Come to breakfast, Governor Bush

Dear Governor Bush:

By now you've heard about the big turnout of Washington journalists for the Monitor's breakfast for your top aide, Karl Rove. He outdrew your major competitors, John McCain and Steve Forbes, when they appeared at previous breakfasts, and his audience of bureau chiefs and columnists looked very much like the group that attends a Monitor get-together with the president.

Mr. Rove did a great job in detailing your political strategy. But we all came out to see and hear him simply because we were interested in you and your plans. We hope you take it as a signal. We Washington journalists - those of us not on the campaign trail - are anxious to get a first-hand look at you. Indeed, we need to see you up close in order to have a better idea (viewing you on TV is not enough) of what you are like, how you handle yourself, and most important, what you intend to do if you make it to the White House.

Our breakfast group is used to sitting down with presidential candidates. We've been doing it now for many years, going back to Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. We've seen a lot of both Al Gore and Bill Bradley over the years - 12 breakfasts with Gore (seven since becoming vice president), eight with Mr. Bradley. And your chief competitor, Mr. McCain, met with us frequently over the last few years and showed us his stuff once again at the breakfast just a few months ago.

So while I'm making a pitch for your coming to breakfast because our group is interested in getting to know you better, I'm also offering you equal time. We've seen your main primary opponents at our breakfast table. Now we're making certain you know you have been given the same opportunity.

Rove, who did such a fine job the other morning with our bunch, told me you would be coming soon. Great! We've heard how well you relate to people - how your campaigning style is so warm and attractive. I'm sure we'll benefit from seeing the real George W. - away from the TV cameras that always distort.

It seems that you have hit some bumps in the road in your campaign. Indeed, a race that once looked like a shoo-in for you now looks quite a bit closer. Up to now you've been running a presidential race that looks to many of us journalists in Washington like simply a projection of your contests in Texas. Isn't it time to bring your message to Washington? Isn't it time to explain in-depth to us - and by extension to our readers - why you have the stature and the vision to lead this nation?

Yes, our group will be no pushover. It shouldn't be. You wouldn't want it to be. You know that you can show your wares best when you get tough, incisive questions. That's what you'll get - but in a venue where civility and good humor prevail. We'll not be out to get you. But we will be persistent in finding out what you are all about. My guess is that you will thrive under this kind of questioning. But, Governor, it's time you take your chances. You know that you'll never make it to the presidency if you play it too close to the vest.

A lot of interesting things happen at our breakfast. Bobby Kennedy made his decision to run at a breakfast in the early spring of 1968. Governor Carter told our group first that he had a presidential gleam in his eye. Governor Reagan also first disclosed his presidential intentions while having a brunch with us. We've had more than 3,000 of these breakfasts since they started in 1966.

Anyhow, we're looking forward to seeing you, Governor. My guess is that both you and us journalists will have a really good - and productive - time.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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