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Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Once again, Salon lands a big coup. Mary Jacoby has a great story detailing her interview with the widow of Jimmy Allison, with some background history and supporting information wound in.

Piece by piece, the events of 1972 are all coming back together and I don't imagine the Bush team can be very happy about it at all. I'd expect that Ben Barnes' upcoming interview with 60 Minutes will fill in some more gaps yet. There's also the curious matter of that photo of the young Lt. Bush, wearing medals and ribbons his military record (what's been seen of it) doesn't seem to support.

Mrs. Allison's memory is not kind to George W. Bush either, but the story of her husband's relationship with Bush the elder would be worth the read even without the core nugget revealed in that it contains some very telling elements of the political machinations the Bush family has been deeply involved in for so many years. But the story's kicker is that George Bush was sent to Alabama not to work on the Blount campaign, as has been widely purported, but rather to be otherwise occupied, away from Texas where his wild behavior was causing his aspiring politician father great consternation. Simply put, he'd been sent into exile to hide his embarassing hellraising.

Before there was Karl Rove, Lee Atwater or even James Baker, the Bush family's political guru was a gregarious newspaper owner and campaign consultant from Midland, Texas, named Jimmy Allison. In the spring of 1972, George H.W. Bush phoned his friend and asked a favor: Could Allison find a place on the Senate campaign he was managing in Alabama for his troublesome eldest son, the 25-year-old George W. Bush?

"The impression I had was that Georgie was raising a lot of hell in Houston, getting in trouble and embarrassing the family, and they just really wanted to get him out of Houston and under Jimmy's wing," Allison's widow, Linda, told me. "And Jimmy said, 'Sure.' He was so loyal."[...]

...Allison has been almost completely forgotten in the semi-official stories of the Bush dynasty's rise; his role as political fixer and family friend has been airbrushed out of Barbara Bush's autobiography and other accounts. But he was one of the originators of what evolved into the GOP's "Southern strategy," helping George H.W. Bush win election to Congress in 1966 at a time when Republicans in Texas were virtually unheard of. [...]

After Bush won a House seat in 1966, Allison followed his patron to Washington as the top staffer in his congressional office and served as deputy director of the Republican National Committee in 1969 and 1970 under President Nixon. It was Allison who advised George W. Bush to return to Midland after Harvard Business School to seek his business fortune in the booming oil industry, advice that Bush recalled fondly in a 2001 speech in Midland. When Allison died at age 46, after an agonizing battle with lymphoma, both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush served as pallbearers.[...]

Allison's account corroborates a Washington Post investigation in February that found no credible witnesses to the service in the Alabama National Guard that Bush maintains he performed, despite a lack of documentary evidence. Asked if she'd ever seen Bush in a uniform, Allison said: "Good lord, no. I had no idea that the National Guard was involved in his life in any way." Allison also confirmed previously published accounts that Bush often showed up in the Blount campaign offices around noon, boasting about how much alcohol he had consumed the night before. (Bush has admitted that he was a heavy drinker in those years, but he has refused to say whether he also used drugs).

"After about a month I asked Jimmy what was Georgie's job, because I couldn't figure it out. I never saw him do anything. He told me it basically consisted of him contacting people who were impressed by his name and asking for contributions and support," Allison said.

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