- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Well, bull-corn! as we drooling, slope-browed Texas primitives grunt upon emerging from the caves where Michael Lind seems to think we dwell. Scratching ourselves and blinking in unaccustomed sunlight, we sometimes intensify the exclamation, replacing "corn" with a more graphic four-letter noun. Every incentive for such a substitution can be found in the pages of this thoroughly awful book.
I don't make myself plain? Let me try again. Mr. Lind's diatribe against the kind of conservatism he imputes to George W. Bush "an authentic cultural Texan," as he puts it is strident, prissy, uncharitable, humorless, overwrought, flimsily researched, poorly argued, indifferently written and generally cheesy.
"Made in Texas" purports to describe and critique the influence of Texas, as well as the South, on our present president's political development: a reasonable enough mission, had Mr. Lind ever gotten around to it. He failed to do so why?
One obvious obstacle was the author's desire to proclaim anew his by-now-familiar agenda: the creation of a "radical center" between old-style left and new-style right. The last chapter of the book discloses where the enterprise, in its latest form, is going. We need, it would seem, "federally sponsored decentralization." We need "a hydrogen-based national energy network." We need "a post-agricultural Plains in which private wilderness preserves alternate with small towns and federal research bases." It can be inferred that George W. Bush's chief sin is failure to fall in line with Michael Lind's vision.
Mr. Bush II, as Mr. Lind presents him to us, is in thrall to various devils: fundamentalists, racists, nostalgic post-Confederates, rubes, boobs, neo-conservative foreign-policy hawks, oilmen. We know this is true because Michael Lind breathlessly asserts it. The flat assertion, for Mr. Lind, is all that truth requires: no proof; no documentation; no nuances or distinctions.
Thus: "The diverse and cosmopolitan world of computers and biotech is as much a puzzlement to the Bushes as it is to their friends in the royal families of Saudi Arabia… . ." And: "The Southern conservatism of Texas politicians like George W. Bush, Phil Gramm, Dick Armey, and Tom DeLay … is a menace to the prosperity and security of the world as much as to that of the United States."
Frequent small matters like whether the Confederate monuments on the Texas Capitol grounds are gone (Mr. Lind mistakenly says they vanished in the 1990s) can be forgiven. More irritating is the rinky-dink quality of research, resting as it does primarily on books and articles that feed the author's own convictions. Those that point in another direction forget it.
Mr. Lind, who touts his credentials as a fifth-generation Texan, views the huge, complex Lone Star State through a drinking straw. If you aren't a good guy, you're probably a bad guy. If the former like Lyndon Johnson you likely hail from tolerant, pluralistic, progressive Central Texas. Bad guys, such as Mr. Bush, are rooted in the Old South portions of the state, where lynching blacks is how you while away a dull lunch hour. Mr. Bush's adopted county of McLennan (which, pace Mr. Lind, is in Central, not East Texas) symbolizes the misbegotten past, as does "reactionary" West Texas, where the future president grew up.
The symbol-making works only for readers who are into guilt by association: who are willing, in other words, to attach moral significance to the site of the Texas White House. Mr. Lind's obsession with nearby Waco (a civilized, genial, and no more than moderately conservative little city where I teach) will leave most readers scratching their heads. Who cares where Mr. Bush spends weekends? Could it be that our tour guide to Texas can't turn loose of a good stereotype that seemingly serves his purposes?
A related oddity is Mr. Lind's assumption that because the Old South element in Texas believes in so-and-so (e.g., the priority of "primitive commodity capitalist enterprises like cotton and oil production over high-tech manufacturing and scientific R&D;"), Mr. Bush necessarily believes in so-and-so.
Pliny the Elder declared that no book is so bad that some good may not be gotten out of it. Somewhere in the heap of misstatement, exaggeration and illlogic that is "Made in Texas" a shining nugget may very well lie buried, awaiting excavation. Good luck to the pick-and-shovel brigade, is all I can say.

William Murchison is Radford Distinguished Professor of Journalism at Baylor University.


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