Cover image for Shrub : the short but happy political life of George W. Bush
Shrub : the short but happy political life of George W. Bush
Ivins, Molly.
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[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Thorndike, Me. : Thorndike Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
587 pages ; 23 cm
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F391.4.B87 I84 2000B Adult Non-Fiction Large Print

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When it comes to reporting on politics, nobody does it smarter or funnier than bestselling author Molly Ivins. Here she focuses her Texas-size smarts on the biggest politician in her home state: Governor George Walker Bush. A candidate of vague speeches and an ambiguous platform, Bush leads the pack of GOP 2000 presidential hopefuls; "Dubya" could very well be our next president. What voters need now is an original, smart, and accessible analysis of Bush -- one that leaves the "youthful indiscretions" to the tabloids and gets to the heart of his policies and motivations. Ivins is just the woman for the job.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As the primary season continues, information on leading presidential candidates should attract library patrons. Syndicated columnist Ivins joins Dubose, editor of the Texas Observer, in a timely if critical portrait of the GOP front-runner. The authors have found humor in Texas politics for a generation; they don't share Bush's ideology but give him credit for notable political skills and serious work to improve public education funding and oversight. The narrative skips Bush's childhood, briefly covers his pre-governor roles in the National Guard, oil business, and baseball, discusses the 1994 and 1998 gubernatorial elections, Bush's attitude on religion and "compassionate conservatism," and his performance on issues like the environment, education, crime, campaign finance, and income inequality. No tabloid-style revelations here; just solid (though partisan) analysis of governance issues that should become more important as campaign 2000 continues. Ivins and Dubose clarify subjects Bush might prefer to leave fuzzy, so Shrub will aggravate Bush's supporters and delight his opponents. Newsweek Washington correspondent Turque takes on Democratic front-runner Al Gore, providing a more traditional biography of Gore from birth to the current campaign. The author did not interview the candidate and his wife, but he was able to interview Gore's parents (whose roles are central in his analysis of the younger Gore's development) and more than 200 other sources. Turque ties together the sometimes complex details of Gore's life gracefully, but he occasionally slips into the snide, "gotcha!" tone too many media types use, especially when he's psychoanalyzing his subject. Still, this is a better written and more balanced book than Bob Zelnick's recent hatchet job (Gore: A Political Life [BKL Ap 15 99]). --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

Colorful, popular and very Texan syndicated columnist Ivins (Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?) takes on Republican front-runner "Dubya" Bush in this short, informative, fun and obviously partisan political biography. The book is designed to make liberal readers laugh (and vote) and to make moderates change their minds. Behind the down-home style and tasty jokes, Ivins and DuBose (who edits the Texas Observer) lay out plenty of well-documented dirt on GWB's career--though it isn't nose candy they're after: instead, the authors make a case that the affable governor has climbed ladders, traded favors, bent rules and enriched himself, without doing much for the people he governs. W.'s oil ventures "lost more than $2 million of other people's money," netted him $840,000 and tied him to international banking scandals, say the authors. Former Texas governor Ann Richards, plus settlements from tobacco litigation, they say, brought the state the fiscal well-being for which W. takes credit. The authors claim that he's spent his own term repaying political favors, "protect[ing] major air polluters," ending successful drug treatment programs, hurting the working poor and executing the mentally retarded. For Ivins and DuBose, "Dubya's" real accomplishments--besides his last name--lie in his sense of political timing and positioning: while his views make him "a CEO's wet dream," his manner, his often-touted religious beliefs and his savvy advisers help him appeal to "gay-bashing gun-toters" too. Ivins combines a liberal worldview, a sense of the ridiculous and a just-folks delivery--and enough work like hers might just derail the Bush train. But don't bet on it: "This guy is not just lucky: if they tried to hang him, the rope would break." First serial to Time magazine. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

George W. Bush, or "Dubya," gets skillfully skewered by political writer/humorist Ivins in this devastating, funny, and highly informative political biography of a leading Republican contender for President. Ivins, with journalist Dubose, presents the embarrassing story of how Dubya avoided the draft and service in Vietnam (with the help of his father's influential friends), his many failed ventures in the oil business (only to be repeatedly bailed out by his father's influential friends), and his dubious activities as part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team (where once again his father's influential friends helped out) and offers a fairly detailed account of his short tenure as governor of Texas (a state with a weak governor system). Ivins makes Dubya look like the dim afterglow of his more accomplished father, though she does concede that Dubya is an excellent fund raiser and a good campaigner. This biting political biography is well written, witty, engaging, biased, and important. It cuts deep into the flesh of the man who might be the next president of the United States. As such, it is an important book for citizens and pundits alike. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/99; the first serial went to Time.]--Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Young political reporters are always told there are three ways to judge a politician. The first is to look at the record. The second is to look at the record. And third, look at the record. The method is tried, true, time-tested, and pretty much infallible. In politics, the past is prologue. If a politician is left, right, weak, strong, given to the waffle or the flip-flop, or, as sometimes happens, an able soul who performs well under pressure, all that will be in the record. So here we are, with a record about property-tax abatement and tort reform, and if that's not a by-God recipe for bestsellerdom, you can cut off our legs and call us Shorty. Can't you see it now, poor ol' Random House touting this book: "Read all about George W Bush's thrilling adventures with the school-equalization formula, his amazing reversals on the sales tax, and most exciting of all, his tragic failure to take a stand on the matter of 150 versus 200 percent for the CHIP program." The political career of W Bush is a fairly funny yarn, on account of being the son of a former president is not ... how to put this ... not actually sufficient job training for the governance of a large state. Fortunately, in Texas, this makes no difference. Unqualified to govern Texas? No problem! The single most common misconception about George W is that he has been running a large state for the past six years. Texas has what is known in political science circles as "the weak-governor system." You may think this is just a Texas brag, but our weak-governor system is a lot weaker than anybody else's.* Although the governor does have the power to call out the militia in case of an Indian uprising, by constitutional arrangement, the governor of Texas is actually the fifth most powerful statewide office: behind lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, and land commissioner but ahead of agriculture commissioner and railroad commissioner. Which is not to say it's a piddly office. For one thing, it's a bully pulpit. Although truly effective governors are rare in Texas history, a few have made deep impressions and major changes. Besides, people think you're important if you're the governor, and in politics, perception rules. Of course Texans still think their attorney general, the state's civil lawyer, has something to do with law enforcement too. During Bush's first term, the lieutenant governor was a wily old trout named Bob Bullock. By virtue of the constitution and the Senate rules, plus knowing where all the bodies were buried and outworking everyone else, Bullock was the major player in state government. Dubya got along just fine by doing pretty much what Bullock told him to; Bullock became Dubya's mentor, almost a father-son deal. The day Bullock announced his retirement, Bush stood in the back of the room with tears running down his face. Bullock, after a lifetime in the Democratic Party, endorsed Bush for reelection in 1998. Bullock died in June 1999, to mixed emotions from many. At his funeral, one fatuous commentator said of the rainy weather, "The skies of Texas are weeping because we bury Bob Bullock today." This caused a state senator to inquire sotto voce, "So what did Bullock have on the weather god?" A political record is a flexible creature, and by custom the pol is permitted to burnish his own and to denigrate his opponent's. The record is often used to fool voters. You say your man was for a certain bill, but was he for it before the amendments or after the amendments? Did the amendments gut the bill or strengthen it? In the case of an executive, you can say your man favors such-and-such a measure, but if he does nothing to help it pass-no phone calls, no face-to-face, no threats, no promises, no pleading about how we really, really need to win this one for the Gipper or the greater good; indeed, if the pol quietly lets it be known that no mourning will ensue in his office should the thing die a premature death-then of what merit is his public statement of support? It's not easy to find the point at which the acceptable stretcher becomes a flat-out whopper, or when emphasizing the positive goes so far it becomes a hopeless distortion of reality. In Bush's case, largely because of the weakness of his office, the hardest task is to find any footprints at all. He has walked most lightly on the political life of the state. And where one can find his mark on a bill or a policy, it often turns out to have been more strongly shaped by others. What does emerge from Bush's record is that he has real political skills, and those are not to be despised. Politicians rank so low in the public esteem these days, practically the easiest way to get elected is by claiming you are not a politician. "I'm an undertaker! I know dog about politics! Vote for me! " Bush's resume in office may be slim, but he has worked in and around campaigns for years, knows a lot about the political side of politics, and is good at it. The extent to which credit for his performance should actually go to Karl Rove, the political consultant known as "Bush's brain," is simply unknowable. Bush's shrewdest political stroke has been a careful wooing of the Hispanic vote. Texas becomes majority minority (now, there's a phrase) in 2008, meaning that blacks and Chicanos combined will outnumber Anglos, according to the demographers at Texas A&M. So wooing the Hispanic vote may seem like a no-brainer, but as you know, Republicans have not, traditionally, bothered much with people of hue. And as that doofus Pete Wilson proved in California, not all Republican governors are bright enough to see the opportunity there. Bush's second masterstroke has been to straddle the divide between the Christian right and the economic conservatives in the Republican Party, and that is a doozy of a split. In Texas, the Republican Party is owned by the Christian right: the party chair, the vice chairs, and everybody on down. When they won in 1994 they kicked out all the old-guard Texas Republicans, those in the school of George Bush the Elder-somewhat patrician, WASP, faintly elitist or Eastern. On the Christian right, such folks are known sneeringly as "country club Republicans." Republicans don't like to talk about class, but there's clearly a class subtext to their internal fights. W. Bush is himself a born-again Christian who wants a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion, although he seldom mentions that in front of a general audience. During his father's presidential campaigns, W. Bush was detailed to handle the Christian right, so he has years of experience in working with them. In addition, Rove has positioned him carefully toward the Christian right on a series of nasty but largely symbolic issues in the Texas Legislature. On the other hand, if Bush were perceived as being a creature of the Christian right, he'd have a hard time in a general election, so the masterful straddle has been keeping a moderate face on the Texas Republican Party while keeping the Christian right happy. Bush's record is actually more to the right on social issues than his image suggests, and that includes some of his more eye-popping appointees to what would be a cabinet if we had a cabinet form of government in Texas, which we don't. Of Bush's credentials as an economic conservative, there is no question at all-he owes his political life to big corporate money; he's a CEO's wet dream. He carries their water, he's stumpbroke-however you put it, George W. Bush is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America. We don't think this is a consequence of political calculation; it is more a consequence of his life experience, political thinking, and party affiliation. We can find no evidence that it has ever do what occurred to him to question whether it wise to big business wants. He is perfectly comfortable, perfectly at home, doing the bidding of big bidness. These are his friends, and he takes care of his friends-sign of a smart politician. That this matches up nicely with his major campaign contributions is a happy synergy for Governor Bush. Where Bush is weak is on the governance side of politics. From the record, it appears that he doesn't know much, doesn't do much, and doesn't care much about governing. The exception is a sustained effort on education, with only mixed results. In fact, given his record, it's kind of hard to figure out why he wants a job where he's expected to govern. It's not just that he has no ideas about what to do with government-if you think his daddy had trouble with "the vision thing," wait till you meet this one. For a Republican, not wanting to do much with government is practically a vision in itself. Trouble is, when you aren't particularly interested in the nuts and bolts of governing, you end up with staff-driven policy. When someone comes in to see you about the gory details of home health-care payments or jobtraining outreach, it's all very well to give a disarming gesture of "I give up," as Bush is wont to do, and announce, "I don't know a thing about it; you'll have to talk to So-and-So on my staff." Delegation is a many-splendored thing for any executive, but it only works if old So-and-So understands the problem himself and has any idea what you expect him to do about it. To this end, it is helpful if you, the chief executive officer of the political entity, do not, as a regular thing, take a couple of hours off in the middle of the day to work out and play video games. From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush by Molly Ivins, Lou DuBose All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. xi
Class Act: The Texas National Guard and Running for Congressp. 3
Life in the Oil Patch: Bush's Oil-Field Careerp. 19
Prestanombre: Bush and Baseballp. 34
Campaign '94: Bush v. Ann Richardsp. 43
Dubya, Billy Graham, and Mel Gabler: Bush and Religious Beliefp. 57
Compassionate Conservatism: Bush and the Christian Rightp. 71
Capitol Crimes: Bush and the Legep. 84
Is the Air Cleaner? Bush and the Environmentp. 107
The Bright Spot: Bush and Educationp. 122
We're Number One: Bush and Criminal Justicep. 141
Political Free Speech: Bush and Campaign Financep. 156
Juntos Podemos: Bush and the Rio Grande Valleyp. 169