- The Washington Times - Friday, December 10, 1999

Shed a tear for poor George W. Bush. The man can’t get anything right.
First it was his fund raising. Every morning when he went out to get the paper, he had to rake 20-dollar bills off his lawn. Perfect strangers were driving by at all hours of the night to throw money at the house.
From all the commotion this caused, you might have thought the neighbors were complaining about the greenback litter.
His phenomenal success in collecting money to run for president was naturally taken to be a sign of weakness, proof that people only gave him money because they liked him and thought he might make a pretty good president. This irked some other people because, unlike the other candidates of both parties, he was raising his own money and wouldn’t stick his hands in the pockets of Buddhist nuns (or wherever it is that nuns keep their loose change), Chinese generals and the taxpayers to pay for his campaign. The man has no shame.
Yesterday, his campaign announced that it was cutting back on raising money. With $63 million in the bank, he really doesn’t need any more right now and his friends, and a lot of people who aren’t his friends but who are merely feeling friendly, can give their checkbooks a rest.
Now there’s more trouble, this time from Grandma Grundy, Aunt Mandy and the deacon. George W. can’t get his smile on right. The Houston Chronicle reports that George W.’s “people-winning smile” is becoming a liability, and Grandma Grundy and her friends think maybe he ought to learn to frown, scowl, grimace, glower, and maybe even pout.
Some people are telling him the charm has got to go, too. They’re concerned that the governor’s easy magnetism the quality that makes him so likable might come across as arrogance. (He should be more like Bill Bradley.) One man in a rival campaign says George W. “risks seeming smug about the need for mastery on the issues.” He needs a “speech coach” to help him shed his spontaneity.
Hearing all this, you might think George W. would snarl and tell his critics to drop dead, since snarling, nasty and brutish seem to be what they’re saying he should learn. Doesn’t he know how voters love to be snarled at?
But no, the man just won’t take advice. “That’s your interpretation,” he says to one well-meaning inquiry about why he’s so appealing. “People have got to make up their minds. I try not to take myself too seriously sometimes, but I know what I believe. I know the principles by which I make decisions. And I feel comfortable that I can lead our country.”
This preoccupation with nice, and how George W. should rid himself of it, naturally puzzles everyone who hasn’t spent a lot of time in Washington, where scowling and snarling is an art form, and where taking yourself seriously, even when nobody else does, is the first rule of politics. Says Karen Hughes, George W.’s alter ego: “Far better a fun-loving grin than a grim-faced grimace.” (She doesn’t get it, either.)
“During his five years as governor, I don’t think anyone made an issue out of his smile,” she says. “It just goes to show you the difference in presidential politics.”
Yes, indeed. In fact, a lot of the people now obsessed with calibrating his smile Should he expose more molars? Is he flossing too often? Should he offer less teeth and more lip? are the same people who are frustrated because the cheap-shot questions thrown at him don’t seem to be getting under his skin, which is clearly much too thick.
The cocaine questions have grown stale, except to the late, late-night comics, and so are the yuks about his flunking the challenge to spell the names of the prime minister of Lower Slobbovia, the foreign secretary of Middle Slovakia, and the superintendent of the motor pool in Upper Gondola. (Bill Clinton can not only spell their names, he can give you the bra and panty sizes of their wives and daughters, having personally taken their measure.)
Some of us in the trade are concerned about polls showing that voters and readers and viewers are bored with the presidential campaign and it’s not even under way. They think what they’re reading and watching doesn’t have much to do with what they expect in a candidate.
That’s because they’re not paying close attention. Not only have we told them about George W.’s littering, his shameless charm and his brazen smiles, his disdain for nasty, brutish and short, but we’ve told you about John McCain’s temper, Gary Bauer’s groupies, Steve Forbes’ vaudeville patter, Bill Bradley’s sports-page clippings, and Al Gore’s many inventions. What else does anyone need to know about a man’s qualifications to be president of the United States?

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