By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Full Frontal isn't smart enough to tell you what Michael Lind's new book, Made in Texas(Basic Books, $24), is really about. This much we did gather, with a little help from Sunday's New York Times Book Review: George W. Bush represents the backward-thinking born-again Texan who longs for the good ol' days when every white landowner used to sport the title of "Colonel." To Lind--a Senior Fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based New America Foundation--Bush comes from a long line of folks who weren't much good at number-addin' but figured out how to short the paychecks of the black and brown people who work for 'em.
According to the writer, who grew up in Austin and whose great-grandfather was the first acting dean of SMU, Bush's Texas is "a toxic byproduct of the hierarchical plantation system of the American system." This, Lind says, stands in stark contrast with the otherTexas--the one of Lyndon B. Johnson and Sam Rayburn, the so-called modernists who believed in the Space Age and the Information Age and believed in a state, and nation, led by "a visionary and earnest elite." Full Frontal spoke with Lind about the Southern conservative movement he believes is "a menace to the prosperity and security of the world as much as to that of the U.S." Lind will be at Borders Books and Music in Preston Royal at 7 p.m. on January 27; show up if you like the book--"or if you don't," says his publicist.
You've been wanting to write a book about the "Southern takeover of American politics" for a decade. What, ultimately, is the purpose of this book?
With all political books, you have to write it for the moment, but you want at least part of it to last. I think the historical analysis will outlive the moment. Obviously if the book has any influence, then we won't have a President Bush in 2005. (Lind laughs.)
And how likely do you thinkthat is to happen?
Who knows, who knows? I think it's quite likely, actually. Most people voted against him. He wouldn't have won if it weren't for Ralph Nader and the Supreme Court. Apart from Clinton and Reagan, basically the American people have turned against every president. They've been one-term presidents since the 1960s, so I am moderately optimistic.
What was the biggest revelation you encountered in the course of doing your research?
The big surprise for me in studying the conservative tradition was the extent to which this is not a business class. I suppose I always went in with the assumption, which is still the ordinary assumption, that the dominant elite in Texas and the South is a bunch of businessmen. It's true nominally: They own companies and land and real estate and they wear ties and work in offices. But I really don't think they're bourgeoisie. I think these guys are basically part of this aristocratic militaristic elite, which is more like the 19th-century British imperialists. They would rather spend their days moving ships around giant tables than balancing the books, which they can't do anyway, as we discovered with Ken Lay and Enron.
What are your personal feelings about Bush? And did they change during the researching and writing?
I met him once at a Texas Book Festival, and I know people who know him, and he seemed to me to be a personable, bright but not brilliant individual. If he didn't exist, there would be someone like him. I don't wanna demonize Bush. Individually he seems to be a nice, decent individual whom I wish a successful career in the private sector after 2005. I am not convinced he's qualified to be a county commissioner or something. He's qualified to be governor because the governor doesn't do anything in Texas...The governor's a figurehead. All of the executives are directly elected; the governor goes and pats Girl Scouts on the head and cuts ribbons and bridges. The lieutenant governor runs the state. So Bush has had no government experience before becoming president apart from listening at the keyhole when he was a kid when his dad was meeting with people. --Robert Wilonsky
Mayor Laura Miller, in her campaign to rid the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau of sin, puts Full Frontal in mind of one of FF's favorite movies: Casablanca. In the 1942 classic, Captain Louis Renault is a policeman in occupied France who is "shocked" to find that folks are gambling at Rick's Cafe. Here's the scene in question, and a few changes we may suggest for the remake of this film for Dallas audiences.
RENAULT: I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.
CROUPIER: [The croupier comes out of the gambling room and up to Renault. He hands him a roll of bills.]Your winnings, sir.
RENAULT: Oh. Thank you very much. [He turns to the crowd again.] Everybody out at once!
LAURABLANCA, Pitch No. 1 (2003)
MAYOR LAURA: I am shocked, shocked to find that people on the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau staff were taking potential clients to topless bars. I am even more shocked, shocked to hear that Chris Luna, my appointed chairman of the DC&VB board, dared to say in public that he was not shocked, shocked that selling conventions involves tits and booze. I am shocked, shocked to learn that this city is soft on sex...so to speak.