George who?: I once saw George W. Bush choke Randy Galloway. It was several years ago, when Galloway was still scribbling for The Dallas Morning News. They were in the press box at the stadium formerly known as the Ballpark in Arlington, and the Rangers, the team Bush once barely owned, had squandered an enormous lead over the New York Yankees. The then-governor walked in and immediately blamed Galloway's mere presence for the blown blowout. "It's all yer fault," he said as he went for Galloway's throat. Everyone guffawed.
Turns out Bush likes to choke writers. He does it on page one of Jim Mueller's brand-new book Towel Snapping the Press: Bush's Journey From Locker-Room Antics to Message Control. The incident in the book took place some years after the Galloway grab, after Bush had been elected president. This time, he had his hands around Dallas Morning News writer Wayne Slater's throat. They were talking about the book Slater was working on about Karl Rove. Bush wanted to know if Slater was writin' about how Rove was his "mentor." Slater said nope, "I just wrote he was smarter than you are." Then Bush went in for the kill.
But not really. That's just how the guy is or, rather, was. Just funnin', henh-henh. He'll choke ya, give ya a nickname. At least, he used to, back when he owned the Rangers.
"Every reporter I talked to said he was collegial, a fun guy to banter with," says Mueller. "Even Galloway, who had 'shit storms' with him--he said the next day it was a new world and all was forgotten. The people I talked to all said he was, one-on-one, the kind of guy you wouldn't mind hanging out with."
Now, of course, the press treats him like a punch line, and Mueller wanted to know why and how a likable guy went from a howdy-y'all kinda chap to a Howdy Doody caricature. (Hint: sounds like ear rock.)
"When I looked at old copies of The Dallas Morning News, the paper wrote of his first press conference as Rangers owner that he was 'articulate' and had 'poise.' I thought, 'Wow, how was this written?' If people said this today they would hoot at it because of his reputation as a guy who can't put two words together. And I'm still not sure I've come to a resolution about how that happened." Maybe people just misunderestimated him.
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