CEO Wet Dreams

Gore and Bush primers reveal who really won Tuesday's election

But when he decided to run for governor in 1994, after suddenly discovering he was dedicated to public service, it would no longer do to promote himself as Daddy's little boy. He switched to an impression of the tough-as-leather Texan familiar to us from Westerns. This stage gimmick isn't always convincing, as Ivins notes: "For an upper-class white boy, Bush comes on way too hard-ass—at a guess, to make up for being an upper-class white boy." In politics, Bush has always striven to keep people from noticing that he is an Ivy League-educated son of wealth and privilege, whose uncles are powers on Wall Street and whose 13th cousin, once removed, is Queen Elizabeth.

In going from state to national politics, he has kept the twang but moved on to an impression of a man who has been directing the government of a large state for six years. As a guide to Texas politics and its peculiar "weak-governor system," Shrub is invaluable. "The single most common misconception about George W. is that he has been running a large state for the past six years," Ivins writes. "Although the governor does have the power to call out the militia in the case of an Indian uprising, by constitutional arrangement the governor of Texas is actually the fifth-most-powerful statewide office: behind lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller and land commissioner." Most of the powers normally associated with a governor belong to Texas' lieutenant governor.

So how has such a person been able to attract record-shattering amounts of money to run for president? It's because he knows he owes his political life to big corporate money and acts accordingly. As Ivins rather indelicately sums it up, "he's a CEO's wet dream. He carries their water, he's stumpbroke —however you want to put it, George W. Bush is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America."

Al Gore: A User's Manual by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair; Verso. 284 pages, hardcover, $23; Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose; Random House. 179 pages, hardcover, $19.95.

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