- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2001

To President Bush, Rep. George Miller, the California Democrat with the heft and demeanor of a grizzly bear, is known simply as "Big George."

Meanwhile, mild-mannered Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, has been transformed into "Freddo" in the new president's vernacular.

"We got a new one for Lawrence Lindsey this week," said Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, referring to the administration's top economic adviser. "From now on, he's 'Thunderbolt Lindsey.' "

The new president is assigning nicknames to many of the folks he meets sometimes with an eye on potential political benefits.

Mr. Miller, for instance, is the ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, which makes him a significant player in Mr. Bush's efforts to get his education package through the lower chamber.

The notoriously gruff Mr. Miller has indicated that he found a lot in the president's package to embrace and has expressed a willingness to work with the new administration.

Mr. Bush's practice of doling out nicknames is something he has done since his days at Phillips Andover Academy, where he liberally handed out monikers to his pals. That habit perhaps was helped along by his one-time ownership of the Texas Rangers baseball team, a sport where nicknames are common.

The tendency was noted on the campaign trail last year when Mr. Bush began dubbing members of the press corps following him. David Gregory, the 6-foot-5-inch NBC White House correspondent, became known as "Stretch." Martha Brant of Newsweek became "Martita."

It's part of what has become known as the "charm offensive," generally defined as Mr. Bush's effort to use his charisma to form alliances. Aides say it is just the perceptible outgrowth of the president's cordial and easygoing manner.

"My guess is he wants people to know that he personally is a good guy, that he's someone that people can talk to directly and relate to," said Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat.

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