What's Dumber than a Shrub?

"There ought to be limits to freedom"  
George W. Bush Jr. Governor of Enslaved Texas

In the Shrub's Own Words

"My plan is one, by the way, joined by Democrats as well as Republicans, that understands by taking advantage of the compounding rate of interest, younger workers will be able to have some -- have benefits that are -- that we anticipate a promise for the long run."

-- Interview, Fox news, May 18

"This is a man who, everything I say evidently is risky."

-- Frustrated May 16 Press Conference

Bush anticipated Gore's standard response that the [Social Security] proposal was "risky," and wondered Monday why Gore would attack the idea when the vice president has "a substantial amount of his money invested in the stock market."

"If he is building his own retirement security in the market, why does he object to young Americans doing the same?" Bush asked.

But Gore's aides said the idea that Gore has benefited from the bull market is, well, bull.

Gore divested himself in 1976 in order to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

-- Los Angeles Times, May 16

"John and I both agree, and strongly agree, that if a shareholder, a stakeholder, a labor union member don't have the right to say where their money is being spending, on a campaign or an idea or on an issue, that shouldn't be spent."

--Press conference with John McCain, May 9

Mr. Bush also refused to back off his suggestion on Thursday that Mr. Gore was once a member of the N.R.A. and, when challenged today to say how he knew that, offered no proof. . . .

Pressed about where he had gotten the idea in the first place, the governor responded, "A little birdie."

William Powers, a spokesman for the gun organization, said he had found no evidence that Mr. Gore had been a member.

--New York Times, May 6

"The fact that [Gore] relies on facts -- says things that are not factual -- are going to undermine his campaign."

--New York Times, May 4

BUSH: Because the picture on the newspaper. It just seems so un-American to me, the picture of the guy storming the house with a scared little boy there. I talked to my little brother, Jeb--I haven't told this to many people. But he's the governor of--I shouldn't call him my little brother--my brother, Jeb, the great governor of Texas.

LEHRER: Florida.

BUSH: Florida. The state of the Florida.

--News Hour With Jim Lehrer, April 27

"I'm not going to play like I've been a person who's spent hours involved with foreign policy. I am who I am."

-- News Hour with Jim Lehrer, April 27

"Listen, I'm just as shocked as you are that I'm sitting here talking about the presidency."

-- News Hour with Jim Lehrer, April 27

"You know about my abstinence program? We have not extended that to the agricultural world."

-- Expressing hopes for the cows and bulls on his Texas ranch, New York Times, April 14

Last week, he turned to a reporter who grew up in the arid expanse of Australia's most famous rural region with a mock suggestion.

"Outback woman!" he said. "One of the things I'd like to do sometime is have dinner with you at the Outback steakhouse. That way, we'd have the Outback woman at the Outback steakhouse."

-- New York Times, April 14

"In order to make sure there's not this kind of federal -- federal cuff link, the federal structure on programs, there needs to be flexibility at the state level."

-- Education speech, March 30

"Oftentimes our teachers come out of their pocketbooks to meet the supply needs of students."

-- Education speech, March 30

"Now let me give you -- and not in anticipation to your questions -- but over the next couple of months, I'm going to lay out a series of -- How are you going to occupy your time? . . . I'm going to make it clear, which is what I told you, is what I'm going to spend time talking about. I've got a series of policy speeches."

-- Washington Post interview, March 23

"Al Gore is an obstacle to Social Security."

-- Washington Post interview, March 23

"John McCain rightly talked about budgetary reform when it came to the military. He also talked about the C-130. I also happened to talk about those when asked."

-- Washington Post interview, March 23

"It doesn't bother me, because I know it's wrong. It's just part of the game. It's part of the media elite game. I think anybody who doesn't think I'm smart enough to handle the job is underestimating. I hope Al Gore feels that way."

-- on the "Dumb" issue, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 19

Last week, in discussing possible upcoming trips, Bush moved Mexico to another continent.

"I'd like to go down to South America. There is a complicating factor there. The Mexican presidential election is taking place, and I certainly don't want to get involved in that," he said.

-- Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 19

"One of the reasons I'm beginning to do better than I thought is because people know I married above my head."

-- Larry King Live, March 14

"Anything to justify keeping money in Washington, D.C. is what the vice president will say. It's a person who'll say anything to become elected president, even if it -- even if it clouds the truth as to what."

-- Rally in Mississippi, March 13

"I mean I, there will be debates. I mean every election cycle has the debate on the debates. You know that. I want to, I have a lot of work to do and first things first. I understand exactly what has to happen. And by the way there is a couple of phases left in the campaign. One is the period between now and the conventions, very important to manage as well. There are some tasks at hand."

-- U.S. News and World Report interview, March 8

"It gave me a chance, this issue has now been aired, and many Catholic leaders listened very closely to my responses; they know full well in my letter to Cardinal O'Connor."

-- U.S. News and World Report interview, March 8 (on Bob Jones University speech)

"And you know, I think if people are satisfied with the status quo out of Washington, the tone, the attitude, if Al Gore's message is, you know, vote for me, I'm going to -- I'm going to extend the Clinton-Gore era for another four years, if that's what people want, that's what reform -- people who think they want reform want, then it's going to -- you know, it's a tough vote for me to get."

-- Press Conference, March 9

"If Senator McCain says one thing he ought to do another."

-- Atlanta Constitution, March 8

"Well, my message is, John, I can understand it--it's--you know, it's tough to--to fight as hard as you can for what you believe in and--and--and not win. I've--I've had the feeling before myself. And--and I was--I was trying to be as gracious as I could. And you know, hopefully, time will help heal whatever wounds there may be. Primaries are tough."

-- Good Morning America, March 8

Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has fallen victim to a foreign affairs prank.

Canadians are chuckling over his reply when a comic posing as a reporter made up a story that Canadian Prime Minister "Jean Poutine" had endorsed him. "I appreciate his strong statement, he understands I believe in free trade," Bush said."He understands I want to make sure our relations with our most important neighbor to the north of us, the Canadians, is strong and we'll work closely together," he continued.

Canada's prime minister is Jean Chretien, not Poutine, and he has endorsed no one in U.S. politics. Poutine is a popular fast food in the French-speaking province of Quebec, consisting of French fries, gravy and cheese curd.

-- Associated Press, March 6

Texas Gov. George W. Bush -- who previously declined a meeting with the gay Log Cabin Republicans group because he said it would create a political "nightmare" -- said yesterday he is now willing to meet with them.

"I welcome their support," Bush said in an interview with The Chronicle. "I've got Log Cabin Republicans supporting me all across America." . . .

Bush surprised Log Cabin officials last fall when he said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he would "probably not" meet with them.

"It creates a huge political scene," Bush explained at the time. "I am someone who is a uniter, not a divider. I don't believe in group thought, pitting one group of people against another. And all that does is create kind of a huge political, you know, nightmare for people."

Bush later explained that he regards homosexuality as a "personal" matter that he did not wish to "politicize." Asked why he would meet with Jewish Republicans but not Gay Republicans, Bush responded: "I meant to say personal and private. It's private as far as I'm concerned. I don't want to politicize someone's private life." . . .

Bush added, "I've got Log Cabin Republicans throughout my campaign. I do. There's a lot of gay people who are supporting me. And I welcome their support."

Informed of their ads appealing for a more diverse Republican Party, Bush said, "Surely, they need to save their money.

"What I don't want to do is make meetings so darned political."

-- San Francisco Chronicle, March 6

Bush plans to campaign in Southern California on Monday and is scheduled to tape an appearance for the Jay Leno show--where he hoped to redeem himself after an embarrassing performance with David Letterman last week. "If I was going to be comedian-in-chief, I would have done a better job," Bush said on ABC's "This Week." "I'm going to be commander-in-chief."

-- Washington Post, March 6

Mr. Bush's weariness showed in occasional verbal slips. Once while discussing terrorism and various foreign threats, he promised to "use our technology to enhance uncertainties abroad."

-- New York Times, March 6

The share of the Hispanic vote that Gov. George W. Bush of Texas received in his 1998 re-election campaign seems to be creeping upward. In Thursday's debate with Senator John McCain, Mr. Bush said he had received "over 50 percent of the Hispanic vote." The William C. Velasquez Institute in San Antonio says the actual figure is 39 percent.

-- New York Times, March 4

With Mr. Letterman sitting on stage in New York and Mr. Bush in a conference room in St. Louis, there was a slight satellite delay between the questions and answers, which had the effect of making Mr. Bush look a little slow on the uptake. . . .

He was slow to ad-lib; at times he offered one-word answers then stared blankly into the camera. (Mr. Letterman asked if he was tired of jokes about flunking a pop quiz about world leaders. "Nah," said the governor, and stared.) He forced in canned lines. He only had five minutes and obviously had a few jokes he was determined to cram in.

Other lines sounded as if they came off the top of his head, and they were scary. When Mr. Letterman asked exactly what Mr. Bush meant by his often repeated phrase, "I'm a uniter not a divider," the governor said, "That means when it comes time to sew up your chest cavity, we use stitches as opposed to opening it up." The audience booed; Mr. Letterman looked baffled; the camera turned to his producer, Rob Burnett, who shrugged as if to say, "I don't know what it means either."

Mr. Bush understood the ground rules: that he was there to laugh at himself. So he forced in a self-deprecating gimmick. "I've morphed on your show from a boob to a dweeb," he said, and created a priceless photo by holding up a T-shirt that read "Dweebs for Bush," which he said he would like to give Mr. Letterman in person.

A face-to-face showdown would have been better all around. There was so little dynamism in the satellite conversation that at one point Mr. Letterman was looking down at the desk.

-- New York Times, March 2

"We're a very litigious society, as you know. We're trying to sue our way to all kinds of end results. I've always been one that believes that litigation ought to be a last result."

-- Washington Post, March 1

"My job is to lift the spirits of America. To set our sights higher. We require a leader whose behavior will be responsible in office...in contrast to the past decade; one who will restore pride and dignity to the office, who will put a person in office who will not embarrass the moms and dads by who they put in that office."

-- Cincinnati Post, March 1

"I don't appreciate the politics that still go on out of Senator McCain."

-- Ohio campaign stop, quoted by ABC News Feb. 29

"I will say to countries in the Middle East, don't you dare hold us hostile."

-- The Economist, Feb. 26-March 3 edition

Although Mr. Bush has tried to demonstrate his grasp of international affairs, he managed to underscore his own weakness in that field today. After he had failed a reporter's pop quiz last fall about foreign leaders, including the name of the Indian prime minister, Mr. Bush winced today when a moderator mentioned the words "pop quiz." Jokingly, Mr. Bush dared the moderator to ask him the name of the Indian president.

"Do you know who the president of India is?" the moderator asked obligingly.

"Vajpayee," Mr. Bush said, grinning and looking pleased with himself. But Atal Behari Vajpayee is the prime minister of India; the president is K. R. Narayanan.

-- New York Times, Feb. 26

Bush had harsh words for Fox Television's controversial "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?" program. His ire was induced by a hypothetical question that focused on a declaration by one of Bush's 18-year-old twin daughters that she planned to appear on such a show.

While Bush refused to bring either of his daughters into the conversation, he became animated when speaking of the oft-criticized television program.

"That show -- it's ridiculous," Bush exclaimed. "What kind of society is it?" Bush said that as president, he would "blow the whistle on a popular culture where people show up on TV to get married."

-- AOL Chat, Feb. 25

"I'm a history major," he said. "What's amazing to me is that I'm writing the history. And you're recording it. As a matter of fact, this interview is part of an overall mosaic that will determine the history of this campaign." . . .

"I'm a patient man, which is hard for me to believe," Mr. Bush said. "Sometimes I am impatient, don't get me wrong. But I'm patient with the process." . . .

As for doubters, he added, "they can speculate all they want, but at some point in time, I'm either going to be right or wrong."

"I'm not going to be wrong.," Mr. Bush said.

-- San Francisco Chronicle interview, Feb. 25

"As sure as I'm sitting here, I think I'm going to win the presidency," Mr. Bush said in a voice that was neither defiant nor defensive, but rather genial and matter-of-fact. "This is the day after Michigan, and I think I'm going to win the presidency. Really."

-- New York Times, Feb. 25

"I complain when I get overworked. I'm insistent that they [schedule breaks]. Now two hours are built in during each day for exercise... There are some moments when I've just been fortunate to have made it through the day without making a mistake or something."

-- Newsweek, Feb. 28 edition

"I don't want to win? If that were the case why the heck am I on the bus 16 hours a day, shaking thousands of hands, giving hundreds of speeches, getting pillared in the press and cartoons and still staying on message to win?"

-- Newsweek, Feb. 28 edition

"I actually thought I was going to win [in New Hampshire]. I did. I didn't know I was going to lose until the exit polls came in. Then it was pretty clear."

-- U.S. News, Feb. 21

"I understand small business growth. I was one."

-- New York Daily News, Feb. 19

"I think much of the wealth of today, much of the commerce of today, much of the entrepreneurship of today has come from the Reagan tax cuts. I believe that. I do. I believe that the accumulation of capital in the private sector, is that capital moves rapidly and quickly to find efficient uses of capital. The best employed capital is that made by people who are looking for rates of return. We are in a very exciting era right now. A lot of it caused by ingenuity and new thought, but the capital is provided."

-- Financial Times interview, Feb. 17

"The interesting thing about politics here - I want you to learn this lesson - in southern politics and not just southern but rural politics. In rural politics, one stop and shaking enough hands can cause a ripple throughout a community because of the coffee shops. People will show up tomorrow morning and say: I met the man, look what he signed, he looked me in the eye. And that still can affect rural politics. You can't affect urban politics because you can't shake enough hands and there's too many coffee shops. But you talk to the right people in these towns."

-- Financial Times interview, Feb. 17

"If you're sick and tired of the politics of cynicism and polls and principles come and join this campaign."

-- Washington Post, Feb. 17

"We ought to make the pie higher."

-- Regarding economic growth, Debate, Feb. 15 (via Slate)

"I intend to try to win the nomination in the fall as well."

-- Debate, Feb. 15 (via Slate)

Asked about appearance at Bob Jones University:

"Do not subscribe--I mean, you know, you cannot subscribe those views to me because I went to a university to speak to try to convince 6,000 people to be on my team. Ronald Reagan went there and spoke. Do you think the Catholics in Michigan rejected Ronald Reagan when he asked for their vote for the presidency? Of course not. They listened to what Reagan had to say, and they looked at Ronald Reagan's heart. And I do not agree with this notion that somehow if I go to try to attract votes and to lead people toward a better tomorrow, somehow I get subscribed to some--some doctrine gets subscribed to me. I don't accept that, and neither should you. And it's unfair."

-- Meet the Press, Feb. 13

Mr. Bush in recent days has tried to cut into Mr. McCain's appeal by calling himself a "reformer with results" and pointing to his record as governor of Texas. And today he emphasized his record on tort reform and promised to reduce frivolous lawsuits in federal courts. Before Monday, Mr. Bush had rarely described himself as a reformer, instead focusing on his "compassionate conservative" theme and selling his tax cut plan. Today, he managed to marry the two in his appearance at Newberry, saying, "A reformer with results is a conservative who has had compassionate results in the state of Texas."

-- New York Times, Feb. 10

During the day, McCain's manager, Rick Davis, wrote to Bush strategist Karl Rove suggesting that both sides pull their controversial ads, but the offer was immediately rejected. "It's an old game of switch-and-bait," Bush said. "Say one thing and do another."

-- Washington Post, Feb. 9

Citing an unnamed news report, Mr. Bush claimed that Mr. McCain had received "more money than anybody" from Washington lobbyists. "On the one hand he preaches campaign finance reform on the other hand he passes the plate," Mr. Bush said.

But the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington said campaign finance records through the first three quarters in 1999 indicated that Mr. Bush received almost five times as much money from lobbyists and their immediate families.

-- New York Times, Feb. 8

"The most important job is not to be governor, or first lady in my case."

-- San Antonio Express-News, Jan. 30

"This is Preservation Month. I appreciate preservation. It's what you do when you run for president. You gotta preserve."

-- Speaking during "Perseverance Month" at Fairgrounds Elementary School in Nashua, N.H. As quoted in the Los Angeles Times, Jan. 28

"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family."

-- Chamber of Commerce luncheon in New Hampshire, Jan. 27

"Some say give it [the surplus] to the taxpayers who pay the bills. That some is George W. Bush."

-- Souix City, Iowa, Jan. 22

"If people can judge me on the company I keep, they would judge me with keeping really good company with Laura."

-- Commenting on Mrs. Bush at Iowa rally, Jan. 21

"What I am against is quotas. I am against hard quotas, quotas they basically delineate based upon whatever. However they delineate, quotas, I think vulcanize society. So I don't know how that fits into what everybody else is saying, their relative positions, but that's my position."

-- San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 21

"When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world, and you knew exactly who they were. It was us vs. them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they're there."

-- Address in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Jan 21

"A president also brings an administration to Washington, D.C. The administration I'll bring is a group of men and women who are focused on what's best for America, honest men and women, decent men and women, women who will see service to our country as a great privilege and who will not stain the house."

-- Iowa debate, Jan. 15 (New York Times Transcript)

"I will have a vice president who can become the president. . . . I will have a vice president that agrees with my policy. I'm going to have a vice president that likes me."

-- Michigan debate, Jan. 11 (New York Times Transcript)

"Listen, I think it's a free -- this is a case of a fellow who needs help. And I appreciate the fact that the Atlanta Braves are getting him counseling.

"But this is a world of -- in athletics, this is a world of some young men who make a lot of money who don't, who aren't responsible for their behavior. What I'd like to do as the president of the United States is usher in the responsibility era so that each American, whether you be a baseball player or a, or anything, wear the uniform in the United States, are responsible for the actions you take in life."

-- Asked about John Rocker comments, Michigan debate, Jan. 11 (New York Times Transcript)

RUSSERT: In 1993 you suggested that unless you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior you couldn't go to heaven.

BUSH: No, no. What I said was my religion teaches -- my religion says that you accept Christ and you go to heaven. That was a statement that some interpreted that said I get to decide who goes to heaven. Governors don't decide who gets to go to heaven. No, sir. God decides who goes to heaven, Mr. Russert.

-- New Hampshire debate, Jan. 6 (New York Times Transcript)

At the debate, [McCain] pressed Bush to affirm that his plan wouldn't spent the entire budget surplus on a tax cut.

"Your plan does," McCain said.

"No, it doesn't," Bush countered.

"Yes, it does," McCain returned.

"'No, it doesn't,' 'Yes, it does,' 'No, it doesn't,'" Bush mimicked, thus ending the debate.

-- New Hampshire debate, Jan. 6 (Reported in Salon 1/7/00)

" One of the great frustrations just being a governor is I wish I knew the law that would make people love one another because I'd sign it."

-- Asked about school shootings and gun control, Iowa debate, December 13 (New York Times Transcript)

"The voters have got good wisdom. They'll make their judgment, just like the people of Texas made their judgment, loud and clear."

-- Commenting on Forbes attack, Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1999

"I think it's important for those of us in a position of responsibility to be firm in sharing our experiences, to understand that the babies out of wedlock is a very difficult chore for mom and baby alike. ... I believe we ought to say there is a different alternative than the culture that is proposed by people like Miss Wolf in society. ... And, you know, hopefully, condoms will work, but it hasn't worked."

-- Meet the Press, Nov. 21, 1999. (Via Slate)

"[New Hampshire] is a state that sends messages. And I'm going to work hard to make sure they don't send a message to me."

-- Houston Chronicle, Oct. 23, 1999

Toward the end of one interview with Bush I decide to test the Larry King Theory - that dumb questions are the most evocative - and ask Bush who his heroes are. Expecting the stock Albert Schweitzer-Aristole-Mother Teresa phoniness, I am surprised when Bush can't seem to come up with an answer. After thinking for an uncomfortably long moment, he names only one: retired baseball player Nolan Ryan. (In the airport later, I notice that Ryan, a close friend of Bush's, happens to be on the cover of that month's Texas Monthly.) When I ask Bush to name something he isn't good at, there is no hesitation at all. "Sitting down and reading a 500-page book on public policy or philosophy or something," he says.

-- Tucker Carlson - Talk Magazine interview, September 1999

Campaigning in Iowa on Friday night, Bush was asked whether he regretted doing the interview for the magazine. "I didn't do the interview for Talk," he replied. "It wasn't an interview."

That caught everyone by surprise. What was it, a reporter asked Bush.

"Somebody coming to get a flavor of the campaign," he said. "It wasn't a sit-down interview."

What's the difference, another reporter inquired.

Bush pondered the question without offering an answer for a moment until Karen Hughes, his press secretary, broke up the media scrum. "Governor," she said in a loud voice, "you need to get back to your guests."

-- Washington Post, August 15, 1999

"Just because I happen to mispronounce the name of a country doesn't mean that I don't understand how to lead. What matters is do I know how to see clear goals? Do I know how to lead? Do I shoot straight? And that's all I know to do."

-- U.S. News July 19, 1999

"This is a big world, and I've got a lot to learn, but should I be fortunate enough to be elected, I'll be ready."

-- Tampa Tribune, June 27, 1999

The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination had a little trouble with the new world order Tuesday when a foreign journalist asked him about Slovakia, a spin-off nation from the former Czechoslovakia.

"The only thing I know about Slovakia is what I learned first-hand from your foreign minister, who came to Texas," Bush replied at a news conference during a campaign stop in Virginia. "I had a great meeting with him. . . . It's a country that's doing very well."

There were only two problems with Bush's answer: His April 26 visitor in Austin wasn't a foreign minister, and he wasn't from Slovakia. He was Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek of Slovenia, a breakaway republic from Yugoslavia.

-- Austin American-Statesman, June 23, 1999

"I am a product of the West and I think that way. I'm not sure how that translates into behavior or leadership qualities."

-- Washington Post, September 24, 1998

Republican gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush admitted Thursday he was guilty of a fly-by shooting when he mistakenly killed a bird that is on the protected-species list.

Bush received a $130 misdemeanor fine in The Case of the Badly Bagged Bird.

"I killed a killdee," confessed Bush, who was hunting with a borrowed 20-gauge shotgun on the opening day of dove season. "I thought it was a dove. "

What Bush actually killed was a killdeer, known colloquially as a killdee because that is the cry the tiny plover makes.

Asked the difference between a killdee and a killdeer, Bush said, "One's dead and one's alive."

-- Houston Chronicle, September 2, 1994

"It was just inebriating what Midland was all about then."

-- From a 1994 interview, as quoted in First Son by Bill Minutaglio (via Slate)

Bush, who reads the Bible daily, began stumbling with other religious groups in 1993 as he prepared to run for Texas governor the first time.

To a Jewish reporter, Bush recounted how shortly after he found renewed faith in Jesus Christ in the early 1980s he got into an argument with his mother over whether Jews could go to heaven because they do not believe in Jesus as their savior. Former first lady Barbara Bush got evangelist Billy Graham on the phone to tell Bush it was not his place to decide who goes to heaven.

The story caused a minor uproar in New York Jewish publications, but the controversy quickly faded.

-- Houston Chronicle March 8, 2000


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