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Hyperion December 14, 2000

#17 An open letter to George W. Bush

“There are two tragedies in life. One is to not get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.”

-George Bernard Shaw

December 14, 2000

To: President-Elect George W. Bush

Dear Mr. Bush,

It looks like you are going to be the next president of the United States of America. Amidst the giddy celebrations and planning, please remember the following:

Be Humble. You may of won the White House, but a majority of the people who voted, voted against you. This has only happened three times before, and only once legitimately. Twice the guy who won the popular vote won the next election. You won legally by a few hundred votes in Florida, which gave you the Electoral College, but many people are going to see your victory as coming from one vote on the Supreme Court. Whether that is fair or not, that is the perception for a large number of people, and you are going to have to deal with that.

Florida was a misnomer. Yes, the election was virtually deadlocked, as was Florida. In addition, New Mexico, Oregon, Wisconsin, Iowa, and a couple of other states were extremely close. This was not, however, how most of the country went. The majority of states you won, you won big. Conversely, in the states you lost, you were creamed. America may have split its vote down the middle, but the country was fractured by region. You may have carried the South and the Heartland, but you got beat like a redheaded stepchild on the coasts and in the Northeast. The best thing you could do is acknowledge that not only over half the voters did not vote for you, but that HUGE majorities in those regions rejected you and yours. Maybe you will never win New York or Massachusetts, but if you really want to be a “uniter, not a divider,” you will try to bridge the gap in those areas. Look: Texas and Colorado and Nebraska are going to go your way every day of the week and twice on Sundays. You do not have to worry about them. You need to concentrate on the areas that rejected you. Go there and try to make peace. You will earn respect, if not millions of votes. And respect is what you need right now.

Minorities could be your biggest coup. You received the smallest percentage of the black vote since Goldwater in ’64. This was not for lack of effort. Unlike recent Republican nominees, you spoke before the NAACP, and often spoke of making the GOP more inclusive to minorities. The problem you face is that much of the Black leadership in this country has completely sold out to Liberalism; whether it’s good for black Americans or not. You need to circumvent that, go around the power structure and speak directly to the African American people at large. Black Americans consistently poll more conservatively than white Americans do on many social issues. They are more pro Death penalty, and want tougher crime prevention, just to name two. Your real ace in the hole is School Vouchers. This would help African American and other minority families much greater than it would benefit white families. The problem: the Democratic Party is beholden to the Teachers’ Unions, and Black Leadership is beholden to the Democratic Party. Go directly to the black communities, and spell out the specifics of how your policies are going to help them. You may not like the idea of separating people by race, but unfortunately, almost no black Americans voted for you. You need to appreciate that, and specifically reach out to that community. Dick Cheney said something fascinating in the VP debate. Responding to a question about racial profiling, Cheney said that he could not imagine what it must be like to be black in this country. That strikes me as very honest. My suggestion is that you try to find out. Ask African Americans what it is like to be black. Listen to what they say. This may seem more symbolic, but it is an important symbol. The perception is that Republicans care not at all what black Americans think. One African American guy I work with warned against voting for you, because, as he put it, “Bush will have us all picking cotton again.” Maybe that is not fair. It is, however, a perception shared by more than a few; inherited partly through misinformation of self-serving black leaders, and partly through the Republican Party’s refusal to reach out more. You already have a great command of Spanish and a good relationship with Latinos and Hispanics in your home state. You can use that. You can start by explaining to America that the term Hispanic does not race, so they will understand the complexities that are involved in that community. You have a real opportunity to forge relationships with the Latino, African American, and other minority groups in this country. With them, you would cakewalk re-election in ’04.

Learn to pre-emptive Strike. You erred badly by not revealing your DUI. Remember, you had already told everyone who would listen that you used to be a heavy drinker, and that you quit, found Jesus, yada, yada, yada. People generally accepted this; we have all done things in our past we are not proud of. You already admitted all of that; why did you keep the DUI thing under wraps? If you had let it out early, it would have been dealt with in one week and forgotten. After all, Gore smoked enough pot that he would not make an issue. Instead, the subject came out less than one week before the election, and it looked as if you were hiding it. Your explanation was worse than stupid: you wanted to “protect” your daughters from the knowledge. Hey, W, if you wanted to protect them, you would not have run for prez in the first place. A few days before the election, you were slated to win a close race, but win it definitively on election night (you remember that, five weeks ago?). Four out of five people who decided to vote on November 7 voted for Gore. In addition, an astounding 20 % said of Gore’s voters said they decided to actually vote for him in the 72 hours before the election. Now, I cannot prove that your DUI news had a lot to do with that, but nothing else of note occurred in that time, and SOMETHING HAPPENED. Do you want to take the same chance again?

Now the question is, can you learn from this? During the campaign, you were asked about cocaine. It is true that there was no accusation, and by that standard, the questioner had no “right” to ask the question. Nevertheless, George, you are planning to be president. That means many of your rights go out the window. Think of it as a tradeoff for not having to ride coach class for a few years. Once the question came up, you played games with it. First you said that you would not answer it, then you said you could pass all federal background checks, which go back twenty some years. Quit being cagey. Most people already think, or fear, that you did cocaine. If it is true, do not wait for the news to magically come out right before something important to you. Tell the American people. Here is how you do it: Go on Oprah, whom once herself once admitted to using the drug, and was universally forgiven. So, go on Oprah, let the subject go to past mistakes, and then mention Oprah’s confession, and in that context mention your own. Oprah will not be able to condemn you, with her own experience. The two of you will bond, and soccer moms all over will love you. Then kiss her.

Embrace Youth Culture. One thing Clinton did very well was to connect with young people in a way that few politicians have. Now, I do not think you need to start revealing your choice of smallclothes, but there are things you can do. For example, in the world of ESPN, George Washington University is known as GEE DUB. You should adopt this moniker. You already go by “W”, so this is not that much of a stretch. G. Dub would give you instant street cred (that’s credibility), and help you relate to young people. Also, whenever someone says something good, you can “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” Whenever a reporter criticizes you, respond with “Don’t Hate!” Think about it.

Put Gore in Check. Face it: Al Gore is not going anywhere. All he knows is Washington. It has been his life for decades. You can just see him the next four years going on every talk show, talking about what he would do if he were president. Al Gore can give you no end to headaches. What you need is a radical move to box Gore in. Here it is: Give Gore a job. Hear me out. You know Gore is going to be out there. Why not keep Gore where you can watch him? In his Concession speech, Gore said he was at your disposal. Use that. Say that you realize half the people voted for him, that he is a very intelligent man who cares about the country, that he is a patriot, yada, yada, yada. Offer him a job on some commission, where he can do something relatively non-partisan and with minimal chance to criticize you. I recommend either something looking into Social Security solvency, or a Healthcare panel with the mandate of “leaving no child behind” and “making drugs available for seniors”. If he rejects both of these (as expected), then you can be further conciliatory, and tell Gore to make you an offer, which of course you can reject if you do not like. This will neatly hem Gore in. If Gore does not take any of your offers, then when he tries to run in ’04, you can respond with something like this: “I tried to get you to help four years ago. I offered you a job, and chance to help. We need solutions, not fighting...etc., etc., etc.” This makes Gore look like he is more interested in being president than in helping the country. If Gore does take your offer, you can keep an eye on him. You can even be magnanimous and give him some credit if his commission comes up with anything. This will still make you look good. You can also document everything he does, so that if Gore pulls away and tries to end run you, you can show that he did not give any help.

Face the music. Above all, you are going to need to be accountable to the American People. That means more press conferences that you are comfortable with. That means more questions from Reporters you would just as soon swear at. You are going to face tremendous criticism no matter what. At least if you are out there attempting a dialogue with people, you can help fashion the debate. If you inculcate yourself in the White House, the “Ivory Tower” snipes are going to come fast and furious, and you will not be out there to refute that. You have a long road ahead of you, an uphill climb at that. Good luck; you are going to need it.




Lady Jane Scarlett said...

re-reading this article on Nov 4, 2008 I see how much of an absolute fu&% up GWB has been and it makes me cry even more.
It's obvious he doesn't read you, and he should have.

Hyperion said...

Lady Jane,

I just re-read this myself. It's amazing how much "conventional wisdom" was wrong. And, for what it's worth, Bush certainly didn't need my help getting reelected.

Still, I can't help but feel that if he'd taken some of my advice (especially on minorities), the country would be in better shape.

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