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Terrible Waste

It has been noted that little difference can be detected between the presidential candidates our two-party state has vomited up for us this year. To help the conscientious voter distinguish Gush (the squinty one) from Bore (the stiff one), we have here collected some of the more memorable utterances of Republican candidate and erstwhile Texas Governor Gush.

What is perhaps most remarkable about these quotations is the unflattering story they tell about American public life: that in the land of the free, a charming and, under the right circumstances, perhaps not entirely repulsive man, born something of a simpleton, who might in a rationally ordered universe be usefully employed as a fence post or a dinghy, can, with the help of family connections and gads and gads of money, attend elite universities and go on to profitably purchase a professional baseball team, the governorship of a very large state and, quite possibly, the highest post in the known world. Read this, then, not primarily as an attack on Gush -- or, God forbid, as an endorsement of Bore -- but as an indictment of an entire system that, contrary to our nation’s dearest myths, unfailingly helps the shit float to the top. This is perhaps what Gush meant when he enigmatically declared, ”There is a problem part in America.“

You‘ll see why, if you’re looking for an intelligent candidate, it might be better to write in the name of your neighbor‘s parakeet in November.

Why would a man such as Gush -- with far more money than any one man deserves; with more than enough people to boss around; completely lacking in vision, ideas or even rudimentary literacy; by all accounts sober -- want to be president? He explains: ”I’ve got a reason for running. I talk about a larger goal, which is to call upon the best of America. It‘s part of the renewal. It’s reform and renewal. Part of the renewal is a set of high standards and to remind people that the greatness of America really does depend on neighbors helping neighbors and children finding mentors. I worry. I‘m very worried about, you know, the kid who just wonders whether America is meant for him. I really worry about that. And, uh, so, I’m running for a reason. I‘m answering this question here, and the answer is, you cannot lead America to a positive tomorrow with revenge on one’s mind. Revenge is so incredibly negative. And so . . . I‘m going to win because people sense my heart, know my sense of optimism and know where I want to lead the country. And I tease people by saying, ’A leader -- you can‘t say, follow me, the world is going to be worse.’ I‘m an optimistic person. I’m an inherently coherent person. I‘ve got a great sense of where I want to lead, and I’m comfortable with why I‘m running.“

In a particularly candid moment in February, Gush was more concise: ”If you’re sick and tired of the politics of cynicism and polls and principles, come and join this campaign.“

He has made some intriguing statements about his own background: ”I understand small-business growth. I was one.“

About his aspirations: ”The most important job is not to be governor, or first lady in my case.“

About Elian Gonzalez and a well-kept family secret: ”The picture on the newspaper, it just seems so un-American to me, the picture of the guy storming the house with a scared little boy there. I talked to my little brother, Jeb -- I haven‘t told this to many people. But he’s the governor of -- I shouldn‘t call him my little brother -- my brother, Jeb, the great governor of Texas.“

Gush has saved some of his cleverest remarks for what has ironically become his favorite topic: education. Though he boasts ad nauseam about Texas’ fine school system (which has a 42 percent dropout rate), he repeatedly exhibits nagging problems with subject-verb agreement: ”Rarely is the question asked, Is our children learning?“

Elsewhere Gush has declared that ”Reading is the basics for all learning,“ and admitted that he and his wife ”really don‘t realize how bright our children is sometimes until we get an objective analysis.“

Betraying an almost Dadaistic taste for absurdity -- reminiscent of his excitement that ”If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow!“ -- Gush announced, ”We want our teachers to be trained so they can meet the obligations, their obligations as teachers. We want them to know how to teach the science of reading. In order to make sure there’s not this kind of federal -- federal cuff link, the federal structure on programs, there needs to be flexibility at the state level.“

 

Gush is on famously shaky ground when international affairs come up. He claims to read four newspapers a day, but admits, ”I‘m not so sure I get a lot of knowledge out of there, but I read them every day.“

He was thus easily trapped last year by a reporter and forced to admit he could not name the leaders of Chechnya, India or Pakistan -- he took a lucky guess on the Taiwanese president: ”Lee,“ he said. He has referred to Greeks as Grecians, Timorese as Timorians, Kosovars as Kosovians. In answer to a question from a Slovakian journalist, Gush gushed, ”The only thing I know about Slovakia is what I learned firsthand from your foreign minister that came to Texas, and I had a great visit with him. It’s an exciting country. It‘s a country that’s flourishing, and it‘s a country that’s doing very well.“

He had, however, met with the prime minister of Slovenia, which apparently is on the same continent. His knowledge of domestic geography is much better. In Los Angeles last month, he reminisced, ”I was raised in the West. The west of Texas. It‘s pretty close to California. In more ways than Washington, D.C., is close to California.“

Gush’s broader global pronouncements tend to be a bit slim on details, or even nouns: ”When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world, and you knew exactly who they were . . . It was us versus them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they‘re there.“

Still more bizarrely, he contended that ”This is still a dangerous world. It’s a world of madmen and uncertainty and potential mental losses,“ but made perfect sense when announcing that ”The world we live in is still a world of terror and missiles and madmen. And we‘re challenged by aging missiles and failing intelligence.“

Gush has unique positions on affirmative action: ”What I am against is quotas. I am against hard quotas, quotas they basically delineate based upon whatever. However they delineate, quotas, I think, vulcanize society. So I don’t know how that fits into what everybody else is saying, their relative positions, but that‘s my position.“

On sex: ”I think it’s important for those of us in a position of responsibility to be firm in sharing our experiences, to understand that the babies out of wedlock is a very difficult chore for mom and baby alike . . . I believe we ought to say that if you wait, it‘s okay. It’s okay. Not only it‘ll help you be able to realize your dreams, but it’ll help you maintain a healthy body as well. Sexually transmitted diseases is a huge problem in America, and it‘s a sure-fire way.“

On technology, asking: ”Will the highways on the Internet become more few?“

On the culinary arts: ”I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.“

And on tollbooths: ”I think we need not only to eliminate the tollbooth to the middle class, I think we should knock down the tollbooth.“

Speaking to New Hampshire schoolchildren during ”Perseverance Month,“ Gush contended, ”This is Preservation Month. I appreciate preservation. It’s what you do when you run for president. You gotta preserve.“ Realizing his mistake, he saved face by bringing up his cat, Ernie, a stray found on the grounds of the governor‘s mansion in Austin: ”And guess where that cat was when I left, to come up here to campaign. That cat was laid out right on my pillow. That’s called perseverance.“

Gush is running for national office, and has thus been duty-bound to prove himself not only inept, but a shameless hypocrite. As Texas governor he had plenty of practice, taking a strong law-and-order stance on drugs, at one point proposing that the children of anyone convicted of drug-related felonies be thrown off the welfare rolls. He has never denied using cocaine in his youth, claiming only that he has not taken drugs for either seven, 25 or 28 years. In 1994 he was more forthright: ”Maybe I did, maybe I didn‘t.“ But the Gush children would never have been on welfare anyway.

Gush has also gained notoriety for his stance on the death penalty, signing almost 130 execution orders during his term as governor. His less-than-charming impersonation of death-row inmate Karla Faye Tucker (in an interview with Talk magazine he mockingly pursed his lips and whimpered, ”Please don’t kill me“), who has since been killed by the state of Texas, won him a brief scolding. But Gush has stood firm in his insistence that ”Everybody‘s had full access to the courts, and I don’t believe we‘ve ever executed an innocent person in my state.“

 

In a March debate, Gush was asked how he felt when Calvin Burdine was ordered released from Texas’ death row after a federal judge found that his defense attorney had slept through much of his trial. Texas courts had upheld Burdine‘s conviction. Gush nonetheless maintained that ”The system worked in this case.“

As Gush himself said in a 1994 campaign speech, ”Society must understand there are certain people who are just not rehabilitatable.“

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