Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Gov. George Bush uses minority media as sounding board, hoping to garner presidential support

Texas Gov. George Bush

On September 23, 1998 several African American newspaper editors and reporters were invited to a press conference with Gov. George Bush at the governor’s mansion in Austin, Texas. Bush, who requested the press conference, said he wanted to focus on education in Texas, specifically targeting minority children. He covered other subjects of interest to him, and what he perceived to be important to Texans. The topics Bush covered were specifically slanted toward African Americans. During his time in office Bush had never requested a press conference with minority newspapers. These reporters do not have media credentials to attend press conferences with the larger media.

Bush deliberately excluded the larger media. He wanted to dialogue with various community weeklies. Hispanic reporters and editors did not participate in the press conference. I assumed they were scheduled at a later time to discuss particular topics of interest to their community. Had both Hispanic and African American papers been scheduled simultaneously, Bush would have had a difficult time talking nonstop without interruptions.

The Governor was playful and cordial. He went from serious and semi-serious throughout the interview. Actually, Bush was quite likable, to my surprise. When he spilled coffee on the carpet, he laughed and said, “Laura is going to kill me" as he pretended to clean the coffee stain.

Questions asked of Bush were more like statements than relevant questions. The setting was not a hard hitting press conference, where those present were pushing aside each other to get their own questions answered. It was a perfect setup for Bush, who did ninety-nine percent of the talking. Few questions were asked due to the time constraint, which was probably the plan all along.

Not all African American newspaper owners in Texas attended the press conference, nor did they send reporters. No more than 10 publishers and reporters attended. The absent publishers had made it clear among themselves that they had no desire to attend, declaring it nothing more than Bush playing politics to garner support in minority communities.

One local publisher echoed the sentiment of his fellow publishers when he said, “I already know what he’s going to say. I don't see a reason to go.” The African American media knew that Bush was getting ready to run for president, even though he had not publicly expressed an interest. These editors were not interested in giving Bush free publicity, because his campaign did not purchase ad space in any Black owned newspapers in Texas when he ran for governor. Candidate's running for governor of Texas had always purchased ad space in larger papers as well as community weeklies.

Without knowledge of the editor’s attitudes, Bush refuted their claim when he said he ran for governor to govern Texas, not to run for president of the United States. That confession from Bush was in dispute, given the fact that Karl Rove and strategists connected to Bush were regularly coming to Austin to prepare him for a presidential campaign. Al Gore and Joe Lieberman ended up being the candidates to beat. They won the popular vote; Bush and Dick Cheney won the electoral vote by five votes. This was the presidential election that he said he was not running for.

Gov. George Bush had become "a passionate conservative" while campaigning for his father, presidential candidate George H. W. Bush. He learned that religion was key to winning a presidential election. A born again Christian, Bush pulled the right cards out of deck. He had religious leaders eating out of his hands, and preaching politics from the pull pit.
During the 2000 campaign Bush said, "I feel like God wants me to run for president. I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen. I know it won be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it."

Then came the re-election. Again, Bush used religion and God as a base. And again, with the help of Karl Rove, fat cat Texas money, and a legion of loyal supporters calling themselves the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth--successfully swiftboated Kerry's candidacy, and demolished his Vietnam record. Bush did not step in to disavow or disown the falsified rhetoric until it had served its purpose of discrediting Kerry as a certified soldier in Vietnam.
At a press conference Bush said he had no control of outside groups, or the ads they bought for his re-election. He won the 2004 election. The lies told by the swift boat veterans were discredited in 2006 by one of its own members, who said he had no regrets lying about Kerry's military record.

"I told Texans, if you elected me . . ."

Bush on Compassionate Conservatism and Education in Texas: When you attach the word "conservative" to a person it doesn’t necessarily have a negative connotation. I have worked hard to show that there is such a thing as a compassionate conservative. Because I don't believe you can have a peaceful, hopeful future unless you have compassion in your heart for your fellow man. I worked hard to unite the State of Texas rather than divide the State of Texas. I’ve resisted the politics of putting people in camps; pitting one group of people against another. I don’t see how as a leader you can lead unless people are united toward a common goal.

I set these goals for the State of Texas. I want every child educated. I have been successful to this extent that public education is now a number one priority in the State of Texas. It wasn’t prior to my arrival. You can play like it was, but it wasn’t. It was to the point to where the state’s share of education funding had dropped so low, that we were on the verge of a property tax revolt, which would affect the capacity of education to be funded in the long run.

So I told Texans, if you elected me, I’ll make public education my number one funding priority, and I did for two sessions. We took the lion share of new money that was coming into state treasures and dedicated it to public schools; $4.7 million went into the school system. When I got elected there were something like 30 goals in education. There were so many goals, there weren’t any goals! How could you possibly measure people when you don’t have any clear goals. So now we’ve got four: English, Math, Science and Social Science. When I discovered that one-in-five kids couldn’t read I set a new goal. Now think about that. Your businesses depends upon people being literate. If people can’t read, you’re out of business. The sad thing is, so is Texas.

I know this isn’t fancy. I know it’s not grandiose or unachievable. It’s the most important goal a governor can set, and that is to insist that every single child learn to read. I started focusing the power of this office by telling school districts failure is unacceptable to me. I said we are going to dedicate the time and money to focus on the problem. We’ve rewritten our curriculum. Most of us older people in this room was educated by the use of phonics. It has become out of fashion in the State of Texas. I believe there’s a direct correlation with people not being able to read, and the failure to use phonics in the classrooms.

We rewrote the curriculum to insist upon phonics. For the first time in the state's history, kindergarten teachers and young kids have the capacity to say ‘this child is going to need a little special attention coming up.’ We never had that before. I want to end social promotion. I want to explain why this is the most compassionate approach to a literate tomorrow. Last year in the State of Texas 40,000 kids failed the third grade reading test. I read the third grade reading test. It is a simple comprehension exam that determines whether a child has the basic building blocks for learning. Forty thousand students failed. You know what happened to them? The system just shoveled them through. I don’t know what percentage of African American kids were among the 40,000 or Hispanic kids, but I guarantee it’s predominately minority students.

"Education is my passion"

Somebody said, 'Hey, I don’t have any hope for these kids. I’m moving them through.’ And you know if you don’t get it in the third grade and you go to the fourth grade, there’s a very good chance you’re not going to get it in the fourth grade, in the fifth grade, in the sixth grade. This is unacceptable practice in the State of Texas. And so I’m blowing the whistle on them. I’m blowing the whistle on a system that in some people have said, 'I’ve got low hopes and low standards for the children in our state.' That's opposite of me. I’ve got just the opposite point of view. And so I’m going to dedicate $203 million out the next coming budget to send back to local districts for a child who can’t read, and say stop shoveling them through. 

We’re going to give them special help, special attention, special focus. A literate tomorrow is going to lead to a more hopeful tomorrow, and a more decent tomorrow.
Education is my passion. I’ve got $3.6 billion in my budget that is not always a balanced budget. Now I want you all in the course of this campaign to add up the amount of money being promised by people who campaign. You see, it’s an easy thing to do, to over promises in a campaign. In my surplus, of $3.6 billion is going to go to public education; $2 billion of which is going to relieve property taxes at the local business level. 

Bush on 'Affirmative Access': I believe in affirmative access. That’s what I believe. I don’t believe in quotas. I believe in a system where everything is powered to provide access. I gladly signed a bill that’s involved in the bill . . . it says if you are in the top ten percent of your class in any high school in the State of  Texas you’re automatically admitted to a university in the State of Texas. It’s up to these universities to make themselves desirous for people to attend.

Bush on the Advanced Placement Program: One of my goals is to expand the Advance Program in the State of Texas. In the State of Texas 23,000 children passed the AP exam. The AP Program in Texas is the Advanced Placement Program. You got a kid who passed the AP exam, you’ve got a woman or man where everybody is going to be knocking down your door trying to get them to go to college. You just mark my words. You got kids passing the AP and they are going to be the most desirous, particularly African American kids, young Hispanic kids.

You pass the AP you’re on the most wanted list to the college of their choice in America. We had 23,000 pass the AP last year. That’s not enough. My goal is 100,000 kids passing. If we have 100,000 kids passing the AP across Texas we’re going to bring in a few kids from all walks of life. Here’s what we need to do. I’ve got $18 million in the budget. I want to train teachers on how to teach AP. The governor has the power to set goals. I’m going to start traveling states, saying I want to see how many AP Programs you've got in your districts.
I think the state ought to pay half the cost of an AP kid. An AP exam is about $57. That’s a lot of money to some families. I’m going to line up corporate Texas to pay bonuses to teachers whose children pass AP. If the kids pass the AP it’s like a college scholarship; if they pass the college freshman courses. The State of Texas affirmatively provide access to kids from all walks of life. The best way to do so in my judgment is through an education system that refuses to leave any child behind, and challenges the best and brightest to do the best they can. 

Dallas publisher: Education is the key priority. I've been in education for 15 years. The Independent School District is one of the most arrogant in the State of Texas. African Americans have been very creative in taking the TAKS tests. But African American children are not being educated in Texas. Accountability is not there, and the educational gap is widening.

Bush: Let me stop you there. What he is saying is that there are some gaming the accountability system. By cheating the accountability system you're cheating the children. What accountability is meant to do is to make sure your child is not left behind. It is to make sure we are doing the job. What he is referring to is that in some schools they are giving exemptions; basically exempting kids from the accountability system. And that's been the opposite of my approach. The accountability system is not meant to punish teachers and principals. It's meant to help children. That's the key. 

Hugh Price, from the National Urban League, said I want to come and see you, because of the progress you have made. I want you to know that African Americans test scores on math for the 4th and 8th grades are off charts in the nation. The reason is because we're holding the districts accountable.  There is nothing stronger than accountability. Your advertising revenues must exceed your expenses. That's called accountability.

"Government can do a few things"

Bush on The Economy in Texas: I believe this, and I'm gonna shut up in a minute. I believe economic empowerment is freedom in America. One of my goals is making it easy to own something. I can’t make people want to own something. I do want to make entrepreneurship easier. One of the real challenges in America in the future is how to encourage Black entrepreneurship. I believe we need more ownership in the process. I want people to own their homes.  I know a person's home is sacred. That is what a lot of property tax debate is about. We have renters, and we will always have renters, and that their choice. Over time if people own something they will have bigger a future in the State of Texas. That's where my heart lies right now.

Dallas publisher: Education parallels class. Blacks are on the bottom, and Hispanics are next to the bottom. What we need as African Americans is build good feelings about ourselves. We need to a systematic way of pulling up the masses, socially and economically. There has to be a way to reach out. We need a system of government to reach out. That's why I'm here today . . .

Bush (interrupting):  Yeah. I appreciate that. In my judgment government can’t make people love one another. Government is not the do all to end all. Government ought to try and educate. My judgment is, economic freedom is what you’re referring to.
Publisher, Dallas: You can’t pull yourself up by bootstraps when you don’t have straps. Oftentimes we start at this point, and expect to compete with people who started at the other point.

Bush: I understand that. That's what I'm talking about.  See, I happen to believe that education is the bootstrap, and let me say something right now . . . you realize that if a young African American kid gets out of high school and go to a community college, and take an 18 months associate degree course in high tech manufacturing, there is an incredibly high paying quality job available for that kid.

I convinced Intel to create the curriculum to put in community colleges. Staying in school is the right choice. I understand there are some who aren’t going to accept somebody in our state because of their color, and they are wrong. But I will tell you this . . . I will tell you that young, educated African American can be knocking down doors if he stay in school. They don't believe it but the jobs are out there, but they are. To me that’s the bootstrap. 

Houston publisher: The other priority you touched on is affirmative action. We have to have some access in this arena of development. When you speak of revenues for minorities, we are not getting that . . . 

Bush: Let me stop you there for a minute. I'm glad you brought that up. I've got a good record, and I'm going to stand on it. It may not be as good as my predecessor's, but it's as good as any other Democrat governor in this state's history. Let me tell you what I've done. I've appointed strong African Americans to strong roles, and in many cases I have put them in leadership roles. I'm for full representation for all the people, from all walks of life. I believe in empowering people that can do the job. I've got a good record, and I'm going to stand on it in this campaign. I'm not going to shy away from it. I have a damn good record. A darn good record. (laughter)

Bush on Teen Pregnancy---I think there is another message that we as a society must give, and that is, we must say to our kids don’t have babies out of wedlock. I just saw some recent statistics, and 30 percent of babies were born out of wedlock this year. Ten percent of teenagers, 10 percent of the 30 percent, a third of the babies–are born to teenage moms. The lowest percentage of teenage moms were African Americans girls, much lower than Anglo, and much lower than Hispanics. So the message is getting out somewhere in this state to a particular group of teenage girls.  

We need to get the message out. Why? Because if you have a baby out of wedlock it incredibly difficult on the mom. Generally, it’s some guy that's not willing to pay. The guy says 'Hey man, they’re not my problem. They’re your state problem.' That is a mentality that we all need to work on in order to provide strings for the bootstraps. I don’t care how big your boots are, if you get a baby out of wedlock you’re behind the eight ball. It’s a very difficult assignment.

Bush on Risking Capital in the African American community: I believe government is to create an environment in which people are willing to risk capital. The tax policy in Texas is great. How can we encourage Black enterprise is something I would like to know more about.  How to encourage Black capitalism is going to be the question to determine America’s future in the 21st century. I believe that’s the fundamental issue in the African American community. Texas is a great place to do business. What can a governor do except in a micro sense? I think there is a legitimate role to encourage state businesses to reach out on a mentoring basis to encourage entrepreneurs, if they so choose to produce the services the state needs. I think Texas is the best place in the nation to so business. I know there is racism, but if an African American build a product that is needed, this is a great place to sell your product. 

Austin publisher: You might have to look at micro-government. Once you allocate a lot of money to local regions that money does not get to where it is supposed to get to in local communities. Your two key things that I like is economic empowerment and education.

Bush: I'm open to suggestions on how to encourage Black entrepreneurs. I never really understood why there isn't a Black Tom Thumb (supermarket). I don’t know who the laundry, the dry cleaning people are within the neighborhood. You see, my job is to say to people, 'Texas belongs to you as much as to anybody else.  The future belongs to you. Seize it. The government can’t make people be entrepreneurs. There is not a magic formula for that. We tried socialism in the world. I’m not suggesting that . . .

Dallas publisher: I am suggesting it (interrupts Bush). I think the government and corporate America is financing socialism in the Black community, because they finance one side of the gate. They give all the money to social organizations that talk about more government.

Bush: If your vote is taken for granted, it’s not very competitive, you know why?  You a governor who cares. You may believe me or you may not believe me. But when 95 percent-- I’m just gonna put it in political terms, I don’t care who is running, there is not much bargaining powder politically. That’s why I started my comment by saying I’m the governor for everybody. I didn’t care whether I got five percent of the African American vote, 10 percent or one percent. I’ve done my best to be a fair governor to everybody who is a Texas. And I have.

Austin publisher:  As a Black publisher for the Black Publishers Association, what we need is accountability. Accountability is not trickling down to our community. Corporations are not accountable to us; government is not accountable to us. We need a governor who will make sure that business is accountable to our community.

Bush: Let me stop you there so I can make sure I understand. My first reaction to what you said is that the market place, free enterprise, makes you pretty accountable. Accountability is achieved  . . . you’re accountable by where you shop. You create accountability in free enterprise. Enterprise makes you accountable. You're accountable by where you shop. You create accountability in free enterprise, by where you spend your money.

"I never ran for governor to be president of the United States"

Houston publisher: There is talk that you are thinking about running for president. In light of what has happened in the White House lately, do you think you’re up to that, the exposure, the . . .

Bush (interrupting): You are talking about two aspects of that. One, my life has been personally scrutinized. You don’t run for governor, or your dad for president without having your life scrutinized. I have been a faithful father, a loving husband. I’m a baby boomer, and I’d be the to admit to you, as a kid, a young irresponsible person, I did some things that . . . but the question you’ve got to ask of people my age is: Did you learn from your mistakes? Have you grown up? Are you ready to be a good dad when you have a child? Are you ready to bring honor to the job you do, regardless of what it is? And the answer to those questions is you bet.

Houston publisher (repeating the question): Are you going to run for president?

Bush: That I don’t know yet. Let me say this. I never ran for governor to be president of the United States. I’ve never been one of these guys that said I’m going to run for the 8th grade president, and if I get that, I’m going to be the 9th grade this or some kind of senior home coming king. I ran for governor of the state I love. I know all the speculation’s been going on. I’m just as surprised as you are. I can’t believe these polls. I haven’t been to Iowa or New Hampshire. I’ve been doing my job.

But I’ll tell you what I’m going to base my decision on. Do I want to put my wife and two kids I love the most, through an incredible grind. You see, I know what it’s like. Not one person in this room knows what I know, and what it’s like to be the son of a president. There are great moments and there are lousy moments. And I gotta make up my if I want my wife . . . by the way she would make a fabulous First Lady—if this is something I want to do. It is much harder to be the son of the person than to be the person.

"This is an embarrassment"

Dallas publisher: Do you think the Senate should go on with the impeachment process?

Bush: I think that is really important for people to keep in mind. They ask for my comment on this all the time, and I say this is embarrassing. You turn on the TV, it’s embarrassing. I think it’s too late to stop the process. I think once the process started Congress has the responsibility of doing it in a sober, serious and hopefully, expeditious way. I don’t know whether the president ought to resign or not. That’s up to his judgment to make. It’s up to the president to decide if he is still an effective president. 

I’m not going to make a judgment on impeachment. I take no joy in what’s going on. I recognize this is a guy that beat my father. This is a sad time in America. Any time you mention the word impeachment and president in the same voice it is a sad time. Because one of the things we have been as a nation is a stable nation. We have been a stable democracy. This is an embarrassment.

***Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998. He was charged with two counts perjury and obstruction of justice. He was acquitted in 1999 of both charges after a long and contentious congressional hearing, spearheaded by independent council Ken Starr.