the choice 2000

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interview: tom grieve
photo of tom grieve

Grieve was the general manager of the Texas Rangers and currently serves as a broadcaster for the team. He speaks about George W. Bush's role as owner of the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1998, and how that experience relates to Bush's political career.
Tell me about your first meeting with George W. Bush, your first impressions.

I think my first reaction was a little bit negative...Here comes this spoiled little rich guy who wants to be a baseball owner now and we're going to have to put up with it... The funny thing is, right from the start, any perception like that was completely debunked. I think the thing that came across right from the start, and continued throughout the time that George was with the Rangers was that he's a nice guy. He's a good guy, he's a down-to-earth guy, he didn't want to come in and run the baseball team. He loved baseball, he helped put together the group to buy the team, he wanted to see the team flourish and be successful, and he was very supportive behind the scenes. But he never at all came in and tried to be the guy, tried to make the trade, try to run the team. He didn't have that kind of agenda right from the start and he put us all at ease the first time we met him.

What was George Bush's role at the Rangers?

Well he became-- along with Rusty Rose-- one of the two managing general partners. It was George and Rusty who, basically, made the philosophy of the team and ran the team on an everyday basis. Rusty was behind the scenes; he didn't want any contact with the media, didn't want to be a public figure. He was more of the financial person behind the scenes. George was the front man. George was the guy that you met when you wanted to be introduced to Ranger baseball. He was the spokesperson. He dealt with the media, he dealt with the fans, and it was obvious to us right from the start that that's what he was made for.... He was there every day. He sat next to the dugout, he was on the field before the game, when there were tough decisions to be made he accepted responsibility for them and we all always appreciated that. He didn't hide behind anyone. He was there to take the heat.... George chose to sit right next to the dugout, with the fans, every day... I mean, it's a hundred degrees down there. He's there from before the game, half an hour before the game, didn't leave his seat except to go to the bathroom, cheering for the ball club, signing autographs, listening to hecklers, accepting well-wishes from season-ticket customers.

Define what being around George Bush is like.

I think the easiest way to explain that is, when you're in an organization, and I can only speak for Ranger baseball because this is the only job I've ever had, when people at his level are walking around the office, it's very common for those of us who work there to look out into the hallway and say, "Uh-oh, I hope he's not coming this way. There's got to be a problem, here he comes."

With George, everybody looked out and saw him and said, "I hope he comes my way. I hope he comes into my office." He wasn't an owner who sent memos, that was removed from everybody. His way of communicating was to get there early and make the rounds and talk to everybody, not just the general manager but-- sometimes it was the scouting director, sometimes it was the director of media relations, and a lot of times it was the secretaries. Just to talk to them.

... he has a little touch of sarcasm to him, I always worried they're going to catch one of these little wisecracks that he's going to make. He always made you feel better when you left. He has a great sense of humor, he's a genuine good guy, and when he was talking to you, he made you feel like you were the focus of it. You were the one he cared about. "How's your family, is everything going well, is there anything we can do to make this a better organization?" And when he left, you'd say to yourself, "Man, what a great guy. I can't believe he's the owner of the team, he acts like one of the-- just one of the people that's working there."

How important is loyalty to George Bush?

I think George was loyal in this way, in that he was very supportive of-- he never left you hanging. We made some bad decisions while he was here, and he never removed himself from those decisions, as if to say, "I delegate that authority and those are the guys making those decisions, you know, I didn't have anything to do with that." George's way of showing his loyalty and the way he ran the team would be to be there, "Look, we make well-planned-out decisions in this organization, and when we succeed we all enjoy the benefit, and when we don't, we all take the blame. That was the person that made that decision, but we were all involved in it, and so if you want to complain about that decision, then that decision starts with the top and that's me and we'll discuss it." So he was loyal in that way, in that he was solidly behind everybody.

When he was negotiating in public for the team, how did he come across?

He came across as genuine, as down-to-earth, as not trying to scam the public, as not trying to line his own pockets, because he was honest about it. He said, "Look, if this all happens, ownership is going to profit from it. We're not trying to tell you that we're in this to lose money. I mean, we want to make a profit. Help us do it, and in helping us do it, we'll give you a first-class stadium that's second to none, a team that can win, that you can support, and something that the whole community can be proud of." And he sold it in a way that was honest, that the fans bought into and I think the election ended up probably being a much greater victory than was anticipated.

How much did the Bush name help?

I think the name helped, is my own impression. But you can only go so far with a name. And George made a point of not shying away from his name. He would let you know how proud he was of his father, how much respect he had for his mother. But at the same time, he was going to sink or swim based on who he was, and how he performed, and the talent that he had, and so while the name can get you in the door, it may get you into the rotary club, it may get you the meeting of all the big people in Arlington that are going to help support this, but what you say and how you deliver is ultimately the bottom line, not what your name is. So I think he would be the first to say that his name opened doors but then, he had to perform, and there's no doubt that he did. He didn't get what he got based on his name, he got it based on his ability and the talent that he had.

So what did baseball do for George Bush?

I think what it gave to him was a tremendous sense of accomplishment, to put his group together, to raise the team, performance-wise on the field, to a much higher level; they won a division championship for the first time, they had a brand-new beautiful stadium, and so that when he left there was a much better product than when he got here. He spent those five or six years thoroughly enjoying it. It brought him pleasure, it made him a lot of money, it was successful business deal, and when he left he could look back and say, "We, meaning the ownership group, did a great job."

Why didn't he stay?

Right from the start, everybody would say, "I wonder if this is just a springboard for something better. Is he just owning the team because he wants to get his name out there and while he's owning the team he'll be laying the groundwork for being governor, being Senator, being president, you know, whatever it might be. Yet the way he ran the team and the way that he came to work every day, and the way he interacted with everybody led everybody to really feel that that's not what he was here for. He immersed himself one hundred percent into this ball club. It was not just something to use to get to something else.

At the same time, I don't know that he envisioned himself being the owner of the Rangers for the rest of his life, and, you know, successful people build things and go on to new projects. Was it something that he felt that he had accomplished and wanted to move on to something else? Was the opportunity to run for governor something that he couldn't turn down, probably? But while he was here, we had his undivided attention. He was not planning his governorship while he was with the Rangers; at least, he never led us to believe that or showed any signs of doing that.

Anything you can share about what qualities he has that would make him a good president?

The thing that I keep going back to, just to boil it down to the lowest common denominator that keeps coming across to me, is the guy is a down-to-earth nice guy. There's nothing pretentious about him. He's smart, he's very quick-witted, he has a little touch of sarcasm to him, I always worried that when he got into the high political field that with all the people around him and all the cameras and all the microphones they're going to catch one of these little wisecracks that he's going to make, but as of right now I don't think they caught anything that they didn't really like to hear. But he's just a good guy. I personally would never get involved in politics unless George Bush called me and asked me to do something, and then I'd do it in a spur of the moment. And that's the only person I can ever imagine doing that for. Just because I don't want to spout my political views because they're not very well-founded in political facts. I would vote for George Bush because I know him, I like him, he's honest, he's witty, he's funny, when I watch him talk I enjoy what he says, he's got charisma, I'd love having him come to dinner, sit down with my family and talk to them, and I trust him. And I think that comes across to people who take the chance to know him. As for how is his foreign policy and his domestic policy? I don't know. But I know that he'll surround himself with good people, and the other qualities that I've seen, the human qualities, are the qualities that lead me to believe that he'll make a spectacular president.

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