The more you study the details of the new White House immigration plan, the more the question resounds: What is Bush thinking?
Forget the amnesty for a moment. Just consider Bush's "temporary worker" program. Judging from the three White House statements this week, as I wrote in a UPI article, anybody on the face of the Earth (not just Mexicans) will get the right to move to America country for an indefinite number of years, with their families, as long as they have a job offer paying the minimum wage of $10,712 per year.
That would mark the end of the American people's traditional patrimony of relatively high wages and low land prices. Indeed, it would rapidly mean the end of America as a coherent community i.e. a nation.
The ramifications of the plan are ridiculous. For example, an immigrant businessman could immediately import his entire extended family by offering them all jobs in the family operation.
Quite obviously, nobody in the White House has thought this topic through at all.
"I can't see that it would play well at the polls. I personally don't see this as good for GOP. The proposal being made will keep wages down and that won't be popular with the American voters."
[Conservatives question Bush immigrant plan By Steve Sailer, UPI, January 8, 2004]
So what is Bush thinking? Let me give two answers, one personal and the other dynastic.
Mr. Bush simply does not like to think.
That's one of the two main lessons in the first and probably most objective biography of the man, First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty by reporter Bill Minutaglio. He interviewed 300 people who had known George W. So far as I can tell, he couldn't find a single one who remembered the future President ever saying anything interesting.
I've often wondered why Bush rarely fires any of his advisors, no matter how incompetent they prove. This weekend the reason became clear when one of the few important figures he's dumped went public. Jonathan Weisman reported in the Washington Post on Saturday:
"President Bush showed little interest in policy discussions in his first two years in the White House, leading Cabinet meetings 'like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people,' former Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill says in an upcoming book on the Bush White House … Bush was so inscrutable that administration officials had to devise White House policy on 'little more than hunches about what the president might think.'"
Discussing complex matters of state with the President was like talking to a blank wall:
"In the 60 Minutes interview, O'Neill described his first Cabinet meeting with the president: 'I went in with a long list of things to talk about and, I thought, to engage [him] on. And as the book said, I was surprised that it turned out to be me talking and the president just listening . . . As I recall it was mostly a monologue.'"
This is why Bush doesn't want to fire anybody: He is reluctant to let anybody go who has been intimately exposed to his vacuity. He can count on his current minions to keep up the charade. But, if he fires them, they might, like O'Neill, reveal to the world what a zero the President is.
Bush isn't stupid, but he is extraordinarily intellectually lazy. Minutaglio's book documents that the only topics that have ever engaged his interest for long are baseball and the study of how to organize and manipulate people.
He has spent his life in a long series of seemingly interesting jobs arranged by his father and father's friends—all of which have rapidly paled on him.
For example, to avoid the risk of being drafted and sent to Vietnam, he was handed a coveted Air National Guard gig. You might think that being given the ultimate toy, a supersonic fighter jet, would have held his attention. But Bush eventually just stopped showing up.
You might think that George W. would find being President to be a mentally stimulating occupation. Yet not only does he take less interest in his job than millions of people take in their own jobs … he shows less interest in his job than millions of citizens show in his job!
One thing you can say for sure is that the Bush-Walker family is truly a self-conscious dynasty, operating at the highest levels of American society for four generations. Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, noted, "Any family—nuclear or otherwise—that wants to learn how the game is really played should study the Bush dynasty."
(For an outraged history of the Bush family, see Kevin Phillips' new bestseller American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush. A more upbeat account can be found in Richard Ben Cramer's What It Takes. My bemused essay on the return of dynasticism to world affairs, "Revolutionary Nepotism," can be found in the Winter issue of The National Interest.)
The Bushes have always been ultra-ambitious and ultra-competitive, including with each other in their nonstop sports. Constant competition comes with costs, though. The great psychological burden of George W. Bush's life has been his consciousness of his inferiority compared to his father.
The former President is not a great man, but he's a fairly superior individual. When he arrived at Yale in 1945, he had already been the youngest pilot in the wartime Navy. He proceeded to graduate Phi Beta Kappa in only two and half years, yet he had time to also captain the Yale baseball team, be tapped for the ultra-elite Skull and Bones fraternity, and father his first son, George W.
In many ways, the current President reacted to his father in the same ways his hard-drinking twin daughters are now doing to him. The Times of London reported on Friday:
"The US President, once a party animal himself, has little success in reining in their wild behavior, which has included arrests for underage drinking… The Perfect Wife, by Washington Post reporter Ann Gerhart, claims … 'These girls have all the noblesse, and none of the oblige,' she writes. 'They are rich, blessed with intelligence, good looks, trust funds, loving parents, boundless opportunities, freedom from many of life's daily vexing challenges, yet they persist in seeing themselves as victims of Daddy's job.'"
Still, despite the sizable chip on his shoulder George W. has carried over his inadequacy relative to Poppy Bush, the two men have had an ultimately positive dynastic relationship.
The father repeatedly stuck with his often sullen son, finding him new jobs to play at. And the son was there for his dad, helping him in his campaigns. Most notably, on January 1, 1987, George W. stopped drinking to avoid embarrassing his father during his 1988 run for the Presidency.
So it's likely that the dynastic urge burns as brightly in George W. as in the previous generations of Bushes. Unfortunately, his decadent daughters appear to be worthless. In the next generation of Bushes, the one kid who appears to have the good looks, the confidence, and the fire in the belly is his nephew, George P. Bush, the son of Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Indeed, George W., who calls himself "43" and his father "41," has labeled George P. "44."
At only 27 years old, George P. is too young under the Constitution to become the 44th President. But he could be ready to run in another 20 years or so, by which time his uncle's policy of "electing a new people" has altered the voting population in ways favorable to him.
You see, what's distinctive about George P. is that he's Mexican on his mother's side. His father, Jeb, was an Andover student who went on to get a degree in Latin American studies. He spent a semester in central Mexico and fell in love with Columba Garnica Gallo, the daughter of a modest mestizo family.
George P. campaigned in Spanish for his uncle in 2000 like this:
"'This is a President who represents the diversity of our society, who we can count on to change the Republican Party to represent our views.'" … He told the rally his mother had instilled him the values of Cesar Chavez, the Chicano activist who fought for the rights of migrant farmworkers in the United States. 'She told me we have to fight for our race, we have to find the leaders who represent us,' he said in fluent Spanish.'
Dubya has loudly proclaimed that his close ties to Mexican-Americans shows that he is a new kind of Republican.
Confirming this, his nephew George P. Bush told reporters, "Our biggest challenge will be to separate my uncle from the rest of the Republican Party."
This, then, could be why George W. has spent so much effort promoting a wedge issue that can only split his own party. He thinks the long-run fate of his dynasty demands a new, improved Republican Party —and a new, debased America.
George W.'s plan to break down the border between the U.S. and Mexico is not at all out of character for the Bush dynasty. The decades-old connections between the Bush family and Mexico's ruling class and its Texas offshoots have not elicited much attention in the United States. Yet they are highly relevant to understanding both the new President's attitude toward Mexico and exactly what he means when he talks about his outreach to the Hispanic community.
Bill Clinton notoriously had his "FOBs" (Friends of Bill). It's finally time to review some of the "AOtGs" (Amigos of the Georges).
The Bushes are an extremely friendly family. To a remarkable extent, that's the source of their power. They've been acquiring pals for decades.
Needless to say, most of the Bush family outreach toward Mexicans has been directed toward that nation's largely hereditary overclass. Since 1960, the Bushes have become friends with many rich and powerful Mexican oligarchs and their Texan kin and business associates.
When referring to the Mexican overclass, the words "rich" and "powerful" are synonymous. As former New York Times correspondent Alan Riding wrote in his 1984 bestseller Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans, "[P]ublic life could be defined as the abuse of power to achieve wealth and the abuse of wealth to achieve power."
And the Bushes have apparently felt right at home with the life-style of the Mexican rich and famous.
There is, of course, a certain problem with the Bushes' transnational amiability: A significant number of the dynasty's friends south of the border appear to be crooks.
This doesn't necessarily reflect badly on the Bushes—particularly. After all, a large percentage of anybody who is anybody in Mexico is a crook. Still, some of the First Dynasty's favorites have been criminals on a scale so extravagant as to scandalize even the long-suffering citizenry of Mexico.
Take Jorge Diaz Serrano. Jonathan Kwitny reported in a long exposé in Barron's ("The Mexican Connection of George Bush," September 19, 1988, requires Dow Jones' subscription to access):
"Without breathing a word to shareholders in his Houston oil-drilling company, Zapata Off-Shore Co., George Bush in 1960 helped set up another drilling operation employing Mexican front men and seemingly circumventing Mexican law. And he did so in association with Jorge Diaz Serrano, a now-convicted felon who has become a symbol of political corruption in a country with no shortage of contestants for that dubious distinction. In helping to launch … Permargo, Bush and his associates at Zapata teamed up with Diaz Serrano and a Mexican associate in camouflaging the 50% American ownership of Permargo."
George H.W. stood by his old partner:
"'I have high regard for Jorge,' Bush was quoted as saying in People magazine in 1981. 'I consider him a friend.'"
Diaz went on to bigger, if not better, things.
"Eventually, Diaz Serrano would take control of Permargo, before moving on to head Pemex, Mexico's government oil monopoly. Shortly after his five-year stint at Pemex, he would begin a five-year stint in jail, having defrauded the Mexican government of $58 million it is still trying to get back…"
Yet, today, Serrano seems like a quaint figure from Mexico's more innocent past. He was a public servant who merely feathered his own nest. Worse was to come.
The big difference between the nice clean corruption of the 1970s and today is the new pervasiveness of drug money, and its accompanying violence, among the Mexican elite.
"The problem with Mexico is you don't know who the bad guys are," said Robert Stutman, former head of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency office in New York, in an interview with PBS' Frontline.
"Both Colombia and Mexico are basically controlled by narcotics traffickers … They got there by very different means. And therefore I look at the countries very differently. I think basically, for years, the Colombian government and Colombian officials have tried to fight the cocaine war. They are simply out-gunned, and out-manned. I look at that country very differently than I look at Mexico, which has been bought off."
One of the few American periodicals to pay much attention these days to the Bushes' amigos is El Andar, a brave little bilingual quarterly based in Santa Cruz, CA. Because most Latino-American publications are preoccupied with either celebrities or ethnic cheerleading, El Andar has the fertile field of cross-border muckraking largely to itself.
And what a vast and odiferous field it is!
The Bush family's most important Mexican friendship was with the Salinas family, whose scion Carlos ruled Mexico from 1988 and 1994, before fleeing to exile in Ireland to avoid being lynched by his furious countrymen. (For the lurid details on this depraved brood, see my article "Mexico's Corrupt White Elite.")
El Andar noted, "Bush Sr. met Carlos Salinas's father, Raúl Salinas Lozano, back when the latter was Mexico's commerce secretary. The families' friendship has continued through the years. Raúl Salinas, the president's brother, has told investigators that Jeb and Columba Bush joined him three times for vacations at his hacienda Las Mendocinas."
Jeb's host Raul is currently serving 27 years in the slammer for the assassination of PRI chairman Francisco Ruiz Massieu, his ex-brother-in-law.
Dubya's amigos in Texas, however, are not exactly migrant farm workers. As Julie Reynolds, assisted by Victor Almazán and Ana Leonor Rojo, wrote in El Andar:
"It was during those campaign years [of Bush the Elder] that George Junior bonded with many of his Latino allies in the state [of Texas] and made the friends he would later lean on when his political ambitions got into gear. By and large, the Latino alliances Bush touts so loudly these days are not social workers or school teachers, and they are certainly not working-class. Like most in W's circle, they are Texas heavy-hitters who got rich from their astute blending of business and politics."
In a long, complex El Andar article entitled "LOS AMIGOS DE BUSH: The disturbing ties of some of George W. Bush's Latino advisors," Reynolds amassed evidence to back her allegation that two of Bush's top Mexican-American backers in Texas are palsy-walsy with individuals linked to Mexico's feared Gulf narco cartel.
As George W. said numerous times in response to questions about illegal aliens, "Family values don't stop at the Rio Grande." (America, of course, does.) Here's one touching example of his assisting an undocumented worker in his struggle with the uncaring INS, as reported by in El Andar by Reynolds and Eduardo Valle of Mexico City's El Universal newspaper:
"In the fall of 1991, George W. Bush asked his father, the President, to 'help out' on behalf of Enrique Fuentes León. … Fuentes León was living in the United States on a tourist visa that was about to expire."
What "family values" had brought this lawyer north of the Rio Grande?
"He had fled Mexico in 1989, after a highly-publicized case in which he was charged with bribing two judges in order to free a wealthy Acapulco businessman convicted of the rape and murder of a young child…"
"He remained free in the U.S. for three more years on an expired tourist visa, even though the Mexican government made an official extradition request on October 21, 1991. … By 1994, he had purchased more than $6 million in San Antonio real estate, and together with Texas publisher Tino Durán made moves to purchase the now-defunct San Antonio Light newspaper…"
When the INS was pestering Fuentes Leon in the early 90s, Duran, who calls himself "a friend and supporter of the Bush family," set up a meeting between the notorious fugitive and the future President of the United States to get him to intercede with the current President of the United States. Duran said:
"'I had sent him [George W.] a letter so he would know what it was all about, so he could decide if he wanted to help," Durán said. 'And he called me and said, 'Sure, come on down and let's talk about it.' 'Enrique and I went down to his office and he called the President." George W. Bush asked President Bush if he could help Durán and 'his friend here.' Durán says President Bush then asked Durán to send him a letter and said he would direct the information to the State Department."
What happened next?
"Fuentes León … was finally extradited to Mexico after a 1994 arrest for allegedly attempting to bribe an INS agent with $30,000… A courthouse employee said that Fuentes León showed up every day in a $200,000 car, followed by 'around 25' other vehicles…"
How could he afford that? Fuentes León is alleged by El Andar to be the "consigliero" of the Gulf narco cartel.
"Today, Fuentes León is again imprisoned in Mexico. This time it's for a case in which he is charged in relation to the kidnapping and death of Nellie Campobello, 85, a famous former ballerina whose 13 year-old grave was found last year. The title to Campobello's house has mysteriously appeared under the name of Fuentes León's wife."
Reynolds ended her article, written before the last Presidential election, with these thought-provoking inquiries:
"But the question has to be asked: if some of us far outside of the Bush camp know about those connections, how come Bush didn't? George W. Bush has made his lust for the Latino vote clear. 'If you say a million, I want you to spend two million. If you say you need four million, I want you to spend eight,' W told Lionel Sosa, head of the Bush Latino media campaigns.
"What is not clear is whom Bush will be willing to consort with to earn that vote. And, if he wins the presidency, what is the true nature of the special relationship he will forge between our two nations, the US and Mexico, in the coming years?"
Last week, we started to find out what Bush thinks (or feels) that special relationship between the U.S. and Mexico should be—and, perhaps, the role that his family might play.