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Magazines: George W. wins big at national game

Thursday, June 17, 1999

By Bill Steigerwald, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

George W. Bush isn't the next president yet, it just seems that way. That's him looking just like his ex-First Dad on the covers of Time and Newsweek.

Both newsmagazines dish out heaping portions of background information about the Texas governor who is said by all the experts to have the campaign money, the broad support of his discombobulated party and the character traits to land him in the White House in 2000.

Newsweek makes brief mention of how George W. made his personal fortune. It was not in oil. It was in major league baseball, a similarly slippery business.

The potentially embarrassing details of how Bush turned a $606,000 investment in the Texas Rangers into a $15-million plus bankroll can be found in American Spectator's revealing cover story, "George Strikes It Rich."

According to reporter Byron York, "far more than tales of youthful drinking and carousing, the record of Bush's rise to wealth reveals how he became what he is today. It's a complicated tale of family connections, hard work and sweet deals, topped off by a taxpayer-subsidized baseball bonanza that may leave some Republicans feeling queasy about how their candidate got rich."

Essentially, as York explains, in the early 1990s Bush and his fellow Ranger owners did what has become standard operating procedure for America's pro sports teams: They got rich by extorting $135 million in taxpayer money from the people of Arlington, Texas, for a new ballpark.

Hints were dropped that the Rangers would leave if they didn't get a new field. Local pols touted the $100 million in economic benefits that a new stadium would allegedly bring. Voters were duped into approving a half-cent sales tax hike.

Bush and Co. wheeled and dealed and eventually weaseled out of their promises to pay their share. In the end, they not only ended up getting a $190 million ballpark for free, they got the state legislature to OK the condemnation and seizure of 200 acres of adjacent privately owned land that they then commercially developed themselves.

York thinks details of the sweet "public-private partnership" deal that enriched Bush will not sit well with Bush's fellow Republicans. But York's kidding himself if he thinks more than 10 Republicans will care. Bush and Co. were merely playing the No. 1 bipartisan national pastime -- using public money and political power for private gain.

Meanwhile, in "All the Presidents' Money," Money magazine has done some looking into the finances of our ex-presidents to see how they are faring in the current bull market.

Bush, Reagan, Carter and Ford are all multimillionaires now, Money figures, and Clinton will soon become one once he's out of office.

Carter was $1 million in debt when he left office. Ford got rich serving as a corporate director and consultant.

And, like son George W., George Bush -- No. 1 with an estimated wealth of $20 million -- owes much of his financial success to wealthy friends and family "who've given him wise advice and access to many lucrative opportunities."

Oh, yeah. In case you haven't heard, that Nintendo conflict we were playing in the Balkans is over and we've won another important victory. At least that's what our coaches and cheerleaders keep saying.

But as we begin our 50-year job of baby-sitting the bloodthirsty children of Kosovo, Nation magazine, the steadfast left-wing opponent of the West's military intervention in the Balkans, won't be coming to the victory party.

"Do not be deceived by the triumphalist rhetoric from Washington," warn its bitter editors in the June 28 issue, which includes a piece on how anti-imperialists of the left and neo-isolationists of the right have found themselves in the same bed because of Clinton's Conflict.

"The Kosovo war is a resounding defeat for the aspirations of the Kosovars, for the cause of human rights, for the entire southern Balkans, whose people will spend decades picking up the pieces from Milosevic's criminal clearances and NATO's careless, cowardly and destructive war."

Bill Steigerwald's e-mail address is: bsteigerwald@post-gazette.com



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