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Jewish World Review Jan. 24, 2001 / 29 Teves, 5761

Chris Matthews

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George W. Corleone?


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- GEORGE W. BUSH'S inaugural reminds me of the climactic scene of "The Godfather."

It's the baptism scene. We hear the priest intone the ancient Christian ritual, the echo of his Latin reverberating through the church. For many in the movie theater and watching on television, it is a familiar scene in sound and sense.

Then, in tightly edited scenes of slaughter, we watch the competing ritual of death. As the youngest Corleone receives the waters of life, we watch fat, sweating little Clemenza pull his machine gun out of the flower box. We see that the rival prince Mo Green gets a bullet through his glasses, another boss gunned down on the courthouse steps.

Saturday's rite of succession on the Capitol steps carries the same "Godfather" back-story. A young don, George W., was getting even with his family's rivals - brutal, political payback for the hurt and humiliation done his father.

Every American knows this dramatic back-story. Indeed, we had a hand in it.

Eight years ago, Bill Clinton bounced George W. Bush's father from the White House. The older man, who had served his office with honor, was forced to take the long car ride with the young hotshot, Bill Clinton, who toppled him from power.

Through the eight years since, young George has worked for the day he could reverse his family's fortunes and administer justice to the Clinton crowd. First he defeated Ann Richards, the Texas governor who had mocked his father as a man "born with a silver foot in his mouth." Second, he knocked off Al Gore, the man Clinton has named as his successor.

For George W., the ritual on Saturday was thus both a baptism and funeral. By taking the oath in the shadow of both his father and the man who humiliated him in 1992, he brought honor back to his family, brutal justice to the usurpers.


It would be wrong for the American voters, who were the hit men in both these changes of fortune, to ignore the character of the prime avenger.

For those who think George W. Bush will forgive weakness, consider his ruthless dumping of Linda Chavez. For those who doubt he will take risks to consolidate his power, note his loyalty to friends in the Bible Belt and Western mining interests. John Ashcroft and Gale Norton were necessary payoffs to these allies.

There are many political watchers, me among them, who are led to think of the younger Bush as no more than a lucky legatee, a man the unfortunate Ann Richards once said was "born on third and thought he hit a triple."

We need never forget how Bush grabbed the prize on election night. Two hours after every TV network had called Florida for Gore, the man dismissed as a loser called those same network cameras into his hotel suite. There, with his father watching, he dictated terms. "The people counting the ballots have come to a different perspective."

Within minutes, all four TV networks had withdrawn their two-hour-old projection that Gore had won Florida.

By grabbing control of events, Bush had reversed the country's perceptions and his family's fortunes. Through all the weeks of conflict that would follow, poor Gore could never overcome the notion that he was contesting a race that Bush had "won" election night.

Like the young Michael Corleone of the film saga, George W. did not seek this life. It was thrust upon him by his father's defeat, his family's humiliation. Like the young Sicilian American, this WASP heir has learned to use all the powers at his disposal.



JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

01/16/01: War and Atonement
01/09/01: A pair of Boy Scouts
01/04/01: Sen. Moynihan's career: 1976-2000
12/27/00: Powell a symbol of opportunity
12/20/00: Armistice
12/01/00: Forget Gush/Bore, Lieberman and Cheney are ones to watch
11/21/00: Dead men voting
11/15/00: U.S. politcal geography: One nation, divisible
11/07/00: A real electoral horror show
10/31/00: The big lie: Every vote counts
10/17/00: Play White House admissions officer
10/11/00: Scandalous lack of awe for the office
10/03/00: Bush-Gore and the ghosts of Kennedy-Nixon
09/26/00: Candidates' night and day sides
09/19/00: Hillary goes legit
09/12/00: AlGore's silent partner
08/23/00: Truth and beauty in Bubba's farewell
08/16/00: The nation's prom king
08/07/00: The good soldier
08/02/00: Welcome to Philadelphia --- we had the first...
07/31/00: Bush-Cheney ticket: A constitutional problem
07/26/00: If Bush is an IPO, Gore is a store
07/24/00: Will being 'better' sink Hillary?
07/19/00: Pre-convention calm?
07/17/00: AlGore is executing a double dose of imitation 07/10/00: Mexicans elect a Bush Republican
07/10/00:Another kind of McCarthyism
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07/03/00: AlGore's latest hazard
06/29/00: No echoes in this presidential choice
06/26/00: Death joins the debate
06/21/00: Jerry Brown tells AlGore how to 'wage' campaign
06/19/00: Squishy logic for soft money
06/15/00: Citizen Kane, 113 years later
06/12/00: Kennedy-Nixon redux?
06/07/00: Bush says 'I do' to reality
06/05/00: Clinton's odd silence on his achievements
06/02/00: Pelosi, a voice for human rights
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05/23/00: Who typifies leadership?
05/19/00: Bubba's legacy involves AIDS
05/16/00: Dubyah's outlook for 'playoffs' remains perilous
05/11/00: Giuliani's travels
05/09/00: A Yale degree, a Bob Jones education
05/03/00: Show of force!
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04/28/00: Bill Russell and American racism
04/24/00: Vietnam 25 -- The good, bad and ugly
04/19/00: Nader's threat to Gore in California
04/17/00: Berkeley politician visits with Elian's father
04/14/00: Clinton and the Castro curse
04/11/00: Men who saved Elián from the sea
04/06/00: Caine should coach politicians
04/03/00: No. 2 spots: Woman-to-woman?
03/29/00: Gray for veep and Gore might coast to victory
03/27/00: The secret life of a CIA wife
03/22/00: 'We're suckers for underdogs'
03/20/00: Bush's California dream vs. reality
03/06/00: Scary Gore vs. hopeful Bush
03/06/00: McCain's appeal to 'Reagan Democrats'
03/01/00: John McCain fits a hero's profile
02/28/00: Grading the American presidents
02/25/00: Clinton remains No. 1 issue
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02/18/00: McCain faces fury of GOP establishment
02/17/00: Citizen Springer
02/14/00: McCainia and the frisky independents
02/07/00: A prime-time primary for California
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01/31/00: Which GOPer is willing to pay for his positions?
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01/25/00: This time, candidates get 'authenticity' check
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01/06/00: The role of a lifetime
01/03/00: Dangers in Gore's dirty war
12/30/99: Churchill's fighting words saved the century
12/28/99: Candidate Gore's separation anxiety
12/17/99: Catch 22: Leading candidates don't lead
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12/15/99: Is Hillary clueless?
12/08/99: Taking Buchananism to the streets
12/03/99: Why are we so obsessed with 'spin'?
12/01/99: Donald Trump, 'Sinatra of Steel'
11/29/99: Why AlGore will be our next president
11/23/99: After the fall
11/17/99: Our conveniently forgetful president
11/15/99: Next president: Male, WASP, self-selected
11/10/99: Backroom Bill
11/08/99: Please don't feed the 'pander bears'
11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
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10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State — Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
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09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
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09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
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08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

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