But is he the education governor?
The interesting thing about Bush is he pressed the issue of education in a way that-- I'm not saying it's false, that he didn't believe it, but in a way that it was really others who really laid the groundwork for him. It was a whole history of moving toward accountability in education. It was a whole history of people who wanted to put money into education.
In fact, George Bush's biggest defeat as governor was on education, although most people don't know this, even in Texas. He pressed this extraordinary plan -- which is really an excellent plan in the minds of many people -- to put more money in our kids' schools by lowering property taxes and raising other ways of raising money. It was something that his political consultants and around him said, "Don't do. It's political dynamite."
But he did anyway. He saw himself as the education governor. In order to become the education governor, he had to do something big, something extraordinary. He had to, at one point he told me, "Spend the political capital that I'd gained in order to do something that's truly meaningful. That is to lower property taxes dramatically and put real money and change the education system of Texas."
He failed, and he failed in part because the plan that he pushed -- which ultimately was redone by allies in the legislature, Paul Sadler being the most important one of those -- failed with his own Republicans in the House and Senate. ...
…What kind of governor was he? What were his work habits?
... He was an extraordinary popular governor, in part because he was so personable. That works at a state level. …
He was a very diligent person. I can remember that, shortly after he was elected as governor, you go right into a legislative session. Worked very hard in the legislative session. Between legislative sessions, the governor has very little to do, actually, in a place like Texas, where it's not really a strong governor state. So a friend of his, who was working on the staff, was in his office one day. Bush asked, "Now what do we do?" And the guy said, "Well, you don't do anything. Because between legislative sessions, you make a few appointments. You meet with some people. There's almost nothing to do."
He didn't want that at all. He really actively began to talk about working ideas. That's when he began first to talk about taxes inside. Changing education. Defining who he was. He was a very active governor.
Some of his habits are that he is absolutely, precisely on time. The mansion is across the street from the Capitol. So he would arrive, sometimes walk, sometimes be driven by his security detail, at exactly the same time. Whether it was 7:00 in the morning or it was 7:15, he was right there.
He would work straight through the morning, a series of meetings and so forth. His meetings are 15-minute meetings. As governor, he never liked hour-long meetings.
When you gather people around him, he did exactly as governor what he does as president. He surrounds himself with a very small group of people he trusts, whose instincts he regards well, whose ideas he'll consider. And rather than read big long memos, he wants one page.
Rather than hear 15 minutes of recommendations, he wants to hear a minute. He wants to hear from a series of people, "What do you think? What do we do about this issue? What do we do?" He distills from those ideas what his decision is. He makes a decision, and moves on. …