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How A Murderer And Rapist Became The Bush Campaign's Most Valuable Player

November 11, 1990|By ROGER SIMON | ROGER SIMON,Roger Simon is a nationally syndicated columnist for The Sun. This excerpt is from his new book, "Road Show," published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Copyright 1990 by Roger Simon. Reprinted with permission.

"And after that," Atwater said, "it was an easy sell."

As revealing as that anecdote is about Bush's character, it still covers up as much as it reveals. The fact is that Bush began attacking Dukakis before the Paramus focus groups and before the Memorial Day meeting at Kennebunkport. Weeks before Paramus, Bush had attacked Dukakis about his lack of foreign policy experience and his decision not to support the death penalty for drug dealers. And on May 25, the day before the Paramus focus groups were conducted, Bush attacked Dukakis for vetoing the Pledge of Allegiance bill.

Still, anecdotes his aides recounted always had the same pointYou had to twist Bush's arm to get him to attack.

But viewed another way, George Bush appeared to be a mawho went around with his arm stuck out saying: "Twist it! Twist it! Somebody twist it quick!"

George Bush wanted to win. That was his bottom line. The preswould start writing about Good George and Bad George. How in the mornings Good George would tell crowds that he wanted to become the education president and how in the afternoons Bad George would attack Dukakis for being soft on crime.

But it was not a matter of Good George vs. Bad George, eacstruggling for the soul of the candidate. From virtually the first day of the campaign to the last, there was only Flexible George. Pliable George. Expedient George.

To him, the question was not whether it was the right thing. Thquestion was whether it was the winning thing.

"I have no regrets," Bush told reporters shortly before electioday. And he didn't.

Earlier in the campaign, on the same day Bush had first useWillie Horton's name in a speech -- thus assuring Horton's picture would be on television that night -- reporters had gathered around him shouting questions on the negative slant of the campaign and his use of Horton.

Bush said it wasn't a matter of being negative; it was a matter ohis opponent's real record.

Then Bush raised both his arms to the sky and said: 'God strikme down if I'm not telling the truth!'

All eyes followed his arms upward.

But the heavens did not open. No lightning bolt rent the skyGeorge Bush lowered his arms.

Some thought he looked relieved.

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