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Got Character?

July 25th, 2003

You’re in a Mexican diner in Dallas, Texas. You’re sitting at a table, eating your dinner quietly. At the next table, there is a a couple eating with their four-year-old son at the table.

Suddenly, another man storms up to the small family. He is apparently drunk, and furious. “You fucking son of a bitch!” he shouts at the father. Everyone stops eating and stares at the man. You cringe when you see the young boy.

“I saw what you wrote,” he rants on. “We’re not going to forget this.” You feel shock at this kind of drunken behavior in a public restaurant. You feel sympathetic fear for the man and his wife, being threatened in such an ominous way, as if the man were a member of organized crime and the family could expect thugs to visit them in the night with baseball bats or something.

You might fear the man who stormed in and raved, you might feel disgusted, angry, or perhaps, if you are more compassionate, you might feel pity.

But would you elect him president?

The above incident did in fact happen. It was early April, 1986. The drunk was George W. Bush, and the man and woman with the child were Wall Street Journal editor Al Hunt and his wife, Judy Woodruff. Hunt had written an editorial in which he predicted that Jack Kemp, not George Bush Sr., would win the GOP presidential nomination in 1988.

Think about this person, think about what he did. Drunk or not, could you ever respect a person who did this kind of thing? If someone you knew did something like that, wouldn’t you feel like just not talking to them again? I mean, what kind of person does that kind of thing?

Apologists for Bush try to brush it off as another “youthful indiscretion,” because he had a drinking problem then, and has since turned his life around. But his behavior did not really change.

Consider when bush was governor of Texas, long after he quit drinking.

The case concerned a woman named Carla Faye Tucker. Tucker was a convicted killer on death row, but she was also, like George W. Bush himself, a reformed drug addict and a born-again Christian. She plead for clemency, begged for forgiveness.

Bush, however, was not sympathetic. According to Talk magazine writer Tucker Carlson, Bush mimicked Tucker’s plea for her life. “‘Please,’ Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, ‘Don’t kill me.'” (quote from Time Magazine) During the same interview, then-governor Bush reportedly used the word “fuck” repeatedly throughout the conversation.

Again, would you respect a person who did this kind of thing?

Remember when “character” was the issue in politics, according to Republicans and conservatives in general? It was all about character… but not, apparently, now. The Republican Party shut up about character the moment Bush walked in the door, and for a very good reason. He doesn’t have any. Most people don’t pay attention to what Bush did in his past–but these are not rumors, not fake smear attempts. They are documented facts, and these two are just a small sampling. If most Americans knew exactly who they had allowed take the presidency, they would recoil in disgust.

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  1. July 25th, 2003 at 23:37 | #1

    Very good post!

  2. July 26th, 2003 at 02:43 | #2

    During the election I was 2 months away from voting. I heared all of the jokes about “Dubbya” and snickered and laughed a little, but they were just jokes, right? No – They were much more. I’ve learned that irony & humor are powerful signs of something deeper. Why would we all find something funny about Bush if it didn’t hold some grain of truth? We laughed when Saturday Night Live made fun of Bush for his childlike manners and doofy expressions, but why didn’t we take that image seriously? Bush was a target of ridicule from the very start and yet he became the President. I don’t understand how it happened nor will I ever. Maybe humor had a part to play in this victory. I would chance a guess and say that more people knew Bush’s name because he said things like, “Bring ’em on.” He had the attention of the people because he could be laughed at.

  3. Someone other than Bush ’04
    June 30th, 2004 at 16:47 | #3

    He is a funny guy. SOmetimes this is on purpose, sometimes accidental. Either way he is a criminal and should be in jail. At least he won’t be in office in 6 months.

  4. Sharon T
    October 17th, 2004 at 15:52 | #4

    I have to admit – I was totally beguiled by GWB in the first campaign. From the New Hampshire primary on, I was a Bush supporter. The election itself bothered me, sure. I mean it would have been nice for him to win with the popular vote, and the legal maneuverings were a bit shifty.
    But I was still starry eyed, and thought he was going to make some changes. Well I had a long wait. The first 100 days were absolutely emptry of efforts, but he made a lot of speeches, and it was the “honeymoon” period with the press. Many photo ops, and he surely did not seem to be very articulate nor knowledgable about the way that government runs. Then we had that critical event, documented in so many places. It shocked all of us, I know. For some reason, GW’s voice rang hollow to me. I felt that he had let us down. I mean he was on watch when this happened. Why did he not accept any blame? I mean, didn;t the country blame Jimmy Carter for the Iran Hostage situation? If I asked someone to protect my home, and found it lying in ruins, wouldn’t I have a reasonable expectation that my “protector” would tell me he was sorry that it happened? Further, wouldn’t he have to explain to me how it could happen when he was supposed to be working for me?
    So, I have shaken off my earlier delusion. I now hear his words differently. I have seen the lack of character as a definitive part of his personality. I knew about Carla Tucker, and thought that his explanation at the time (“I have prayed and concluded that the fate of Carla Faye Tucker is best left to a higher power” – Texas Gov. GWBush, 1994 news conference prior to Tucker’s execution.) was legitimate. Just a few years ago I would have read the above as liberal lies. Now it rings true for me. I will try to confirm the reference, if I can find the correct issue of Time. I will not be voting for that lying, inept hypocrite this time around. Unfortunately, he will carry my state (he has a 10% lead in the polls), and – because the popular vote means nothing – my vote (like yours) will not count. Only those electoral votes count, and the science of capturing those is over my head.
    As the election nears, I am also less and less sure that he can be beaten. The Republican party is using every trick they know to beat Kerry, and they will not let a little thing like integrity get in their way. They believe that they are doing the right thing, and the end justifies the means.
    Thank you for this forum. It is a valuable resource.

  5. Luis
    October 17th, 2004 at 17:29 | #5


    Please don’t lose hope in your state. Keep in mind that the polls tend to favor a Republican turnout, often by a 39-34 margin, which in fact in the last two elections Democratic turnout was higher by the same margin, thereby throwing the poll numbers in Bush’s direction. Furthermore, recent polling has not in the least taken into account massive registration and absentee ballot drives, predominantly Democratic; neither do they take into account the youth vote, who usually don’t have landline phones and so are not counted in polling. Neither does it take into account the incredible galvanization among the left.

    Vote. Get all your friends to vote. My mantra this year has been “turnout, turnout, turnout” and I take that very seriously. Turnout will win the election for Kerry, but if people have your view of “my vote won’t count,” then we’ll lose that advantage. Vote if for no other reason than to exercise your duty as a citizen. But don’t let the bastards get you down.


  6. October 18th, 2004 at 23:28 | #6

    I totaly agree… there is no point in respecting Bush.. he sucke big time….

    [the remainder of this message has been deleted for obscenity]

  7. Anne
    October 22nd, 2004 at 05:58 | #7

    Re “Got Character?”: This is about my sense of Bush’s character, and the occasion when I first unmistakably sensed it.

    Although I didn’t vote for him, I sincerely hoped when George W. Bush took office that he would be a good president, and I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But since he’s been in office, in spite of the army of handlers and spinners surrounding him, you now and then get a powerful sense of the real character of this man – and it is scary.

    My opinion of this self-proclaimed-born-again-Christian took a nosedive a while back when I caught on TV a glimpse of him from his days as Texas governor. It spoke volumes, not about his knowledge or intelligence, but about his character. He was right there on the screen in front of me, speaking at a press conference or something. He was actually ridiculing – in a sarcastic, high-pitched whine, no less – the pleas for mercy of another born-again-Christian, the then-about-to-be-executed convict Carla Faye Tucker. I kid you not, he was actually doing this in his capacity as someone who had life-or-death power over her. As governor, he could have justly denied the plea with all the calm dispassion, concerned gravitas, even righteous anger that might have been in his character to offer. Instead, he showed the viewer exactly what he had it in him to offer: offensive ridicule.

    His sneering response to her and her supporters’ pleas sickened and repulsed me. Now, please know that I’m not referring to the appropriately solemn statement about his thoughtful decision to let the execution proceed, which was widely broadcast on TV at the time. No, I’m talking about his vile-spirited mimicry on the podium, which I only happened to catch on TV once by chance, and – strangely – never again since. It’s obvious that this bit of nastiness spewed out of Bush himself with no other help, because no speech-writer in his or her right mind would ever script such an abomination.

    I felt it was outrageous that anyone – much less someone who is now the president of our country – could dismiss in such a breezily abusive manner such a profoundly serious request from people that it was his job to lead.

    Say what you want about the heinous actions for which Ms. Tucker was to be executed, it is distasteful to see any civilized person publicly take so carelessly, so lightly, the loss of a life, even when it’s the life of a convicted murderer – and it’s well-nigh horrifying when the guy who is laughing is the very same guy who, in effect, has his hand on the killing switch.

    I was raised to believe that you’re a callous, cruel bully if you think it’s funny to imitate in a made-up high-pitched voice the pleas of someone about to die whom you have the power to save. In the movies, you’d be one of the bad guys. You know, kinda like the high-powered criminals in the James Bond movies, for example, the bad guy who says with a chuckle and a broad smile as he leaves Bond to his doom, “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to DIE…” (Kinda like, but not exactly like, because Bush was much less suave.) If Bush is the average Joe he would have us believe he is, he’s surely seen enough movies by now to know the difference between heroism and villainy of character.

    And then there’s Bush’s own personal background: a former substance abuser who, we’re told, was redeemed by faith from some questionable acts of his “lost years.” And there he stood, to all appearances the living proof that a man can through grace be redeemed from his actions – and yet he didn’t even have in him the decency to show some respect for the possibility that Ms. Tucker, like him, might have been graced with a new-born goodness worth redeeming! Is this not the act of an executioner who has the smug audacity to believe that his own cruelly jesting nature is better than the penitent one he is executing? What kind of Christian – no, what kind of person is such a man, if not an arrogant hypocrite?

    A grain of sand tells you the character of the rock it came from. In the same way, one little episode can show to you a man’s character. This little episode clearly showed a callous, cruel, arrogant, hypocritical bully, and it frightened me to think that he was now leading our nation. Defend him as you like, it wouldn’t have come out of his mouth if it wasn’t already in his psyche at the time.

    Since then, we’ve all watched our president on the job. His actions and his words, both speech-written and unscripted, have added to my impression of his character, but nothing he has said or done has improved it.

    And now, at a time when so many people are saying they admire Bush because of his character, I ask them to re-consider if a man of Bush’s character is to be admired. I can’t think of any other president in the history of the United States who would think it a mark of good character to sneer sarcastically in public at a prisoner’s miserable fate. Can you?

    It would be a great service to our country if someone could dig the footage of this nasty incident out from whatever news-media basement it’s been hidden in, so that the electorate can take another look with their own eyes at the real character of George W. Bush – on display for all to see, at a time when he was no longer drinking.

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