Bandar was on hand election night in 1994 when two of Bush's sons, George W. and Jeb, ran for the governorships of Texas and Florida. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush thought that Jeb would win in Florida and George W. would lose in Texas. Bandar was astonished as the election results poured in that night to watch Bush sitting there with four pages of names and telephone numbers -- two pages for Texas and two for Florida. Like an experienced Vegas bookie, Bush worked the phones the whole evening, calling, making inquiries and thanking everybody -- collecting and paying. He gave equal time and attention to those who supported the new Texas governor and the failed effort in Florida.
Bandar realized that Bush knew he could collect on all his relationships. It was done with such a light, human touch that it never seemed predatory or grasping. Fred Dutton, an old Kennedy hand in the 1960s and Bandar's Washington lawyer and lobbyist, said that it was the way Old Man Kennedy, the ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, had operated, though Kennedy's style had been anything but light.
Bandar planned his 1997 visit with the Texas governor around a trip to a home football game of his beloved Dallas Cowboys. That would give him "cover," as he called it. He wanted the meeting to be very discreet, and ordered his private jet to stop in Austin.
When they landed, Bandar's chief of staff came running up to say the governor was already there outside the plane. Bandar walked down the aisle to go outside.
"Hi, how are you?" greeted George W. Bush, standing at the door before Bandar could even get off the plane. He was eager to talk.
"Here?" inquired Bandar, expecting they would go to the governor's mansion or office.
"Yes, I prefer it here."
Bandar had been a Saudi fighter pilot for 17 years and was a favorite of King Fahd; his father was the Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan. Bush had been a jet pilot in the Texas Air National Guard. They had met, but to Bandar, George W. was just another of the former president's four sons, and not the most distinguished one.
"I'm thinking of running for president," said Bush, then 52. He had hardly begun his campaign for reelection as governor of Texas. He had been walking gingerly for months, trying not to dampen his appeal as a potential presidential candidate while not peaking too early, or giving Texas voters the impression he was looking past them.
Bush told Bandar he had clear ideas of what needed to be done with national domestic policy. But, he added, "I don't have the foggiest idea about what I think about international, foreign policy.
"My dad told me before I make up my mind, go and talk to Bandar. One, he's our friend. Our means America, not just the Bush family. Number two, he knows everyone around the world who counts. And number three, he will give you his view on what he sees happening in the world. Maybe he can set up meetings for you with people around the world."
"Governor," Bandar said, "number one, I am humbled you ask me this question." It was a tall order. "Number two," Bandar continued, "are you sure you want to do this?" His father's victory, running as the sitting vice president to succeed the popular Reagan in the 1988 presidential election was one thing, but taking over the White House from President Bill Clinton and the Democrats, who likely would nominate Vice President Al Gore, would be another. Of Clinton, Bandar added, "This president is the real Teflon, not Reagan."
Bush's eyes lit up! It was almost as if the younger George Bush wanted to avenge his father's loss to Clinton. It was an electric moment. Bandar thought it was as if the son was saying, "I want to go after this guy and show who is better."
"All right," Bandar said, getting the message. Bush junior wanted a fight. "What do you want to know?"
Excerpted from State of Denial by Bob Woodward. Copyright © 2006 by Bob Woodward. Excerpted by permission of Simon and Schuster Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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