January 26, 2000

 Governor George Walker Bush of Texas is the son of President George Herbert
 Walker Bush, grandson of Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut, direct
 descendant of President Franklin Pierce, and a thirteenth cousin, once removed,
 of Queen Elizabeth of England. Uncles and great-uncles were or are powers on
 Wall Street. As a child, he vacationed at a family compound in an enclave north
 of Palm Beach, Florida, along with families named Mellon, Doubleday, Ford,
 Roosevelt, Whitney, Vanderbilt, and Harriman.

 His family's seaside estate at Walker's Point, near Kennebunkport, Maine,
 tempts the thought that the Bushes, in addition to more traditional properties,
 own a rather nice piece of the Atlantic Ocean. This pedigree is not mere
 background information; it is central to Bush's life and his achievements.
 On his own, as three of the four recent biographies clearly tell us,
 he has achieved little. With the help of family and friends and an
 unparalleled network of loyal financial backers, he has led a prosperous
 life in the oil business, helped to run a baseball team, won the
 governorship of Texas, and become the leading contender for the
 Republican  nomination for the presidency, all without much effort.

 Bush's spectacular career rebuts the notion that America has become a
 meritocracy, in which we are all born equal and then judged upon our
 intelligence, talent, creativity, or aggressiveness. Bush is an aristocrat.
 His successes are in one way or another a direct consequence of his name
 and family, and he has been exempt from the normal competition—academic,
 financial, professional, political—that confronts most Americans and sorts
 them on life's ladder. He comes from that powerful and half-hidden world
 whose most important question is not "What do you know?" but "Who are your
 people?" On the basis of his own performance, he is more qualified to be
 King of England, through his father's kinship with the Queen, than president.

 Bush was a mediocre freshman in high school and yet won admission to Phillips
 Academy, Andover, one of the country's most exclusive preparatory schools,
 because his father had gone there before him. He was a mediocre student at
 Andover, and yet won admission to his father's alma mater, Yale, again as a
 "legacy." He was a mediocre student at Yale and yet won admission to the
 Harvard Business School. When he decided to fulfill his military obligation
 during the Vietnam War by entering the Texas Air National Guard, he was
 promptly accepted and granted a lieutenant's commission after a mere five
 weeks of basic training.

 He entered the oil business with between $13,000 and $20,000 of a family
 trust fund and failed at it—only to be bailed out repeatedly by friendly
 investors who were willing to lose money in exchange for association with
 the name Bush. He was invited to join a partnership of investors who needed
 him as a front man for their purchase of the Texas Rangers baseball team.
 He had to borrow his own share of the investment, and then watched his
 $600,000 stake turn into $15 million as the city of Arlington, Texas,
 built the team a new stadium with public money.

 He ran for Congress from a West Texas district in 1978 and lost,
 despite no lack of funds from family and oil-business cronies.
 When he ran for the governorship of Texas in 1994, he turned for help
 to Don Carter, owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, who, in a
 taste of things to come, wrote out a check for $100,000. And when he
 decided to run for president in 1999, he raised so much money so
 quickly—more than $60 million—that he was immune to the normal political
 risk that early defeats in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries
 might put him out of the race. Bush has enough money to survive right
 through to the Republican convention in Philadelphia even in the unlikely
 event that he loses every single primary.

 In his own mind, it seems, he is a superachiever. He brags that as governor
 of Texas, one of the weaker governorships in the country, he presides over
 the world's eleventh-largest economy. His autobiography contains no mention
 of the financial angels who repeatedly bailed out his failing oil ventures.
 In his version of events, he was the guiding force behind the purchase of
 the Texas Rangers, rather than the public face of the behind-the-scenes
 money men who actually put the deal together. He seems to have no sense
 that others have prepared the way for him, protected him, and picked up
 the pieces when he failed. As former Texas Agriculture Commissioner
 Jim Hightower said of Bush père, "He was born on third base and
 thinks he hit a triple."

 Thus we see such incongruities as George W. Bush, the "legacy" admission
 to Andover and Yale, opposing affirmative action, which would extend
 preferences similar to those that benefited him to minority students
 and women. We learn that he regarded price controls on American natural
 gas as European-style socialism, yet that he was perfectly willing to
 use the state's power to seize property below market value in order
 to build a new stadium for his baseball team. We contrast his demand
 for high intellectual standards among minority students with his
 observation after a visit to China: "Every bicycle looked the same."
 And we read of his insistence on the importance of individual
 achievement and personal responsibility—in a ghost-written autobiography.

 And yet it is not that simple. George W. Bush is an intelligent man,
 with a formidable memory, enormous charm, and a sense of humor.
 His political record as governor on occasion supports his claim to
 be a "compassionate conservative," even though he has already
 authorized more than a hundred executions. Within the Texas Republican
 Party, especially since it has been seized by Christian conservatives,
 he is a moderate—and to some of his fellow Texans, a dangerous liberal
 with suspicious ties, through his father, to the Trilateral Commission
 and the Council on Foreign Relations. Molly Ivins, who can be scathingly
 critical of him, credits him with caring deeply about the reading scores
 of minority students. His autobiography records that as governor he worked
 out new ways to regulate tight-fisted health maintenance organizations.

 Ironically, in none of the four books under review is there adequate
 attention to one of his finest moments, when as governor of Texas he
 stood up to the national Republican Party and refused to go along with
 a campaign to bar children of illegal immigrants from the public schools.
 If he has succeeded because of his aristocratic advantages, he has also on
 occasion displayed an aristocrat's sense of noblesse oblige.

 George Walker Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on July 6, 1946,
 while his father was a Yale undergraduate, studying on the GI Bill.
 His father and mother, Barbara, had been married while barely out of
 their teens, in January 1945, after the elder Bush returned from service
 as a navy pilot in the South Pacific. Two years after his son was born,
 the elder George Bush graduated from Yale and set out for the Texas oil
 fields in a deliberate effort to avoid his own father's lifestyle,
 a 9-to-5 job in the financial district and a commute to the suburbs.

 George W. Bush has done just the opposite. He has tried in every way to
 duplicate his father's life, following his path to Andover and Yale,
 becoming a fighter pilot, entering the oil business, and running for
 public office. Both he and his father are known for remembering names
 and writing thank-you notes. In an uncharacteristically cruel reference
 to his looks, Elizabeth Mitchell, in her book W, calls George W. Bush
 "the monkey version of his father, with no unkindness meant to
 George W. or simians." But the same could be said of his life;
 his résumé tracks his father's so closely, and is peopled by so many
 of the same friends and benefactors, that at times it is difficult to
 keep their intertwined life stories apart. The younger Bush's life is
 a slightly distorted, somewhat less attractive copy of his father's.
 In one important way are they different: the elder Bush was so
 intimidated by his mother, Dorothy, against bragging that he famously
 drops the very word "I" from many of his sentences lest he seem boastful.
 George W. claims credit for every success he was even remotely near.

 Young Bush lived what he regards as a typical middle-class suburban life
 in Midland, Texas, which is true if you disregard the small point that
 by the time he was ten, his father was a millionaire (at a time, in the
 mid-1950s, when being a millionaire meant much more than it does today).
 At seven, he suffered the traumatic loss of his younger sister, Robin,
 to leukemia. Although the Bush family have made much of their
 supposedly idyllic family life, in fact the senior Bush was absent much
 of the time on his various oil ventures or political explorations.
 He became a PTA leader, for example, but never showed up at his own
 son's Little League games, although Barbara was a regular spectator.

 After a year in private high school George W. was shipped off to Andover,
 where he quickly became a social leader. Unlike his father, who led the
 Yale team to a regional championship, George W. Bush was not particularly
 good at sports, and again unlike his father, who won a Phi Beta Kappa key
 at Yale, he was a slack student. An Andover counselor warned him not to
 expect admission to Yale, but Bush applied anyway and was accepted
 becoming the third generation of his family to attend the university.

 In 1964, his father sought a Senate seat from Texas as a Goldwater
 conservative, but was defeated in the tide that carried Lyndon B. Johnson
 to victory. In a famous incident, George W. Bush recalls running into the
 Yale chaplain, William Sloane Coffin, who supposedly told him,
 "I know your father. Frankly, he was beaten by a better man."
 Elizabeth Mitchell reports this story from Bush's point of view;
 Bill Minutaglio says Coffin later wrote to Bush saying he could not
 remember the encounter and could not imagine himself making such a statement.
 Nevertheless, he asked Bush to forgive the incident, if it had occurred.
 Bush replied, "I believe my recollection is correct. But I also know time
 passes and I bear no ill will."

 Both the Mitchell and Minutaglio biographies are filled with tales of
 Bush's prep school and college pranks, extracurricular capers, quips,
 and friendships. There is not much else to write about in those years.
 At Yale, he was resentful of what appeared to him East Coast arrogance,
 an odd grievance, perhaps, from one so privileged himself who followed
 his father and grandfather into the Skull and Bones secret society.
 He has complained, in later years especially, about the attitudes of
 his classmates Nelson Strowbridge Talbott III (now Deputy Secretary
 of State Strobe Talbott) and Gary Trudeau, the creator of Doonesbury
 who so cuttingly questioned his father's manhood in a series of comic
 strips. Bush narrowly escaped prosecution for two college pranks and
 was involved in a scandal over the branding of pledges at his fraternity,
 Delta Kappa Epsilon (also the fraternity of his father and of former
 Vice President Dan Quayle). He defended the practice, saying the brands
 were no worse than a cigarette burn.

 DKE was a booze and party fraternity, and Bush was a heavy drinker,
 an addiction he maintained until he turned forty. At one point,
 after driving home drunk with his younger brother Marvin, then fifteen,
 his father remonstrated with him. Bush challenged his father,
 "I hear you're looking for me. You want to go mano a mano right here?"
 Although he has endured much speculation about whether he ever used drugs,
 there is no evidence in any of these four books that he ever did.
 There is no evidence, further, that he was ever in a time, place,
 or situation where drug use would have been more plausible than not.
 J.N. Hatfield, a freelance writer, published a sensational charge late
 last year that Bush had smoked marijuana and snorted cocaine while in
 Texas in the early 1970s. But he offered no evidence to back up the
 assertion (and some of his checkable "facts" proved to be false).
 Hatfield's book, Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an
 American President, was swiftly withdrawn by St. Martin's Press.

 There are more serious controversies in George W. Bush's life than
 drug use, none of them remotely criminal but all of them illuminating.
 The first centers upon his service in the Texas Air National Guard.
 Though the Vietnam War was raging while Bush was at Yale, he took no part
 in protests or even discussions. In his autobiography Bush gives the
 classic "hawk" explanation used by conservatives who managed to avoid
 fighting in the war: "We could not explain the mission, had no exit
 strategy, and did not seem to be fighting to win." If those three missing
 conditions had been met, we may presume that Bush would have been trudging
 through the boonies along with Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, Phil Gramm,
 Dan Quayle, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of that blowhard army that shunned
 service in Vietnam because the war was not being fought hard enough.

 But Bush was not without political passion during the turbulent Vietnam
 years. Minutaglio reports the following account from one of Bush's
 fraternity brothers: "As he was standing shoulder to shoulder with him
 at the bar, Bush began railing about how the nation's oil men were being
 strangled by some suggested tax-break variances in the oil-depletion
 allowance. The college fraternity brother remembers him growing heated
 as he built his argument in defense of the oilmen in Texas."

 Elizabeth Mitchell, whose book seems the most illuminating of the four
 under review, gives the fullest account of Bush's acceptance into the
 National Guard, at a time when, according to some of its veterans,
 there was a long waiting list. By the time Bush graduated from Yale in 1968,
 his father was a congressman from Texas. A longtime family friend,
 Sidney Adger, called Ben Barnes, then the Democratic lieutenant governor
 of Texas. In a 1999 deposition Barnes testified that Adger asked him to
 intercede for young Bush. Barnes duly called the head of the guard,
 Brigadier General James M. Rose.

 Bush and his father have seized upon this testimony as evidence that the
 elder Bush himself never interceded to get his son a coveted slot in
 the Guard. But in his interview with Lieutenant Colonel Walter B. Staudt,
 the young Bush said he wanted to fly "just like his daddy," which surely
 would have invited the question, if Staudt had not already known the answer,
 "Just who is your daddy?" The story does not end there. Bush was commissioned
 as a second lieutenant in September 1968 after just five weeks of basic
 training, without even going through officer candidate school, and
 immediately embarked on pilot training. Curiously, in his autobiography,
 Bush fudges this extraordinarily swift promotion. "I spent 55 weeks on
 active duty, learning to fly, and graduated in December 1969. My dad
 pinned on my second lieutenant wings, a proud moment for both of us."
 However, there is no such thing as "second lieutenant wings" in the
 US military. Second lieutenants receive gold bars; pilots get wings.
 Bush has somehow conflated the two. We know he did not actually write
 this book; it also appears he may not have read it.

 He proved to be a competent pilot, and Mitchell informs us with a
 straight face that he flew patrols from Ellington Field, "scanning the
 Gulf Coast borders for enemy attacks and soaring over the oil fields of
 Texas to protect the refineries."

 Bush's oil career similarly paralleled his father's. His expertise was
 in raising money rather than in drilling for oil. Like his father,
 who was backed by his uncle Herbert Walker, the young George W. Bush
 used an uncle, Jonathan Bush, to assemble investors for his first ventures.
 Unlike his father, however, George W. Bush never found much oil.
 No matter; the domestic oil industry of the 1970s made much of its
 money by drilling holes in the tax code rather than in the ground.
 His first company, called Arbusto (Spanish for "bush"), was, in
 Minutaglio's words, "a possible win-win company; even if no oil
 gurgled up, it could always take big tax write-offs."

 His uncle Jonathan agreed that actually finding oil was not all that
 important. "In those days, it behooved you to drill," Jonathan Bush
 told Minutaglio. "You didn't have to do terribly well in order to do well
 because you got so many write-offs. So it was an attractive way to invest
 money and save taxes." Arbusto's secretary recalled, "I really don't
 recall us ever drilling a well and making anything all that great."

 Nevertheless, Arbusto did poorly. Then an angel appeared.
 Philip Uzielli, a friend of James A. Baker III (who had managed George
 Bush's unsuccessful 1980 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination),
 bought 10 percent of Arbusto for $1 million. At the time, the entire
 company had a book value of only $382,376, both Mitchell and Molly Ivins
 relate, so Uzielli spent his $1 million for stock worth just $38,237.60.
 He wound up losing his money. Even with Uzielli's cash injection and
 other money, including some from his grandmother, Bush's oil company
 was sinking. Rescue came again, this time from a benefactor named Bill
 DeWitt Jr., who merged his company, Spectrum 7, with Bush's. The bottom
 line from this merger is that Bush, who had invested $102,000, received
 a payback of $362,000. His various backers, who had put up $4.66 million,
 received only $1.54 million—but didn't mind because of the tax write-offs.

 Then Spectrum 7, too, started to go belly up. Along came yet another savior,
 Harken Energy, paying Bush $530,000 in stock for a company that was facing
 foreclosure. Eventually, Harken too fell upon hard times. It won the right
 to drill for offshore oil in Bahrain just before Saddam Hussein invaded
 Kuwait in 1990 and threatened to control the Gulf's oil reserves.
 This time, Bush managed to get out just before the stock price dropped,
 leaving his partners and other stockholders to take the loss when
 Harken's stock plunged.

 Practically everything Bush touched in the oil business turned to ashes,
 yet he always emerged both unscathed and, according to Mitchell, oblivious.
 "George W. never seemed to acknowledge adequately the role of the
 carpetlayers in his life," she writes.

      He had been able to raise the capital for Arbusto with the help of
      his Uncle Jonathan. Philip Uzielli, a good friend of James Baker,
      had bailed him out at the right time. He had been saved from fiscal
      ruin by the merger with Spectrum 7 that Paul Rea helped facilitate;
      and Harken had taken a gamble on George W. because of, among
      other reasons, the power of his family name. While George W. was
      a smart, well-liked boss and colleague, his insecurities prevented
      him from giving credit where credit was due.

 George W. took time out from the oil business but continued to earn
 $10,000 a month as a no-show consultant for Harken to help his father
 win the presidency in 1988. He was a close adviser to his father,
 and after his election claimed credit for firing the President's
 curmudgeonly chief of staff John Sununu. According to Mitchell, however,
 even that is an exaggeration of his role. The actual bad news was
 delivered to Sununu by his own deputy, Andrew Card, after Card had
 a talk with the President.

 George W. Bush returned to Texas to be recruited as a partner in a
 consortium that wanted to buy the Texas Rangers baseball team.
 In Bush's version, he assembled the investors to purchase the team.
 Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth said, however, that the investors
 plus himself and American League Commissioner Bobby Brown, and not Bush
 had put the deal together. Bush quickly became the public face of the team,
 sitting in a front-row seat beside the Rangers dugout and acting as
 cheerleader. Ownership of the Rangers was a spectacular financial success
 after the city of Arlington, Texas, agreed to build a new stadium with
 public funds and turn it over to the team essentially free. Ivins quotes
 a critic who describes Bush, in this venture, as "a welfare recipient."
 When Bush eventually sold his share, he pocketed $15 million on an initial
 investment of over $600,000 after just eight years.

 Purchase of the Rangers was designed to increase Bush's visibility in
 Texas so that, like his father, he could go into politics. He had run
 for Congress from a Lubbock-Midland district in 1978 and lost to Kent
 Hance, then a Democrat. When he considered running for governor of Texas
 in 1990, his plight was made clear to him by a female Republican pollster,
 who told him, according to Minutaglio: "George, everybody likes you,
 but you haven't done anything. You need to go out in the world
 and do something, the way your father did when he left Connecticut
 and the protection of his family. You just haven't done shit.
 You're a Bush and that's all."

 Bush's thin claim to qualification to be president rests on his service as
 governor of Texas, a constitutionally weak job—his powers are shared with
 the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House—that is apparently
 not even a full-time occupation. According to Mitchell, Bush has spent
 many an afternoon playing solitaire on his computer. As of this writing,
 he has spent less time as governor, five years, than his rival for the
 Republican nomination, Senator John McCain of Arizona, spent in a
 North Vietnamese prison.

 Molly Ivins provides a close-up look at Bush's insider financial
 dealings and governorship, and finds him to be a skilled and likable
 politician, far more at home in Texas and with Texas's peculiar
 back-slapping, guffawing ways than his father ever was. She challenges
 his claims of having enacted a major cut in property taxes by pointing out
 that local school districts promptly raised their own rates to
 make up for the lost revenues.

 In view of his background, it is not surprising to find that Bush has
 been a protector of big business, championing laws that make it harder
 to sue corporations and protecting his state's polluting industries
 from environmental regulations. Ivins calls him punitive toward welfare
 recipients and oblivious of children's health needs. Summing up one
 convoluted episode concerning health care, she writes,
 "In straightforward, nonbureaucratic English, because he is running
 for president, George Bush attempted to (1) bar 200,000 children from
 a low-cost federal-state health-insurance program, and (2) discourage
 poor children from receiving free health care to which they are
 entitled under federal law."

 Bush's greatest controversy as governor was his refusal to halt the
 execution of Karla Faye Tucker, who murdered two people and then
 found Christianity while on death row. A worldwide campaign, including
 appeals from the Pope and the Reverend Pat Robertson, attempted to save
 her from becoming the first woman executed in Texas in the modern era.
 Under Texas law, Bush says in his autobiography, he was permitted only
 to give her a single thirty-day reprieve; he could not, he claims,
 commute her sentence. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which
 could have spared her, refused to do so, and the courts granted no relief.
 Bush appears to have been anguished by the decision. One of his daughters
 opposed him on it. Though a nominal Methodist, he has consistently
 disregarded his church's opposition to capital punishment.

 But Bush's worst political moment came after Tucker's execution, when
 in an interview with Talk magazine, he mocked her final pleas for life.
 Tucker Carlson, a conservative writer with no apparent reason to damage
 Bush, asked the governor to describe what Karla Faye Tucker had said in
 a "from death row" interview on the Larry King Live television show.

 "'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation,
 'don't kill me,'" Carlson reported.

"I must look shocked—ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner
 who has since been executed seems odd and cruel, even for someone as
 militantly anti-crime as Bush—because he immediately stops smirking."

 What can be said in favor of his governorship? Bush has pursued a
 personal campaign for improving literacy for young people and has
 also made genuine efforts to "reach out," at least rhetorically,
 to black and Hispanic voters. Even though largely Hispanic south Texas
 is one of America's great blighted areas, he nearly won a majority of
 Hispanic votes in his astonishing 69 percent reelection in 1998 and
 even picked up 27 percent of the black vote. In Texas, his brand of
 politics clearly works.

 Ivins and her coauthor Lou Dubose are adept at sorting through the
 intricacies of Bush's oil deals, the Texas Rangers baseball transactions,
 and the power balance between Texas's weak governorship and
 powerful legislature. Ivins has both a penetrating mind and a light touch,
 but some of her mannerisms, like repeatedly writing about the "oil bidness,"
 become cloying, even to her. She defends the spelling of "bidness" in a
 footnote by informing us that this is how the word is actually pronounced.
 Yes, and Texans also tell us they have let Chrahst into thur horts,
 but we need not beat it to death.

 Of these four books, the biographies by Minutaglio and Mitchell are
 excellent, especially when we consider that their subject would be hard put
 to complete a legitimate full-page resume without padding it. Bush's
 autobiography, written by his communications director, Karen Hughes, is a
 slapdash affair, filled with homilies about love and family while never
 acknowledging all the benefactors who have greased Bush's way through life.
 It contains many excerpts from his speeches and is strewn with compliments
 to the various people he has named to government office. For all their
 cold-eyed scrutiny, Ivins, Mitchell, and Minutaglio do a better job of
 making Bush seem like a human being than his own autobiography does.

 On the basis of the evidence, there is nothing in any of these books that
 appears to qualify Bush for the presidency, with the exception of his
 ability to win votes in Texas and raise money from big-ticket contributors.
 He is energetic, friendly, and a natural cheerleader. He is certainly not
 stupid, but when we consider his remarkable energy as a campaigner he
 appears to be unaccountably lazy in other respects. Although his father
 was envoy to China, ambassador to the United Nations, vice president for
 eight years, and president for four, George W. Bush seems not to have
 been paying much attention to the substance of his own father's job.
 He is currently learning to recite the lines being fed to him by a team
 of foreign-policy advisers, many of them inherited from his father's
 administration who now say a Restoration is at hand.

 Given his lack of national political experience, Bush may be at the mercy
 of such advisers. He has gotten some of his stock responses down by rote,
 but in a television interview on January 23, as he answered a barrage
 of questions, he appeared completely confident, and deeply interested,
 in only one issue: a defense of the intangible-drilling cost tax
 deduction for investors in the oil industry.

 On other issues, he seems much less sure-footed and, as he campaigned
 across Iowa in January, he offered proposals that answered the various
 demands of conservative Republicans without seeming to realize that
 they could be contradictory. For example, he threatened to "take out"
 any weapons of mass destruction that Iraq deploys, which satisfies
 Republican hawks. Yet if he is willing to react to such threats with
 preemptive strikes, why is he also advocating a Star Wars missile defense?
 A preemptive strike on missile launchers would be far cheaper and safer
 than the multibillion-dollar Star Wars missile defense, which has yet
 to pass an operational test. Yet many conservatives are devoted to an
 antimissile shield, first advocated by Ronald Reagan, with almost
 religious fervor.

 Bush also made it a point, while in Iowa, to appear at religious centers that
 provided community and social services. This served a two-fold purpose: first, to
 highlight his own religiosity in a state where 42 percent of Republican caucus
 voters identify themselves as born-again Christians, and second, to further a
 conservative antigovernment agenda by channeling federal money to "faith-based"
 service providers rather than using government itself to dispense assistance.

 Use of faith-based service providers has become accepted orthodoxy in the
 Republican Party, and Bush has embraced it, even though it runs counter
 to his warnings in a speech at the Manhattan Institute last year that
 Republicans should not seem to be instinctively antigovernment.
 While many such organizations work efficiently, they are inherently
 exclusionary, if only because there may be many people in need who are
 unwilling to turn to a church or synagogue for help. In addition, these
 government-funded religious organizations appear to be somewhat less
 accountable to outside scrutiny and, as a recent scandal over day-care
 vouchers in New York shows, subject to corruption.

 Bush clearly has no shortage of confidence. As he looked out at the possible
 Republican field for 2000 he could see former vice president Dan Quayle,
 former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander, Elizabeth Dole, and Steve Forbes
 and conclude correctly that he could outraise any of them. (John McCain
 had virtually no national name recognition until quite recently.)
 He is good at making a friendly impression on the campaign trail, though he
 is not a particularly good speechmaker. And he had been around his father's
 White House often enough not to be daunted by the majesty of the presidency
 or by the quality of the people he met. He drilled his hole and, for the
 first time in his life, hit a gusher.

 But Bush's biggest vulnerability as he seeks the White House is that the
 more you look at him, the less you see. Every achievement, with the
 exception of his 1998 reelection as governor, evaporates on scrutiny,
 even minor ones like his supposed firing of Sununu or his vaunted Texas
 tax cuts. Perhaps it won't matter. Maybe he understands the real world
 a world in which the most important question is "Who are your people?"
 better than the rest of us. In his own life, so much has been handed to him.
 Why not the presidency?

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