Austin's Is Sick of Carpetbagger Bush's Phony Texan Act
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Austin's Is Sick of Carpetbagger Bush's Phony Texan Act | August 5, 2005
Violet Jones

Well, Bush is off on vacation, and once again we are being bombarded with "charming" images of the cowboy wannabe carefully posed in western wear between cacti or aboard the Presidential pickup.

While the mainstream media gleefully regurgitates Bush admin press releases about his John Wayne charm and hospitality, please remember that Bush's ranch is just a giant set and that Bush is about as Texan as Maine lobster.

As for being a tough, charming cowboy -- we're talking about a man who came away bruised and publicly shamed from an altercation with a pretzel and who is so afraid of horses he refused to go riding with Mexican President Vicente Fox (he also refused a custom-made saddle Fox tried to give him). This season's AP article even notes that there are no horses on Bush's ranch and that Bush calls himself a windshield rancher."

Still, he's got that great hat and belt buckle..This year's world visitors to the set, um..ranch.. were treated to hoe downs, barbeques and truck-ride photo-ops. Although we haven't caught any pics of Bush holding hands with the Saudi crown price among the blooming bluebonnets (out of season, by the way -- all the bluebonnets here in Austin have been burnt away by the summer sun for months) we have been treated to images of Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe riding shotgun in the Truck and of Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon 'twixt the cacti.

Like all the phony photo-ops presented by the Bush administration (remember the Made in China boxes and the fake turkey in Iraq) the props and costumes of the Texas set the wire services' photogs have been so willing to frame and use are cliche and inaccurate.

Cacti are around, but not prominent in Crawford's landscape. We've spent some time in Waco, and remember few if any cacti from the broad fields dotted with the occasional mesquite or oak tree.

As for the Western gear that Bush awkwardly sports, sure, some folks around here still wear cowboy hats -- but theirs are usually sweat-stained if they're wearing them to work or rhinestone encrusted if they're wearing them to the bar.

Bush, we know, never lived on a ranch (this year's AP article points this out, even). He was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and spent his childhood traveling between the luxurious homes of his millionaire family in Kennebunkport, Maine, Midland and Houston, Texas, and Jupiter Island, Florida.

He attended high school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts (where he was a cheerleader -- isn't this the opposite of a cowboy?) and University back at his birthplace of New Haven, Connecticut (Yale).

Bush is a Yankee, a poser and a fake. Then again, you don't have to be a Texan to see that. It's clear in the sneer just below his pristine, strategically donned (probably made in China and probably fake) Stetson.

Mainstream Media's Press Release Regurgitation:

Bush's Ranch Serves Down-Home Diplomacy

(note the first sentence -- maybe the mainstream media is picking up on the set after all)

AP | August 4, 2005
by Nedra Pickler

President Bush has turned his remote ranch into a stage for down-home diplomacy, where a barbecue grill and a pickup truck have become his favorite tools for dealing with world leaders.

The 1,600-acre property in central Texas is a place where aides say the president feels most comfortable and can spend more get-to-know-you time with his guests than in hurried Washington. On Thursday, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe will be the 14th foreign leader to visit the ranch.

Bush's dog once wandered through a press conference with the Australian prime minister. The president led the Saudi crown prince by the hand through blooming bluebonnets. And Russia's president was treated to a hoedown with cowboy cooks and a swing band.

"You only invite your friends into your house," Bush said when Russian President Vladimir Putin became the first head of state to visit in November 2001. "Occasionally, you let a salesman in, or two."

The ranch is outside Crawford, a one-stoplight town with 700 residents.

Ranch visits have been a reward, for example when Bush hosted leaders from Europe, Australia and Japan who supported the war in Iraq. He's also used ranch invitations as an enticement, like when he tried to persuade China's president to help pressure North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons program.

Bush has used his private residence for entertaining heads of state in a manner unlike any other president in 40 years. The others have preferred to host their counterparts at the White House or the presidential retreat at Camp David.

Except for last year when he was campaigning for re-election, Bush has spent every August at his ranch since becoming president. With this trip, he has made 51 ranch visits.

Perhaps it's something about their Texas roots, but the last president to practice diplomacy at his home was Lyndon Johnson, who owned a ranch about 100 miles south of the one Bush now owns.

Johnson's first guest was Ludwig Erhard, chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, in December 1963. Presidential historian Thomas Alan Schwartz of Vanderbilt University said the Germans at first misunderstood the ranch invitation — thinking it was a slight compared with the White House — but the visit turned out to be a success. Johnson served Erhard barbecue and gave him a 10-gallon hat.

"There's sort of an odd similarity" between the way Bush and Johnson went back to Texas," Schwartz said, pointing out that neither president grew up on a ranch. "Having a ranch is sort of a symbol of status in Texas."

There are no horses on Bush's Prairie Chapel Ranch. He calls himself a "windshield rancher" and has delighted in giving VIPs a tour in his white pickup or on his John Deere Gator. Foreign dignitaries also usually get a Southern-inspired meal, like the fried catfish, black-eyed pea slaw, mesquite smoked beef brisket and pork ribs served to Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

Meetings also are far less formal than those in the White House — the dress code calls for an open collar shirt with no tie and, at least for Bush, cowboy boots and a big belt buckle.

There are often weighty matters at play behind the hospitality. Bush has pressured the leaders of China and Japan to help stop North Korea's nuclear ambitions, discussed plans for Middle East peace with the heads of Egypt, Israel and Britain and has plotted Saddam Hussein's removal with his war allies.

It was at the ranch that Bush, with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at his side, announced the United States would submit a new resolution to the U.N. Security Council to set the stage for war against Iraq.

Bush made it clear that those who were against him wouldn't get the honor of coming to Crawford. Angered at French President Jacques Chirac's opposition to the war, Bush said, "I doubt he'll be coming to the ranch any time soon."

But a ranch rejection can cut both ways. Mexican President Vicente Fox was to be the first head of state to visit Bush's ranch, but he snubbed the invitation to protest the Texas execution of a convicted police killer that Fox said was a Mexican national.

The dispute eventually faded, and Fox this year became one of only two foreign leaders to visit the ranch twice. The other was Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, a desert kingdom that the U.S. relies on for oil imports. The friendship between the two nations was shaken by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and Arab anger over U.S. support for Israel.

Bush said after Abdullah's first visit that the two forged a personal bond in five hours of talks that went two hours over schedule and included a pickup truck ride through the woods. Still, the two exchanged some blunt talk — Abdullah voiced his disapproval of Bush's policy toward Israel and Bush raised concerns about Saudis inciting anti-Israel terror.

Four months later, Bush made a further conciliatory gesture by inviting Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, who brought six of his eight children to the ranch.

When he prepared for Putin's visit, Bush said someone who gets to see Texas gets to know his values. "The best diplomacy starts with getting to know each other," the president said.



Fox and Bush have agenda cut out for them

USA Today | August 1, 2001
By Elliot Blair Smith

MEXICO CITY — Mexican President
Vicente Fox, while kicking back with the
prime minister of Spain in this country's capital
a few weeks ago, suddenly got an urge to call
his friend George W. Bush at the White House.

That Fox had nothing particularly important to
share with the U.S. president became evident
when aides related the impromptu three-way
conversation that included Spain's José María
Aznar. Fox aides said the call to Bush served
"to emphasize the closeness" between men
who "understand each other and are alike."

Fox also seemed to be making the point that
Mexico enjoys a special relationship with the
United States, due in no small part to him.

Next week, Fox and Bush hope to prove
there is more to the relationship than just talk.

Fox, guest of honor at Bush's first state visit in Washington, plans to spend
Wednesday and Thursday with his fellow rancher and former border-state
governor. The two men will lead Cabinet negotiations on immigration reform,
border safety, drug interdiction and trade as they set their agendas for the next
several years. And they will visit a Mexican-American community in Toledo,

But at a time when Fox and Bush themselves
raised expectations that this pair of
across-the-fence ranch owners could produce
important agreements, including expanded
temporary-worker visas for Mexicans in the
USA, officials from both countries now say
they have a lot of deliberating to do yet.

"It's a very complicated negotiation — very entangled — with delicate
political equations in the United States and in Mexico," Mexican Foreign
Secretary Jorge Castaneda says. "We've run out of time" to settle all issues on
the agenda before the Bush-Fox summit.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow says, "It's not realistic to think
that problems with so many facets, and that have existed for years and years,
can be resolved in a few months of work."

But grand expectations, often tilting at reality, are part and parcel of Fox's

Last December, the lanky, mustachioed Fox — likened to the "Marlboro
Man" of billboard fame because he favors cowboy boots and hat over a suit
and tie — ended the former ruling party's monolithic 71-year grip on power in
Mexico. He quickly emerged as a symbol of democracy worldwide.

But the Mexican president has found that running this complex, contradictory
country is more difficult than running for office here. Often he trips over his
own boots.

After promising to practice austerity in an office plundered by past officials,
Fox recently acknowledged that his refurbished official residence was
budgeted to receive $400 bath towels. He fired his purchasing chief. And as
Mexico's first president in more than a century to openly mix politics with his
Catholic faith, Fox, 59, also stirred controversy in July by marrying his
spokeswoman, Martha Sahagun, 49, without waiting for their first marriages'

Supporters say the U.S. economic slowdown is one important reason Fox has
been unable to deliver on his promises of job growth and increased public
security in this country. Another reason cited for Fox's governing difficulties is
the nation's fractious, newly independent congress where no party, including
Fox's National Action Party, or PAN, has a majority.

So what can Fox offer Bush? And what does he want? Here are a few topics
on the table:

Drugs. Fox and Bush have shepherded the closest-ever cooperation in
interdiction efforts between the two countries, officials from both
countries say. U.S. Customs pilots are training Mexicans in
air-surveillance tactics. The U.S. Coast Guard is patrolling the eastern
Pacific with the Mexican navy. And the DEA and FBI are sharing
sensitive drug-related intelligence with the Mexican government.

But more must be done. Corruption still cripples law enforcement in
Mexico. And U.S. officials say they have identified a new drug threat in
Mexico — methamphetamine production — and want the Mexican
government to more closely regulate dangerous "precursor" chemicals.
They are the building blocks of illegal narcotics.

Immigration. Fox wants to find new ways to "poke holes" in the
border through a European-style common market that erases political
and economic divides among the USA, Canada and Mexico. For now,
Fox wants Washington to "regularize" the status of more than 3 million
Mexicans who live illegally in the USA.

Bush says he won't offer amnesty but is considering an overhaul of the
U.S. temporary-worker visa program. Mexican and U.S. diplomatic
sources say the Bush administration may increase the number of
non-farm job slots — from 66,000 this year to about 300,000 — and
streamline visa applications.

Trade. Diplomatic sources say the U.S. government is considering
ways to underwrite economic growth in areas of Mexico that are
homes to migrants who leave for work in the USA. The U.S.-funded
Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corp. might be
tapped to provide such funding. Bush also will consider overhauling the
North American Development Bank, created by the North American
Free Trade Agreement, to free up additional investment for
environmental projects in border areas.

Bush wants Mexico to deregulate its energy sector. Over the next five
years, Mexico needs $50 billion in investment to meet domestic energy
demand. But Fox will be hard-pressed to deliver because the
constitution forbids foreign investment in oil and Mexico only allows
limited investment in power production.

At the presidents' last get-together, in February at Fox's ranch in the
central state of Guanajuato, there were several embarrassing hiccups.
When Fox invited his fellow rancher to go horseback riding, Bush
unexpectedly declined. And when Fox tried to give Bush a
custom-made horse saddle, Bush rejected the gift as excessive.

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