INSIDER BOOK ON W: HAIL TO THE CHEEZ DOODLES
New York Daily News;
New York, N.Y.; Feb 10, 2002; JOE WILLIAMS DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER;
The United States is being led by a lowbrow from the upper-crust ghetto, largely unaware of culture - high, pop and maybe even yogurt - a forthcoming biography of President Bush says.
New York Times reporter Frank Bruni, who was assigned to cover Bush during the 2000 presidential campaign and the first eight months of Bush's presidency, describes the 43rd President of the United States as affable and good-natured, but shallow and largely clueless about many aspects of the culture of the nation he heads.
Bruni's book, "Ambling into History," goes on sale March 5, and offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Bush's interaction with reporters on the campaign trail.
"At long last, the Republican Party had nominated its first baby boomer for the presidency, and the man they had chosen was no more culturally 'with it' than Bob Dole, the septuagenarian previous nominee, had been," Bruni writes.
Bush viewed the musical "Cats" as modern theater at its finest, Bruni writes, and openly admitted that martial artist Chuck Norris was his favorite film actor.
The candidate had never heard of actor Leonardo DiCaprio or television newscaster Stone Phillips - despite the enormous nationwide exposure of both, Bruni writes.
Asked about HBO's smash hit "Sex and the City," Bush thought it was "an inquiry into his erotic and geographic whereabouts," Bruni writes.
Bush, who gets generally positive treatment from Bruni in the book, nonetheless comes off in parts as a stranger to America outside his own upper-class WASP background. When reporters on the campaign trail used words like "vegan" or "yenta," Bush had no idea what they were talking about, Bruni writes.
Bush bragged to sushi-eating reporters about how good his peanut butter sandwiches were. His snacks of choice on the campaign trail were Fritos and Cheez Doodles.
Though he wasn't familiar with DiCaprio's role in "Titanic," the highest-grossing film ever, Bush knew the "Austin Powers" movies inside out.
Bruni writes that Bush often lifted his pinkie to the corner of his mouth to mimic the Dr. Evil character in the Powers flicks.
Bush, a competitive and ordinarily focused politician, was nonetheless prone to distraction by trivial matters, Bruni writes.
On the night before the South Carolina primary, which Bush desperately needed to win to stop the momentum of Arizona Sen. John McCain, Bush spotted "an attractive brunette" slipping into the hotel room of campaign staffer Matthew Dowd.
Bush, "in a manner more voyeuristic and gossipy than judgmental," became obsessed with asking campaign officials whether Dowd's wife was with him on the trip. (She was).
On one of the biggest nights in his political career, "Bush was focused on whether one of his deputies was having a little naughty extracurricular fun," Bruni writes.