Thursday, October 21, 2004


I'm sure I'm not the first to notice the distinct possibility and significance of a Massachussetts-Texas matchup in the 2004 World Series. Not many people realize, though, that President Bush will have even more of an interest in the game if it's a Sox-Cardinals series.

The owner and chairman of the St. Louis Cardinals is Bill DeWitt, personal friend and financial savior of George W. Bush.

The year was 1982. Young George W. Bush had spent the previous three years losing money with his oil-exploration company, Arbusto, even though Bush family friends continued, inexplicably, to invest in the project...

(from Joe Conason's Notes on a Native Son):
But just as his company was heading toward failure, George W. met William DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds, a pair of Ohio investors with their own small oil firm, called Spectrum 7. DeWitt, who had graduated from Yale a few years earlier than Bush, happened to be the son of the former owner of the Cincinnati Reds, and he shared Bush's passion for baseball. After a quick courtship the Spectrum 7 partners agreed to merge with Bush Exploration, naming George W. as chairman and CEO and awarding him a substantial share of stock. Although the vice president's son helped Spectrum 7 to raise additional money, catastrophic losses continued. During a six-month period in 1986, Spectrum 7 lost $400,000, and the partners feared creditors would foreclose their remaining assets.

Once more George W. attracted a financial savior. That September, Spectrum 7 was acquired by Harken Energy Corporation, a medium-sized, diversified company. After Bush joined Harken, the largest stock position and a seat on its board were acquired by Harvard Management Company, the private firm that invests the university's endowment. The Harken board gave Bush $600,000 worth of the company's publicly traded stock, plus a seat on its board of directors and a consultancy that paid him up to $120,000 a year. His partners understood perfectly what had happened. As Spectrum 7's former president, Paul Rea, recalled later, the Harken directors "believed having George's name there would be a big help to them."

Thus, it was DeWitt who helped George W. Bush discover his true life's calling as a figurehead.

And then...
Toward the end of the 1988 campaign, George W. heard from his former Spectrum 7 partner Bill DeWitt that the Texas Rangers were on the market. To make a successful bid, DeWitt would need Texas backers, and the son of the incoming president was perfectly situated to find them. George W. also had a powerful advantage in dealing with the team's owner, an aging Midland oil millionaire named Eddie Chiles, who had been a Bush friend since the 1950s.

For George W., an ardent lifelong fan with no real job, DeWitt's proposal was a providential opportunity. His duties as a director of Harken Energy, though undemanding, offered little chance to improve his resume. His hopes of running for governor in 1990 had been squelched by incredulous party insiders, who complained that he had never "done anything." To acquire the Rangers and thus keep the franchise in Texas would be to do something of profound significance to Texans.

...DeWitt was instrumental in providing Bush the opportunity to establish credibility among Texas voters by giving him yet another high-visibility, low-responsibility position, this time in the Rangers baseball organization. Bush quite literally has DeWitt to thank for his career, for the small bit of business success which Bush was able to parlay into substantial political success, and we quite literally have DeWitt to thank for President George W. Bush.

Go Sox.

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