Metropolis: Wednesday, June 25, 2003
George Want a Jet Ride?

Bush hasn’t changed much since his Ranger days — and that’s not good.


It seems like a long time ago now, when George W. Bush was an innocent shrub participant in a Major League Baseball franchise.

I was one of the early participants in the Texas Rangers’ women-in-the-locker-room program (and subsequent rehabilitation). Despite being mostly accepted as a Fort Worth Star-Telegram sportswriter, I tried to limit my visits there — just so nobody thought I was looking at naked men for fun.

Between those forays, I’d often sit in the dugout. On many days, George W. was there for a similar reason — never wanting to overdo his welcome in the sacrosanct clubhouse realm. On many days, over several seasons, it was just me ‘n’ George shootin’ the shit in the marginally air-conditioned dugout, before the guys came out for batting practice.

We were both runners so we talked about our mileage. We were both trying to improve our Spanish at the time because the Rangers had all those young Hispanic guys. When Julio Franco found Jesus, George and I talked about our faith. As surprised as I was when Julio began reading the Bible on team charters, after years of apparent success at avoiding AIDS in the Baja Beach Club parking lot, I was even more surprised when Dubya started spouting First Baptist lingo. He seemed to know the same Bible I learned growing up.

But after all those hours of shared conversation, I realized I still didn’t have much of a clue about him.

Like the day I mentioned sexual harassment. He cocked his head in that way that a parrot does when someone has just said “pretty bird.” He said, “Hmm, I never thought of that. Jen-fer, do our guys ever bother you?’’

Geez, this was the first time the thought ever occurred to him? I explained that after a woman sportswriter has shown a team that she’s a good journalist, trustworthy, is not a groupie, and keeps her legs shaved, no one really bothers you much anymore.

Except for Billy Ripken, I told him. “He can kinda fart on command. Every time he passes me, out here [on the field] or in the clubhouse, he makes a big ol’ fart noise.’’

George cocked his head again. He was fascinated that anyone could do that. The next day, he sat down in the press box, propped his boots on the counter, and said, “Jen-fer, I talked to my wife about what you said about Billy Ripken. And she says I’m a lot like Billy Ripken.’’

To this day, I just can’t shake the image, as he bumps along in his little golf cart with the Egyptian president, just seeing little cartoon bubbles of diplomacy rising on the tv screen.

In Arlington, it was always as if he was just playing owner, with Tom Schieffer and company making all the real decisions. George was just there to sit in the good seats and pay attention when the peanuts came his way. Pretty bird.

It’s becoming clear now that he’s playing at being president, too, a happy bobblehead doll-in-chief they shake every now and then for a quote. His approach to the presidency is so hands-off that he said he didn’t even watch tv coverage as U.S. forces were going into Iraq.

But really, has he ever done anything but play at his roles in life, from student to soldier to sober guy? Most people know Bush was a C student at Yale, his second-lowest grade a 71 in economics. Fortunately, someone else is ciphering on economics for him now.

Let’s talk about the sober part. One night in the early ‘90s, I brought up the subject of drinking (perhaps because I had shown up for the game lookin’ just like someone who’d had six shots of Jaegermeister the night before).

“I used to have a beer — or ten,’’ he told me. But he said he’d quit cold turkey in 1986. However, just tiptoe into a website called, and you’ll find a 1992 video of a Lubbock County wedding where George is “playing’’ drunk. You be the judge.

Businessman? The oil company failed. President? He lost the popular vote by more than 500,000 ballots, those pesky Iraqis are still hiding their weapons of mass destruction, and he’s held the fewest press conferences of any president since Beaver Cleaver started dating. His first year in office, he set a record for presidential vacation days taken.

Orator? Two years ago, at the Jefferson Memorial, he told folks, “It means what these words say, for starters. The great, inalienable rights of our country. We’re blessed with such values in our country. And I ... it’s ... I’m a proud man to be the nation based upon such wonderful values.’’

As for soldiering, after completing the Air National Guard pilot training that got him out of Vietnam (despite scoring 25 percent on his pilot aptitude test), he was basically AWOL for a couple of years. Look it up. Copies of his military records are on the internet. George must have gotten tired of playing soldier — until he got to land on the aircraft carrier, of course. Banana republic dictators and Austrian house painters with moustaches liked wearing uniforms, too.

I try to explain to my sister, who probably became a Republican at some altar call I missed in the ‘60s, and to others why I won’t vote for someone who was so nice to be around.

Well, I tell them, it would be like voting for me. I’m smart enough, I’m fun to be around, I’ve got family connections (my father was on the Planning & Zoning Commission in Arlington) but like most journalists, I only know a little about a lot of things. Would you want me in charge? Hell, no. I can’t even play Scrabble, much less President.

I’ve been hoping George would tire of this role, but I guess not. Maybe they’ve promised him another uniform.

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