Austin, Texas gives mixed reviews of Bush administration

Nathan Hall

Although the majority of Texas residents support their adopted son, President George W. Bush, the capital city of Austin is another story entirely.

Last month, Austin city officials passed a nonbinding resolution specifically opposing the war in Iraq, and condemning in general what they view as excesses by the federal branch of the war on terrorism.

Bush was born in New Haven, Conn., but grew up in Midland, Texas, near Dallas. He served as a fighter pilot for the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

Bush made his money in the oil business and eventually helped purchase the Texas Rangers baseball team in 1989.

He sold his share after becoming governor of Texas in 1994 with 53 percent of the popular vote. He was re-elected in 1998.

Bush maintains a ranch in Crawford – which he refers to as the “Western White House” – to relax and entertain foreign dignitaries.

Austin is often described as an ideological melting pot, where beehive hairdos mix freely with patchouli-scented dreadlocks. The birthplace of rock singer Janis Joplin, the town also lays claim to columnist Molly Ivins and former President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“To dismiss Austin as a liberal abnormality is an incredibly vague assertion, but I would acknowledge my city as one of the more progressive meccas of Texas,” said Frank McCarthy, 55, a remodeling projects manager and a member of the antiwar group Peace in Austin.

“Bush’s approval ratings nationwide are pretty good, but definitely not here,” McCarthy said.

Sarcastic signs opposing the Bush administration dot the University of Texas-Austin campus – home to 48,000 students – including one advocating drafting Bush’s daughter Jenna into the front lines.

Businesses have taken a more commercial approach, one imploring passersby to “please give pizza a chance.”

“I don’t think Bush has done a very good job at all,” said Frank Perez, 24, a recently transplanted Austin resident originally from El Paso. “All of the progress we’ve made under Clinton is being dismantled piece by piece.”

“We’re basically going back in time,” Perez said. “We’re all incredibly embarrassed that he’s from here.”

Other Austin residents are more ambivalent toward Bush’s job performance thus far.

“Now that the war has actually started, I think it’s going fine,” said Eric Boston, 21, an Austin Community College student. “However, I think there are other priorities he should have taken care of first.”

“I think the war will only last another month or so, maybe longer,” Boston said.

Local critics of the Bush family denounce behavior they see as above the law, spoiled and chemically addled arrogance.

Bush failed to take a drug test while serving in the Texas Air National Guard, was away from duty for a full year and was convicted in the late 1970s for drunk driving off base.

His daughter Jenna, currently enrolled at the University of Texas-Austin, was voted by her high school as “most likely to trip on prom night.”

In 2001, Jenna and her sister Barbara received two citations in Austin for underage drinking offenses. That same year, charges were dropped shortly after Jenna was arrested on similar charges during a party at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.

Nathan Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]