Bush's backyard bad news

Housing activists and unions blast the Republican's Texas record.

By Alicia Montgomery
July 1, 2000 11:01PM (UTC)
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George W. Bush wants to move into the White House, the nation's most lavish public housing. But some back in Texas say he needs to get his own house in order first. The Washington Post reports that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is plagued by corruption and incompetence, leaving many low-income citizens out in the cold. "It's a genuine, certifiable mess," said developer Robert Bobinchuck, who claims his warnings to the governor's office about favoritism at the agency went unheeded. "This could be the best housing agency in the country. Instead, it's a laughingstock." Far more than a mere civic embarrassment, the organization has come under FBI scrutiny, with several Bush appointees under fire for shady deals and one board member currently under indictment for bribery.

Though the governor's representatives insist that the criticism of the department is politically motivated, housing experts and politicians from across the ideological spectrum have found fault with the agency. "The agency has many problems," said state Sen. Chris Harris, a conservative Republican who co-chaired the state Legislature's bipartisan review of the department. Even parts of the business community find the system fatally flawed, and say Bush shares the blame. "This latest crisis is partly a reflection of a lack of leadership on housing by Governor Bush," said Andre Shashaty, editor of Affordable Housing Finance magazine, a publication for mortgage bankers. "Bush has been extremely blasi about housing and this agency, and during all the time it's needed leadership from him, it hasn't gotten it."

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Labor strikes Bush
The Texas governor has also offered the GOP as a new home for some in the labor movement. Now one of the nation's largest unions has slammed its door on that idea. The Associated Press reports that the AFL-CIO has launched a series of town meetings to inform its members about the low points of Bush's Texas record. "You're hearing a lot about what George W. Bush says he would do as president. But it's time to hear about what he has done as governor of Texas," said union chief John Sweeney. The AFL-CIO has assembled the "Texas Truth Squad," a collection of union workers from Bush's home state ready to tell all about his shortcomings.

The Bush campaign counters that the AFL-CIO is acting as a front for Al Gore to bash their candidate. The organization has endorsed the Democrat, and a visit to their official Web site lends credence to some of the Bush team's complaints. There, the group hammers home the merits of the Gore worker training program and the vice president's proposal for Social Security reform. Texas union members are also invited to email nasty-grams about their lives under the Bush administration to the AFL-CIO. That Web page comes complete with a picture of Bush sporting his infamous smirk.

Bush crosses Hollywood picket lines, union workers
Aside from labor leaders and Gore, the best anti-Bush propaganda is being provided to union workers by, well, Bush. The Texas governor is breaking a pledge to honor the Screen Actors Guild strike by using non-union talent in upcoming campaign commercials, according to a report from Variety posted by Zap2It.com. Bush's decision comes after the union's offer to let him use its workers in spite of the strike. He has requested "real-looking" non-union actors for a New York ad shoot in early July.

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How low can Gore go?
The vice president's prospects have not seemed the brightest lately, and the Economist speculates about whether he's already run out of luck. Public opinion surveys showing a steady Gore slide since the primaries ended, though not scientifically exact, should serve as a serious distress signal to the Democrats. "Polls, of course, are notoriously fickle. They are also lagging indicators, rather than accurate predictors," The Economist postulates. "Even so, the story they tell of the past three months has been one of almost relentless decline for Mr. Gore." While a Ralph Nader surge and a new investigation threat will complicate his race further, Gore still has a chance to regain the momentum before most Americans start paying attention to the race. The magazine's comeback prescription is a careful, balanced plan of economic happy talk, knockout debate performances and a respectful but sure distance between Gore and his boss.

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Gore 46 to Bush 45 (Newsweek June 29-30).
  • Bush 52 to Gore 39 (CNN/Gallup/USA Today June 23-25).
  • Bush 40 to Gore 39 (The Associated Press June 21-25).
  • Bush 49 to Gore 41 (NBC/Wall Street Journal June 14-18).
  • Bush 52 to Gore 40 (Voter.com June 11-13).
  • Bush 50 to Gore 40 (Los Angeles Times June 8-13).
  • Bush 47 to Gore 39 (Zogby June 9-12).
  • Bush 49 to Gore 45 (ABC News/Washington Post June 8-11).

    On the trail
    Buchanan: To be announced
    Bush: California
    Gore: Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois
    Nader: To be announced

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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    Al Gore George W. Bush