas governor's tacit endorsement of homosexual rights. Bauer says the meeting with gay Republicans "elevated the gay rights agenda to a level of recognition within the Republican Party that contradicts our long-standing commitment to pro-family values." After dropping out of the race, Bauer endorsed McCain (who met with gays from the Log Cabin Republicans earlier in the race).

Changes at the core of Team Gore

Bush isn't alone in rethinking his campaign lineup. According to the Washington Post, politics watchers should expect major renovations in Gore's team, which now includes controversy magnets Carter Eskew, Tony Coehlo and Donna Brazile. Though the current group is credited with effectively achieving Gore's primary sweep, it has also been tarred with the vice president's meandering campaign since then. Sources report that current top campaign staffers have reinforced Gore's image as a mean-spirited candidate because of their own cutthroat tendencies. "Every sharp elbow in the business is in there," says one consultant of Gore's advisors. Maybe not for long.

Guess who's coming to dinner?

McCain is to be the keynote speaker at a Bush event, reports the Associated Press. Connecticut Republicans invited the Arizona senator to the annual dinner honoring George W.'s grandfather, Prescott Bush. McCain defeated the Texas governor in Connecticut's primary on Super Tuesday.

Bluegrass green

Vowing to bring fresh air to politics and the environment, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader took his race south, according to AP reports. There, Nader cautioned students at the University of Kentucky not to succumb to fashionable indifference to politics. "If you don't turn on to politics, politics is going to turn on you," Nader said. "That's a lesson you may learn the hard way." Recent polls show Nader's long-shot presidential effort gaining steam. Though he's currently supported by only 6 percent of voters, Nader has pulled ahead of Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan.

Tainted cash clean enough for Massachusetts

The Boston Herald reports that Massachusetts Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry will keep checks from Vivian Mannerud, a Democratic donor linked to cocaine trafficker Jorge Cabrera. The Mannerud-Cabrera connection prompted Hillary Rodham Clinton to return Mannerud's $22,000 contribution to her Senate campaign.

Though Kennedy accepted $1,000 from Mannerud, Kerry had closer ties to the Democratic donor; she hosted an $18,000 Kerry fund-raiser, gave $1,000 in donations and arranged foreign travel for Kerry's staff as recently as this month. Though Kerry's advisors warned him that Mannerud's drug connection could prove troublesome, Kerry wasn't swayed. "We accept her word she had no knowledge of Mr. Cabrera's illicit activities," said Kerry spokesman David Wade.

Whom should you vote for?

Take our survey and find out. You might be surprised.

Poll positions

Presidential race:

  • Bush 44 to Gore 42 (Newsweek April 13-14).

  • Bush 45 to Gore 37 (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll April 5-6).

  • Bush 50 to Gore 41 (Gallup/CNN/USA Today April 7-9).

  • Bush 45 to Gore 40 (Marist College April 3-5).

  • Bush 46 to Gore 42 (Zogby April 1-4).

    Vice presidential preferences (previous):

    Preferences for Republican vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):

  • John McCain, 27 percent
  • Elizabeth Dole, 19 percent
  • Rudy Giuliani, 6 percent
  • Christine Todd Whitman, 6 percent
  • George Pataki, 3 percent
  • Tom Ridge, 3 percent
  • Fred Thompson, 3 percent
  • Connie Mack, 2 percent
  • Other, 3 percent
  • Not sure, 28 percent

    Preferences for Democratic vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):

  • Bill Bradley, 27 percent
  • Dianne Feinstein, 10 percent
  • Bob Kerrey, 6 percent
  • Bob Graham, 5 percent
  • John Kerry, 4 percent
  • Bill Richardson, 4 percent
  • Evan Bayh, 3 percent
  • Other, 6 percent
  • Not sure, 35 percent

    New York Senate:

  • Clinton 52 to Giuliani 42 (New York Times/CBS News April 1-5).

  • Clinton 46 to Giuliani 43 (Quinnipiac College March 28-April 3).

  • Giuliani 46 to Clinton 43 (Marist Institute March 27-28).

  • Clinton 45 to Giuliani 42 (Zogby March 23-25).

    On the trail

    Bush: Texas.

    Gore: Michigan.

    Sound off

    E-mail Trail Mix with your comments, suggestions and tips at alicia@salon.com.

  • Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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