the choice 2000
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who are they (really)?
The Late Bloomer

CLAY JOHNSON, High School and College Friend: He was not a politically active person at Yale. There were Young Republicans and Young Democrats and Young Communists and Young Martians, and there were lots of different political groups there. George was not involved in any of them. I don't know that he went to hear any of the political people that came on campus to speak. I don't know that he went to any of those. He just exhibited no interest at all in politics at that time.

MARY MATALIN, Republican Political Advisor: Well, it's hard for me, or people of the campaign mentality, to look at him as a black sheep. Let's say he was a late bloomer. He tried a lot of different things. A lot of people think that's the better way, the preferable way to go through life. The other kids were a tad more traditional, settled down earlier and what not. But the connotation of black sheep is a negative one, I tend to think of it as, and I think he lived his life, not sadly or gropingly, but adventurously. He didn't miss anything he wanted to do. He wanted to be in baseball in a serious way, and he did. He wanted to do business. I mean, his early loss at Congress didn't set him back. Again, he's not a navel gazer. He's a fighter, he's a doer. He moves on. He learns and he moves on.

DR. CHARLES YOUNGER, Midland Family Friend: I think he enjoyed, you know, drinking a little bit and getting a little boisterous and having a good time. But I think he started reflecting on it and said it was interfering with his energy. That maybe he wasn't as alert as he needed to be in the evening hours and could be more productive if he was more alert.

JOHN ELLIS, Cousin: I think by George's own admission he drank too much. I don't think he was an every night drinker, but I think he probably partied too hard. I think he probably said things to people that he wished he hadn't said. I think he feels, now, that he was young and irresponsible. And, you know, that's--I mean, I'm of the view of the friends who say, "hey, that was b-team ball, baby." But George, he's a very sensitive guy, and I think he feels like he hurt some people along the way and he feels bad about it.

JIM PINKERTON, Advisor, Bush '88 Presidental Campaign: There is no doubt in my mind that the decisions that George Jr. made to sort of quit drinking, and so on, and so on, were largely internally driven. I mean, he may have read a book, and he may have done this, and that, and whatever, but I have no trouble believing that at some point he simply said, "Look, I'm not going to do this anymore. I'm going to solve my own problem, I'm not going to psychobabble, I'm not going to tell everyone about my problems, I'm not going to go on Phil Donahue, now or ever, or its equivalent, I'm just going to simply deal with it."

MARY MATALIN: I love this trying to figure him out, in this age where everybody wants to tell you, all the time, about what makes them tick. His whole family is, they have an adversity to self-absorption. His grandmother was like that, his father's like that, and Mrs. Bush. None of them sit around saying, Oh, me, me, me.

JOHN ELLIS: He will always be underestimated, therefore he will always be better, because he's disciplined in debate, he's much smarter than he gets credit for, and he's really, really good at the politics business, he's as good as it gets at the politics business.

DOUG WEAD, Bush Advisor: I once sent him a memo talking to him about, "Great people have to do great things," talking about the cure to cancer and all these other great things. Projects that he should take on to get elected president. And when he called back he shut that right down. he has no interest in being great. And I sighed because I love history, you know. And I hung up afterwards and I told my wife about it and she said, "You know, a person who isn't driven to be great has a lot better chance of being great than somebody that that's their sole desire." And that's him. He'll see his responsibility and he'll go after it, he'll do it.


DOUG WEAD: He's a born natural leader because he's fearless. He's the sort of guy that you're sitting in the classroom and nobody knows what the teacher's talking about, and he's the guy who will raise his hands to the relief of everybody else and say, "What are you talking about?" he's a gutsy guy.

KAREN HUGHES, Bush Presidential Campaign: A lot of times we'll go to fundraising events with the Governor. And if you go to someone's home, sometimes you'll come in, and they'll treat the very important person, the Governor, with great royalty-- you know, they're so glad to have him in his home; and by the way, the staff can go back here to the back room. And the Governor will say, "Oh, is this the room for the little people? I want to be back here..." He'll just immediately confront the uncomfortableness of a slight. He just has a very winning personality, and a way of instantly breaking down barriers.

DOUG WEAD: I saw him go right up to Bryant Gumbel, stick his finger in his chest, and "You said my dad--" and Bryant Gumbel just got up and was so shocked and G.W. just picks up the phone and calls and he confronts people. "Why'd you say that, where'd that come from?" And it's very healthy, because once you understand he's that way, you're very careful about what you say to who and when and why because you know he's going to close the loop.

TERRY JOHNSON, Yale Roommate: There was one morning we were playing golf, and it was early in the morning. And he comes out. We're kind of standing on the first tee. And he said, "Guess what?" I said, "What's that?" He said, "I've decided to quit smoking." I said, "Oh, that's great. That's a really good decision. When are you going to start?" And he said, "This morning." So we get about an hour into it. We're out someplace on the golf course. And I look over, and he's shaking like a leaf. He could barely hold the club, and he's obviously going through some kind of withdrawal. I said, "George, come on, man, you're in agony. Let's quit. Let's walk in." And he goes, "No, no, no. Absolutely not. No, we're going to finish. We're going to keep playing golf." And so we keep playing. We finish the round. And eventually the shaking subsides, and no further smoking. It was no support group, no patches, no gum, no hypnosis, no any of that stuff. It's, I decide what I'm going to do. Here's what it is. I'm going to do it.

The Man From Midland

CLAY JOHSON: There's a whole lot of Midland in George Bush. It's a-- It's got a lot of wonderful, small town values. And a lot of close friends and it's very much on a human scale. It's a human dimension. You can understand what Midland is and is not. And there's a lot of people creating something out of nothing, a lot of people taking risks. A lot of people seeing things in simple terms. Trying to simplify things, not make things more complex. There's a whole lot of Midland in George.

MARY MATALIN: He cares about--and I say this from these endless conversations on the road--family, children, stability, home, love--very traditional things. And at the time we were riding around, I was mid-thirties, career, kind of overly too ambitious, feminist, crazy person. And he didn't--without being negative about it--there's nothing more rewarding, as fulfilling, beautiful in life than having a solid, stable, loving relationship. And that's what--on a personal level, that's where it all comes home for him, and for the whole family.

DOUG WEAD: You don't have this layers and layers and layers of deception and game-playing, anticipation of what the next move is. It's all stripped away from George W. Bush. It goes right to the heart of it. And you can't help but be seduced by it, no matter who you are, you're a liberal, you're a conservative, where you hail in the political spectrum, it's very seductive because it's real. You sense it's real, and here's a friend.

Click here for longer interviews and more resources on the life of George W. Bush.

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