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Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2001 / 28 Tishrei, 5762

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
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Consumer Reports

I was a 'McCainiac,' and I have seen the light -- THE first time we met, I was not as impressed as his handlers had planned. It was September 1999, and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush made an appearance at Bennett-Kew Elementary school in Inglewood, Calif. The choice of Bennett-Kew showed that Team Bush knew how to pick a good school, as then-Principal Nancy Ichinaga had worked miracles in improving reading and math performance of her students. Yet, the interview didn't quite work.

My esteemed colleague, San Francisco Chronicle political writer Carla Marinucci, wanted me to sit in on an interview she had with presidential candidate Bush. Bush's handlers knew I was a McCainiac. They agreed with the proviso that I not ask any questions. I said yes, knowing that at the end of the interview, Bush would ask me why I hadn't asked him anything or if I wanted to. And that's exactly how it went.

The setup was too cute, as was his ribbing of me for criticizing his support of federal ethanol subsidies. (I have no sense of humor about corporate welfare.)

Worse, Carla and I each got bills for $1,297 for the cost of using a press room after a speech he made on education. A year later, I had a solo interview with Bush. He was clearheaded on where "feel-good education'' went wrong and how reading curricula can work well.

He liked talking about education, but when the subject switched to the death penalty, there was pain in his eyes. It was clear he was tired of getting hammered by the national media on the issue, as he had been for weeks. Bush impressed me as a man who knew where he wanted to go. He had his priorities -- education and an ideologically broader and more ethnically-diverse GOP -- and he kept his gaze fixed on them.

But it wasn't until the August 2000 GOP convention that I saw what he really could do. His speech and the speakers who preceded him changed the tenor of GOP confabs by providing a needed antidote to stale Bob Dole (1996) and angry Pat Buchanan (1992). Where there had been division, he restored goodwill.

Even if he lost the election, I thought, he helped the Republican party turn a corner. In office, he has exceeded my expectations. OK, he still doesn't get it on ethanol, but his Office of Management and Budget has worked to trim superfluous federal spending.

He has withstood cheap criticism for his opposition to the bad Kyoto global warming treaty -- from people who don't seem to know the Senate opposed a key provision by a 95-to-0 vote. He has weathered the sneers of SUV drivers who see him as Satan because he wants to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Best of all, he stuck to his guns on the tax cut.

His success never fazed the ridicule crowd. They mocked his bad syntax. They demoted him from president to the vice president's puppet. Dripping with undeserved self-satisfaction, they berated his intelligence. Yup, he was so stupid, he got elected president.

Even on Sept. 11, the carping continued. Bush should have made reassuring speeches sooner than he did, some critics charged. He should have flown to Washington D.C. sooner. His speech that night was tepid. It's true -- Bush got a C on public relations on attack day.

But as the critics have learned, Bush's first priority is not winning the PR game. And he would rather take his time than rush to the TV cameras; he doesn't measure success by the first 24 hours. Better yet, Bush didn't feel the need to order instant retaliatory bombings before a solid military strategy was in place.

Now for the first time, many Americans see the qualities I have come to treasure in Bush. He doesn't put politics first in this. While he has been no fan of "nation building,'' he will help support a new Afghan government, if that's what it takes to bring stability to that part of the world. He has understood where to use force -- against Terror -- and where to give bread -- to hungry and powerless Afghans.

Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.


10/12/01University of Censorship's fall semester
10/11/01 Poor little rich boy, Osama
10/07/01 Don't feed Israel to the beast
10/05/01: bin Laden is not our Frankenstein monster
10/04/01: Where no man has gone before
09/26/01: Who's bloodthirsty?
09/26/01: What's to understand?
09/20/01: Barbara Lee's line in the sand
09/14/01: You gotta love this country
09/13/01: ENTER TERROR
09/11/01: You can't clone ethics
09/06/01: NOW's goal: equal rights for women without equal responsibility
08/30/01: What's love got to do with it?
08/24/01: A clean, well-lighted place for junkies
08/20/01: Bush should stand up for justice
08/08/01: Don't give Peace (Dept). a chance
08/03/01: Lose a kid, pass a law
08/01/01: Welcome to France, killers
07/30/01: Why it's easy being green (in Europe)
07/26/01: If disabled means expendable
07/23/01: Condit should not resign
07/18/01: Feinstein should learn her limit
07/16/01: A drought of common sense
07/13/01: The catalog has no clothes
07/05/01: It's Bush against the planet
07/03/01: The man who would be guv
06/29/01: Wheeled, wired and free
06/27/01: O, fearful new world
06/25/01: End HMO horrors
06/21/01: Either they're dishonest or clueless
06/18/01: Freedom is a puff of smoke
06/15/01: In praise of going heavy: Yes, you can take it all
06/13/01: McVeigh: 'Unbowed' maybe, but dead for sure
06/11/01: Gumby strikes back
06/08/01: Los Angeles' last white mayor?
06/07/01: Kids will be kids, media will be media
06/04/01: Draw a line in the sand
05/30/01: Just don't call him a moderate
05/29/01: Operation: Beat up on civil rights
05/24/01: Of puppies, kittens and huge credit-card debts
05/22/01: Bush needs an energy tinkerbell
05/18/01: Divided we stand, united they fall
05/16/01: Big Bench backs might over right
05/15/01: Close SUV loophole
05/11/01: Kill the test, welcome failure
05/09/01: DA mayor's disappointing legacy
05/07/01: If it ain't broken ...
05/03/01: They shoot civilians, don't they?
04/30/01: Executions are not for prime time
04/12/01: White House and the green myth
04/10/01: The perjurer as celeb
04/04/01: Bush bashers don't know squat
04/02/01: Drugging our oldsters
03/30/01: Robert Lee Massie exercises his death wish
03/28/01: Cheney's nuclear reactor
03/26/01: Where California and Mexico meet
03/16/01: Boy's sentence was no accident
03/14/01: Soft money, hard reform
03/12/01: Banks, big credit lines and consumer bankruptcy
03/09/01: Free speech dies in Berkeley
03/02/01: When rats have rights
02/28/01: Move a frog, go to jail?
02/26/01: They knew they'd get away with it
02/20/01: How Dems define tax fairness
02/16/01: The jackpot casino Carmel tribe?
02/14/01: You can fight school success
02/12/01: Hannibal -- with guts this time
02/08/01: A family of jailbirds
02/05/01: Reality's most demeaning TV moments
02/01/01: Justice for the non-Rich
01/26/01: Hail to the chiefs of D.C. opinion
01/24/01: A day of mud and monuments
01/22/01: Diversity, division, de-lovely D.C.
01/19/01: Parties agree: Give back the money
01/17/01: Get tough with the oil companies, or forget pumping more Alaskan crude
01/15/01: Mineta better pray that no attending confirmation senator has ever driven to San Jose during rush hour
01/12/01: Europeans should look in the mirror
01/10/01: Dems' reasons for dissin' Dubya's picks
01/08/01: Jerry, curb your guru
01/03/01: A foe of Hitler and friend of Keating
12/28/00: Nice people think nice thoughts
12/26/00: The Clinton years: Epilogue
12/21/00: 'Tis the season to free nonviolent drug offenders 12/18/00: A golden opportunity is squandered
12/15/00: You can take the 24 years, good son
12/13/00: Court of law vs. court of public opinion
12/08/00: A salvo in the war on the war on drugs
12/06/00: Don't cry, Butterfly: Big trees make great decks
12/04/00: Florida: Don't do as Romans did
11/30/00: Special City's hotel parking ticket
11/27/00: No means yes, yes means more than yes
11/22/00: The bench, the ballot and fairness
11/20/00: Mendocino, how green is your ballot?

© 2000, Creators Syndicate