Dumb, dumb, dumb

By Nicholas Sanchez
web posted June 12, 2000

I really do not understand why the Democrats spend so much money on pollsters, consultants, and media ads to destroy the Republican Party. The Republicans are much more capable of doing this on their own.

Case in point: last week, Republicans have been tee-heeing over the case of Mayberry family in Carthage, Tennessee. The Mayberrys rent a home that is owned by Gore Realty, which is owned by Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. It seems that this particular property is rundown and in need of serious repairs; toilets are not flushing and the house stinks to high Heaven.

The tenant, Tracy Mayberry, has been more than happy to complain loudly to anyone with a press pass and microphone. And why not? She has a legitimate grievance. If I rented a home that was owned by some prominent person and they refused to make reasonable repairs on the property, I too would scream until something was done. Given that her landlord is a guy who wants the most sought after real estate in Washington, DC, the White House, she should use every means possible to grab media attention.

To its credit, the media has been eager enough to cover this story.

I have seen the toilet that will not flush umpteen times on CNN. It has made the print media. Radio talk-show hosts are having a hoot chatting with listeners about this. And Al Gore has been genuinely embarrassed. The problem is that the Republicans decided to get into the picture.

GOP spokesmen and officials of the Republican National Committee could not wait to start getting their digs in. "If Al Gore can't manage a rental property, how can he manage the United States' Government?" several GOPers have publicly guffawed. And, of course, their logic is correct. One problem though ... the Republicans' own candidate for president, Governor George W. Bush, has made some Texas-sized financial missteps of his own.

And they make this business with the Mayberrys seem small by comparison.

In June of 1999, the conservative magazine The American Spectator published a cover story by Bryon York called "George's Road to Riches." The article covers, with painstaking detail, Bush's professional career - from Texas oilman to partner in the Texas Rangers baseball club.

To no one's surprise, Bush's personal business history has some interesting zigs and zags. For instance, in 1975 he started a company called "Arbusto" (which is Spanish for "Bush"). He immediately went to family members and friends of the family for financing. Needless to say, the Bush family Rolodex is overflowing with names of people with big bucks.

Unfortunately, their investment in this G.W. enterprise did not exactly pay out.

By the early 1980's Arbusto was suffering from severe financial difficulties, and in 1984 the company had to merge with another company (Spectrum 7). This merger happened after a friend of the Bushes and James A. Baker, Philip Uzielli poured a million dollar investment into Arbusto (the company was worth $500,000, and his investment entitled him to only 10% ownership). Mr. Uzielli's entire investment was lost. However, George W. became Spectrum 7's new CEO.

Later, Spectrum 7 began to suffer from the same fate as Arbusto, and another deal was made to merge with Harken Energy. This time, George W. was rewarded with a seat on the board of directors and $500,000 worth of stock!

Not bad for a guy whose previous two business ventures had just failed miserably.

And of course, there is the sweetheart deal that Bush received in lending his name to an effort to buy the Texas Rangers. After putting up a mere $606,000 of the $46 million dollars - or, just over 1% -- to buy the team, Bush was given 1.8% ownership of the team. This percentage was later raised to 11.8%, "once all the partners recouped their investment with interest."

Quite frankly, this is not the most inspiring story of a poor millionaire who later grows up to be a rich millionaire. It is the tale of a lad who was fortunate enough to be born into an aristocratic family of great wealth. It is the tale of a young man who failed at one business venture after another and was bailed out each time by friends of his daddy.

It is the tale of someone who has shown that he might not have the best managerial skills in the world.

This is why I think the Republicans should be a bit more cautious and begin to pick more carefully the issues that they want to go up against Al Gore on. Yes, Republicans, this rental business is fun, but don't cry when the mavens in the media - who are congenitally adverse to you and your candidates - begin to scrutinize George W. and his financial past.

Nicholas Sanchez is co-host of the Free Congress Foundation's "New Nation" radio program.

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