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The View from Here

I can’t recall when it was I stumbled across my first Molly Ivins column. It was way back when. The hazy days of youth. The early ‘90s, I believe. But, it doesn’t really matter when I started reading her, because once you start one of her columns, you don’t stop.

Not familiar with Molly Ivins? Not surprising. It’s tough to find her in Mississippi newspapers, but not entirely impossible. And thanks to the Web-explosion, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist is readily available at dot-com something. Of course, she’s not going to win many readers here in conservative Mississippi. Ivins is a hard-core liberal, through and through. Her politics are just to the left of Michael Dukakis, Ted Kennedy and Barney Frank — the Massachusetts troika Republicans like to throw around to scare voters. But here’s the deal with Molly Ivins: She’s funny. Really funny. Even if she’s shooting holes in your candidate, she is funny. Must be that Texas swagger she’s honed after years of writing about Lone Star politicians, policy and the state’s legislature, or simply, the Lege.

Her latest and greatest target: George W. Bush, a.k.a., Dubya. Or Shrub. Or Governor of Texas. Or Son of the Former President. Or, as you might have heard, the Man Who Wants to Be President.

In her new book, “Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush” (Random House, $19.95), Ivins, with help from Texas Observer editor, Lou Dubose, delves into Bush the Younger’s National Guard days and his early business career with characteristic straight talking. Ivins avoids the tabloidy headlines about Bush’s alleged 1970s drug use. Her contention: Don’t worry about it. She tells us that this is what we need to remember when it comes to evaluating politicians: “Young political reporters are always told there are three ways to judge a politician. The first is to look at the record. The second is to look at the record. And third, look at the record.”

And when it comes to looking at records, no one does it quite like Molly Ivins. For 179 pages (a quick read), she picks apart Dubya’s record as governor of Texas. It’s not pretty, but politics aren’t these days anyway.

If you plan on voting for George W. Bush, have a bumper sticker on your SUV for him or don’t think that politics are worth chuckling over, you won’t enjoy this book. If, however, you live to see politicos of every shade, stripe and persuasion skewered just for the heck of it, buy this book.

A few other folks who might not enjoy “Shrub” are those in Mississippi business who’ve donated big bucks to Bush’s presidential push.

“Like who,” you ask. Hmmm, yes, well, don’t want to get into names (you can find those yourself on the Web at www.opensecrets.org or www.fec.gov), but there are plenty of Bush donors who are betting that his election will pay off for Mississippi’s economy, or, in the very least, their businesses.

Construction types are backing Bush. Telecommunications executives, shipbuilders and even a few chicken processors are on the Bush bandwagon. Bankers, too. Not too many surprises. As the oft-quoted (especially by Ivins) saying goes, “You got to dance with them what brung you.”

And, Ivins asserts, Bush has been happily dancing with business his entire life: “Of Bush’s credentials as an economic conservative, there is no question at all — he owes his political life to big corporate money…He carries their water…however, you put it, George W. Bush is a wholly-owned subsidiary of corporate America. We don’t think this is a consequence of political calculation; it is more a consequence of his life experience, political thinking, and party affiliation. We can find no evidence that it has ever occurred to him to question whether it is wise to do what big business wants. He is perfectly comfortable, perfectly at home, doing the bidding of big bidness. These are his friends and he takes care of his friends — sign of a smart politician. That this matches up nicely with his major campaign contributions is a happy synergy for Governor Bush.”

This relationship annoys Ivins to no end. From her perspective, business is evil. Bush, not a bad guy. In fact, she says that “You would have to work at it to dislike the man.” But, nonetheless, he has no real business running for president.

Writes Ivins, as she wraps up the introduction to “Shrub”: “If, at the end of this short book, you find W. Bush’s political r

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