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Jewish World Review April 26, 2001 / 5 Iyar, 5761

Dale McFeatters

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Consumer Reports

Does President Bush hate California? -- DOES President Bush hate California? Some Californians think so, and there's some evidence to support that position.

Bill Clinton couldn't be kept out of California. He visited there 60 times in his eight years as president, and when his duties were confined to Washington, he would fill the Lincoln Bedroom with Hollywood visitors. Many thought Clinton would take a job in the West Coast entertainment industry after he left office; he still might.

In his first 100 days, President Bush visited 26 states, none of them California, the nation's largest. He has visited numerous - how shall we put it delicately? - squarish-shaped states, thinly populated with goobers, states that voted for him unlike the one with the world's eighth-most-powerful economy.

As president, Bush has spent more time in Quebec City and Mexico City than California. This week his travel plans include a stop in Bill and Hillary Clinton's old home base of Little Rock, Ark., but Crawford, Texas, is as close as he's getting to California.

The White House press office says there are no "announced plans" for a trip to California, a locution that means a visit hasn't been ruled out but they're in no immediate hurry to go. Maybe later in the year, said one aide.

Bush defenders point out that three of his Cabinet secretaries are Californians, but one, Transportation, is a Clinton administration holdover enormously popular with Congress, and the others, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs, have narrow and diminishing constituencies.

To further add to the sting of cold presidential rebuff, it's unlikely that the president will be receiving California's newest championship sports team, the XFL Los Angeles Xtreme, at the White House. He did receive the men's and women's college basketball champions, Duke (North Carolina voted Bush) and Notre Dame (Indiana, too).

Californians think Bush has been ostentatiously indifferent to their energy plight, that his policy has been: "Let them swelter in the dark." This is unfair. Bush is not the only American to take malicious pleasure in a self-inflicted power shortage, undoubtedly the result of policies drawn up by vegetarians wearing orthopedic sandals. But unlike Florida, he's not threatening to drill for oil off California's coast and his own brother, Jeb, is governor of Florida. So the animosity can't be personal; it has to be business.

Perhaps it's because California twice voted heavily for Clinton and last fall gave Gore a 13-point victory; perhaps it's because the governor, Democrat Gray Davis, is mentioned as a Bush challenger in 2004; perhaps it's because the state's liberal Democratic senators and much of its congressional delegation have vowed to subvert the Bush agenda.

A Bush visit to California would not do the president much good. Moving the capital to California wouldn't do him much good, either. The fact is, observed the San Francisco Chronicle, "His chance of carrying the state in 2004 is regarded as poor unless the Democrats nominate Saddam Hussein for president."

There's even less reason to visit the state now that the White House's preferred Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has backed out of the 2002 governor's race to continue making the kind of movies the president won't allow to be shown on Air Force One.

During the campaign, Bush said West Texas, where he grew up, was more like California than Washington, D.C. At the time Californians might have thought Bush was trying to establish something in common. Now they realize it was an insult.

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04/13/01: Opening Day has come and gone on the first season of the failed Bush administration
04/06/01: Signs that an involuntary career change is nigh
03/30/01: Democrats hope for lightning
03/28/01: The fiscal fortune tellers
03/23/01: Bush's free lunch, or: Why Dubya worries about Japan's economy
03/21/01: Congress' growing nuisance
03/16/01: A new kind of layoff for the New Economy
03/09/01: Another snow job in the nation's capital
03/02/01: Bush either brave or naive
02/23/01: Long hours=great presidency? What our 'dim-bulb' of a president knows
02/16/01: Just what the spin-doctor ordered? Bush can't even get ridiculed on TV
02/09/01: A heartbeat from presidency, and both feet in obscurity
02/02/01: AlGore is continuing his fall from grace
01/26/01: "Fifteen Minutes in December"

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