W. as Hamlet

The Texas governor suffers chronic angst over his dad, who paved his way but never told him about condoms. The military blows off Bush, and the polls stay even.



Alicia Montgomery
September 11, 2000 3:35PM (UTC)

As part of his comeback plan, George W. Bush declared that he wants to get to know more "real people." American voters can get to know plenty about him through an intensely personal profile in the New York Times that paints the Texas governor as a Daddy's Boy . "What makes him tick?" asked Bush family friend. "It's Daddy. Daddy allows him to do things and achieve ambitions that he would not do on his own. Daddy is the motivation -- to please his dad." Bush followed his father's footsteps through school, business and even romance, trying to duplicate the former president's young marriage to Barbara by getting engaged during his junior year at Yale. That didn't work out.

Though the profile largely sticks to events within the public domain, one or two cringe-worthy details creep into the text. For example, in a section lifted from a 1992 interview, Bush complains that his father's famous reserve impeded their early relationship. "We never had 'the talk,'" Bush said, adding that the elder Bush didn't suggest condoms for his playboy son. "He never told me to wear a 'raincoat' or anything."

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Marching out of time
Bush has made a big campaign issue out of the president's sloppy handling of protection -- on a national scale. But Time magazine reports that the armed forces are resisting the Republican candidate's embrace. According to Time's Mark Thompson, the Pentagon doesn't like hearing Bush tell the American people -- not to mention international allies and enemies -- that it can't cut the mustard. So military officials have been aggressive in refuting the Texas governor's allegations that any part of its forces are not ready for duty. The story further asserts that Bush's "soft on defense" tactic could backfire in his race against Al Gore should voters read the fine print of their plans. Gore pledges to increase military spending by $100 billion in the next decade, more than double the budget boost requested by Bush.

Bush back on the offensive
The Texas governor prepared to redouble his efforts against Gore after resting this weekend at his ranch. According to Reuters, Bush will launch a "policy offensive" this week, with visits to cafeterias and coffee shops in key states hyping his new "real plans for real people" campaign approach. "The governor will launch a policy offensive and tread on Democratic turf," spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Saturday. "The settings will be much more informal and he will interact with real people who will benefit from our real plans."

Polls stay level
The vice president has led a charmed life on the trail since the Democratic Convention. Though the latest polls confirm that Gore's bounce has solidified, the race remains super tight. As usual, the Newsweek poll painted the rosiest picture for Gore, showing him up 47 to 39 percent over Bush, with a four point margin of error. But other surveys show the race much closer. According to the most recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, Gore is beating Bush 47 to 44 percent. In that survey, the Green Party's Ralph Nader earned 2 percent, and the Reform Party's Pat Buchanan trailed with 1 percent. The latest NBC-Wall Street Journal survey has the Democrat ahead 45 percent to Bushs 42 percent with a 2.2 point margin of error. Nader drew 4 percent support and Buchanan languishes at 1 percent.

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Stiff man woos Joe sixpack
Gore's greatest hope for building his lead is regaining the support of "Reagan Democrats," specifically, blue-collar men. The Washington Post reports that these voters are slowly shifting their allegiance to Gore, despite early flirtations with Bush. "I'm liking him more, the more I see of him. I wasn't sure where he stood at first. As vice president, he was kind of hidden away," said Steve Burroughs, 48, a public school teacher who was once laid off from an AC Delco spark plug plant. "Gore's more aggressive, more aggressive as far as economic issues are concerned." But not everyone is won over by Gore's new populist message. "I like Gore a little more than I don't like Bush. He's the lesser of two evils," said retired auto worker Charlie Williams. "There is something about Gore that just doesn't set right with me. He's trying to put on a show now. I just don't trust the man."

With friends like these...
Incidents like the Buddhist temple fundraiser are a big part of lingering voter distrust of Gore. Maria Hsai, who organized that event, said Gore should stop apologizing, and start celebrating that visit, according to the Associated Press. "He shouldn't feel embarrassed or ashamed of relating to the temple," Hsia told The New Yorker magazine in her first interview since her March conviction for making false statements in the case. "He should feel very proud of himself." But Hsai sounds like many good government activists when she talks about the difference between the major party candidates. "All politicians are cowards," she said. "But they could be better cowards."

On the trail
Buchanan: No public events.
Bush: Florida.
Gore: Ohio and Illinois.
Nader: To be announced.

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Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Gore 45 to Bush 42 (NBC-Wall Street Journal Sept. 7-10).
  • Gore 47 to Bush 44 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Sept. 7-9).
  • Gore 47 to Bush 39 (Newsweek Sept. 7-8).
  • Gore 46 to Bush 40 (Reuters/Zogby Sept. 4-6).
  • Gore 47 to Bush 47 (Washington Post/ABC News Sept. 4-6).
  • Gore 49 to Bush 39 (Newsweek Aug. 30-31).
  • Gore 45 to Bush 44 (CBS News Aug. 18-20).
  • Bush 48 to Gore 39 (Los Angeles Times Aug. 11-13).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (NBC-Wall Street Journal Sept. 7-10).
  • Nader 3 to Buchan 1 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Sept. 7-9).
  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 2 (Reuters/Zogby Sept. 4-6).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Washington Post/ABC News Sept. 4-6).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Newsweek Aug. 30-31).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 2 (Los Angeles Times Aug. 11-13).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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