Bush "The Texas Ranger"
This article belongs to column.
Part 3 "The Adult Bush"
After finishing the National Guard and moving onto Harvard Business School his spoilt, overgrown-student life style just continued to get worse. A year after finishing he got arrested for drunk driving in 1976 at the age of 30. A Bush spokesman admitted that this was his third arrest, but refused to elaborate on others, which have "disappeared" from the records. In the same frame of mind, he went on to make his first half-hearted stab at a political career in 1978 by standing for the House of Representatives and loosing convincingly.
Having failed in politics, he decided to have a shot at business. With the help of family friends he set up his own oil business, Arbusto Energy. It was a fiasco from the outset, never making a profit. Obviously, unable to go it on his own, family and friends stepped in to bail him out and a merger was made with another company called Spectrum 7, of which Bush became CEO. Within a few years it was $3million in debt. Again he was bailed out when another company run by a family friend took it over. This time they just gave Bush with $120,000 a year salary and a big wad of stock options, but no real responsibilities. A few months before Harken Energy when down the pan Bush sold his stocks.
It seems he was just fooling himself by imagining that he could lead a commercial life. MBA not withstanding, the history of his foray into the business world again gives the impression of a continuing pattern from Yale onwards, where Bush just isn't engaged in the world around him and incapable of making anything of it. Once again he seemed to have no idea of how fortunate he was or any sense of responsibility to try to make a success of opportunities handed to him on a platter. He seems to have been floating through a fairy tale world, where he had to do nothing to succeed on his own account, because qualifications, dodging the draft, getting let off arrests and bankrupting businesses were all things that could be fixed with a bit of cash and a few phone calls from dad and friends. He never had to toil to achieve something on his own and he never had to account for his failures. It is the classic picture of the spoilt little, rich kid with his head in the clouds and using a lot of booze to keep him there.
The Texas Ranger
Following the fiasco of his venture in business, Bush returned to his family home to campaign for his father's Presidency. Having become a born-again Christian after quitting the drink, he concentrated his time courting the conservative Christians and evangelical vote and delivering speeches and fundraising. Then in April 1989 he returned to Texas to purchase a partnership in the Texas Rangers baseball team.
This was probably the best and most realistic decision he made. Now dry, he could at least excel in what he knew as came best to him – campaigning and fundraising. He became the sort of team mascot, being seen at games, organising promotional events, etc. Reportedly, he had no-day-to operational or managerial responsibilities for the running of the business. The general manger described him as "the front man," "the spokesperson."
To what extent the parameters of his responsibilities were consciously set by himself or by others, as a result of the reputation he had gained is not clear. Those who knew him could certainly see that his history showed a lack of business acumen needed to run a company. He appeared to have a careless, disinterested approach to administrative matters and an incapacity to do his homework and analyse details, facts and figures. Moreover, he hadn't proved capable of developing overall strategy, or shown himself to be good at dealing with personnel. Therefore, the core management of the enterprise wasn't to be part of his remit at the Rangers.
Instead, concentrated on media and public relations. This was the type of work he loved and was good at. There were limited real responsibilities and plenty of scope for showmanship, where he could also bask in the limelight of his family name. It was a kid's dream come true - owning a baseball team, without concern for the nitty-gritty problems of its upkeep. Here he was sitting with the fans, signing autographs, having his picture taken and winning applause for doing it.
In many respects, it could be seen as a continuation of his former ways, but, actually, it probably reflected a more realistic view of life and himself. He wasn't taking on more than he was interested in or capable of and was doing what he was best at. Moreover, he was doing it sober, which suggests that his early inabilities to discipline himself and apply himself to the responsibilities at hand were not simply the cause of "alcoholic disablement", but the expression of co-existent weakness. That said, not everyone has what it takes to be a good student, conscientious service man or a successful business leader. Recognizing one's limitations and picking the right arena for one's talents takes a measure of emotional realism, and his success at the Texas Rangers was probably indicative of an improvement in some areas of his EQ.
Bush loved the job so much, he is reported to have wanted to turn down the chance of being Texas Governor, in order to stay and progress in the baseball arena. When offered the job, he is reported to have said, " I think I'd rather be commissioner (of the baseball league) than governor." This was not to be. Obviously, the cost of a pampered life is the loss of control of one's destiny. Probably, the decision to offer him a political career on a platter came from his father, who was concerned with continuing and expanding the Bush dynasty. George's brother Jeb was running for the Governor of Florida, and now to have one's other son as Governor of Texas, would be a quite unprecedented coup. Moreover, however unsuited others felt he was for serious responsibilities and leadership in business, this didn't seem to deter them when it came to politics. Indeed, quite the opposite. Having proved his campaigning and public relation skills for his father and the Texas Rangers, it was decided that he was perfect material for high political office.
After all they aren't looking for someone who is too independent. The role of Governor or, indeed, that of President is to generally implement policies favourable to big business. To win elections the Republicans, especially have tended to turn to populist figures who can win the vote like Ronald Reagan. In office, they are surrounded by hand-picked courtiers who deal with the business of governing. Someone like Bush, who is repulsed by pocking into matters and prefers to be given summaries, which trusted counsellors will prepare, in order for him to have the illusion of making the decisions, looked ideal. For the Republicans, top candidates are better off just being happy playing the role of showman and enjoying the limelight. Such types, who owe everything they are to the establishment can be controlled by an entourage of more intelligent and ideologically motivated individuals. The Governor or President is given some rope, but when he goes too far, they should ideally be a type who can be easily reigned in. Things don't always work to plan, of course. But Bush fitted the bill and, therefore, was given Texas as his testing ground for suitability for the Oval Office.