Funny Story

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Posted by Jeff from ( on Friday, August 23, 2002 at 9:24PM :

Editorial Note:

It's funny how bush calls a convicted corporate criminal a "good businessman"... and then raises money for him... when he should be spending his time on more important, more "presidential" things, like trying not to make up words and maybe reading a book once in a while. The story below says it all:

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Bush's Campaign Tour Starts Rough
Fri Aug 23, 8:51 PM ET
By SANDRA SOBIERAJ, Associated Press Writer

It was a most awkward campaign fund-raising tour: President Bush ( news - web sites) first ignored the would-be Republican governor he came to help, and then embraced Bill Simon corporate fraud verdict and all as a "proven businessman."

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Bush called Simon "the breath of fresh air" that California needs after the Democratic administration of Gov. Gray Davis ( news - web sites).

The president's fund-raising tour of California on Friday, one the White House once considered canceling, played out against a background of Bush's get-tough message on corporate crime.

Barely one month ago, Bush and his political team were blindsided by the $78 million judgment that a civil jury returned against the investment firm that Simon controls with his brother. The White House hemmed and hawed about skipping this tour but went ahead with the nearly $3 million weekend schedule one lunch, one reception and one breakfast with Simon rather than upset the prominent California Republican donors Bush will need for his own re-election bid in 2004.

The ambivalence showed on Friday.

Arriving in Stockton, Bush gave Simon the most perfunctory of handshakes in a receiving line and then, leaving him at the airport, never uttered the name Simon to the cheering, stomping crowd at a nearby public rally.

Bush did promote congressional candidates Richard Pombo and Doug Ose from the Stockton stage and, to a riser packed with news cameras, delivered his standard stump-speech lines against corporate criminals who cook the books.

It was a different scene about an hour later at the private luncheon benefiting Simon's campaign against Davis, the Democrat incumbent.

"I'm so proud to be here to embrace his candidacy," Bush enthused, calling Simon the right man to keep an eye on the state budget.

"It's your money. And you better have somebody who understands that," Bush told donors.

"Bill Simon is a proven businessman who can get that done."

The president said nothing about corporate responsibility, which has been a reliable component of his speeches for almost two months.

Simon called Bush's visit "the highlight of the week" and pledged to "bring honor and respect back to the governor's office in California."

Davis, the Democratic incumbent, did his best to make both Bush and Simon uncomfortable. Not far from the president's Orange County evening appearance with Simon, Davis staged a signing ceremony to enact three bills stiffening state accounting laws and increasing prison terms for corporate fraud.

Simon was not named in the lawsuit in which his family's firm was convicted of defrauding a partner and says he thinks the verdict, which is being appealed, will be overturned. Bush says he accepts Simon's word. Simon is also accused of investing in an offshore tax shelter, which he denies.

White House organizers designed Friday's schedule so that the president appeared at Simon's side only in such private fund-raisers, with footage belatedly made available to TV networks as they raced to make evening news deadlines.

Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist and a hands-on operative who leaves nothing to chance, told reporters Friday morning he did not know if Simon would attend Bush's two public appearances the Stockton rally and a speech to Hispanic leaders in Santa Ana.

Rove also hedged when asked if Bush would have any objection to appearing in any Simon campaign ad. "We'd have to see what they would propose, if it would be appropriate," the strategist said.

In the end, Simon was nowhere in sight at either event and Rove suggested the president's time in California had as much, if not more to do with Bush's own prospects in 2004 than Simon's in November because of the grass-roots organizing that presidential attention can mobilize.

In the last presidential election, Bush lost California to Democrat Al Gore ( news - web sites) by 1.3 million votes.

Rove, in his rare appearance in the press cabin of Air Force One, also offered an assessment of the GOP's November chances of retaining control of the House and taking back the Senate:

"I feel good about the House and I think the Senate ... it's going to be one of those great high school basketball games where the outcome is in doubt until the very last second of the game."

Simon, a social conservative, was never Bush's first choice to take on Davis, the incumbent. The White House recruited the more moderate Richard Riordan for the GOP primary, but he lost and Bush, with little other choice, dutifully made a $5 million fund-raising swing for Simon in April.

By the time Bush heads back to Texas Saturday afternoon, he will have netted Simon's campaign another $2.6 million, not quite the $3 million his campaign first predicted.

-- Jeff
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