Bush vs. McCain

If you don't already know that U.S. Sen. John McCain has a temper, a "gook" problem, and amazingly Nixonian hand gestures; that Texas Gov. George W. Bush smirks underneath blank eyes, and has enemies who've given him two nicknames, both funny (Shrub, Dubya); that Vice President Al Gore is in attack mode, which means his usual condescending insincerity is now overlaid with a phony schoolboy sneer; and that, even though he was a Knick who could pop the 20-foot J, former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley is no Latrell Sprewell, in terms of go-for-the-jugular instincts -- well, somehow you've avoided paying attention to this year's presidential race. Congratulations; you may be dead.

But if you're among the breathing -- if it's just the chopped-up, contextless, what-packaged-spin-event-happened-today coverage doled out by most mainstream media that has put you off your political feed, or if you're the type of election junkie who has read every pandering word written about the race, and is panting for more -- the package below is for you.

On Tuesday, it seems very likely, California, New York, and 10 other states will decide who the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees will be. Actually, unless pollsters across the country are absolutely dead wrong, Gore is miles ahead of Bradley and will be the Democratic candidate. On the theory that most Republicans and a goodly number of Democrats will therefore be voting for one of the two GOP candidates in this open primary, I commissioned pieces on McCain and Bush that provide opinions and information a reasonably well-read Californian would not have encountered elsewhere.

Amy Silverman is a veteran political journalist in Arizona who has covered John McCain for years; John Dougherty is, hands-down, the best investigative reporter in Arizona. Together, they took a look at the marriage -- and the family beer business -- that provided McCain with the seed money that fueled his entry into national politics. It's a pleasant little family tale, full of bygone accounts of illicit booze, gambling, horse racing, deceit, and what could be described as plain old bootlegging.

Jim Schutze is a veteran political columnist from Dallas who was, and probably is, disposed to dislike George W. Bush. As Schutze investigated Bush's education policies, however, he discovered something strange and, for liberals inclined to distrust the GOP, disconcerting: As Texas governor, Bush, a conservative Republican, has consistently pursued policies aimed at helping poor and minority students succeed, and those policies seem to be working.


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