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Barbs, Brickbats and Picking the Best on the Ballot

November 05, 2000|JAMES P. PINKERTON | James P. Pinkerton is a syndicated columnist

Is Bush too dumb to be president? Everyone seems to wonder.

Some full disclosure: I worked for former President Bush from 1985 to 1992, in his winning and losing presidential campaigns of 1988 and 1992, and in his White House in between. During those years, I came to know George W. Bush well. He came to work full time on his father's 1988 presidential campaign; his office was across the hall from mine.

The general rule of campaigns is that the candidate's family is nothing but trouble for campaign staffers. "Junior," as we called him back then, was not. He was not there to run the campaign; he was there to help the campaign. And so, with good humor, he schmoozed all the time-consuming human flotsam and jetsam that floats through a presidential campaign: friends and fans, supporters, job seekers and always-pesky reporters.

And, no, he was not dumb. He had a sense of humor and a bit of playful wit. He was smart enough to listen more than he talked.

Bush is what he is: a Sunbelt businessman from a good family, turned politician. He thinks of himself as practical-minded, although he is smart enough not to dismiss, as his father once did, "the vision thing."

If Bush is elected on Tuesday, he will provide endless fodder for late-night comedians as he mangles the language, and snobby pundits will sneer as he gets caught short on historical references. But while his talk may be careless at times, he will think and consult before he acts, especially on foreign policy.

Is this a formula for greatness? Probably not. But in office, Bush would be both a good guy and an honest guy, and that's an improvement over what we have now and what we could otherwise get.

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