W., John, Abe & Co. through the ages
Eric Hanson: W., John, Abe & Co. through the ages
October 21, 2004
Comparative biographies of George W. Bush and John Kerry, with milestones from other political biographies:
George W. Bush is born July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Conn., where his father is attending Yale.
John Kerry is born on Dec. 11, 1943, in a military hospital in Denver, where his serviceman father is hospitalized.
George W. Bush moves with his family to the oil town of Midland, Texas. George Bush Sr. is a well-connected and wealthy oil man. Midland is an oil-executive enclave, where streets are named for Ivy League schools.
In 1950, Kerry's family moves to Washington, where his father begins his career as a salaried foreign-service officer.
Bush is a cheerleader at the exclusive Andover School in Connecticut, 1962. His grade point average is in the C range.
Kerry founds a debate club at the exclusive St. Paul's School in New Hampshire, 1960.
Despite a C average in prep school, George Bush is accepted at Yale. They see something in the young man, perhaps a resemblance to his father the congressman (Yale, 1948) and his grandfather, former Connecticut senator and now Yale trustee Prescott Bush (Yale, 1917).
Bush is arrested for stealing a Christmas wreath from a New Haven hotel and charged with disorderly conduct, 1966. The charges are later dismissed.
(With smoke billowing from his plane's bullet-riddled fuselage, Navy pilot George H.W. Bush bails out over the Pacific, 1944. His two crewmen do not survive, and this fact haunts the future president for the rest of his life.)
In May 1968, George W. Bush graduates from Yale with a low C average. Now eligible for the draft, he avoids service in Vietnam by jumping to the front of a long waiting list of young men to join the 147th Fighter Group, the so-called "Champagne Unit" of the Texas Air National Guard. On his application, under the heading Overseas Assignment, Bush checks the box marked "Do not volunteer."
John Kerry is chosen to deliver the class oration to the Yale graduating class of 1966. In his speech he questions the wisdom of the Vietnam War, saying: "The United States must, I think, bring itself to understand that the policy of intervention that was right for Western Europe does not and cannot find the same application to the rest of the world." Despite his misgivings, he enlists in the Navy.
In the fall of 1968, while serving on the guided missile frigate USS Gridley in the Gulf of Tonkin, John Kerry volunteers to command a Swift boat in the Mekong Delta. The casualty rate among Swift boat personnel is around 75 percent, compared with around 14 percent in the rest of Vietnam. His best friend from Yale, Richard Pershing, has already died in combat.
(The general store Abraham Lincoln has been operating in New Salem, Ill., fails after one year, 1832. He has no powerful friends or relatives, so nobody bails him out.)
In May 1972, with two years left in his enlistment, Bush requests reassignment to an inactive postal unit of the Texas Air National Guard. The unit has no planes, but he has lost his flight status for not taking a physical.
On Feb. 28, 1969, while on patrol, Kerry's boat comes under attack from the shore. Ignoring generally accepted evasive procedures, Kerry turns his craft directly into the enemy fire, beaches it and single-handedly chases down and kills an enemy armed with a rocket launcher. For this action he receives a Silver Star for gallantry. He may have been in Cambodia at Christmastime in 1968, delivering agents during the secret war, or it may have been a month later.
At Christmas 1972, in Houston, Bush is driving drunk when he plows into a neighbor's garbage cans. When his father asks to have a talk, George Jr. challenges him to a fistfight.
Bush is granted an early release from the Texas Air National Guard so he can attend Harvard Business School, 1973.
John Kerry becomes one of the leaders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In 1971 he attends the Winter Soldiers Conference in Michigan, where he listens to other veterans' accounts of atrocities committed under orders in Vietnam. On April 22, 1971, Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and asks the difficult question: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" He relates some of the accounts told to him at the Winter Soldiers Conference. (George Washington marries a rich widow, 1759.)
Kerry loses badly in his first run for political office, in the fall of 1972, in Massachusetts.
Bush is arrested for drunken driving in Kennebunkport, Maine, September 1976. His teenage sister Dorothy is a passenger in the car. He pleads guilty and pays a $150 fine.
Kerry is earning a law degree at Boston College, 1974.
George W. Bush's father sets him up in the oil business, 1978. The company is called Arbusto.
John Kerry is working as a prosecutor in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, where he wins a high-profile murder case, and later gains the conviction of a notorious crime figure, George Edgerley. He never loses a case in Middlesex County.
Some friends of George Bush Sr., then vice president, bail George Jr. out of his disastrous oil venture, absorbing Arbusto into Spectrum 7.
(Lincoln, having been elected to Congress two years earlier, decides not to run for reelection, 1848. His vocal opposition to the war with Mexico was not popular with his constituents and may have played a part in his decision.)
In late 1986, Bush's new oil company, Spectrum 7, is $3 million in debt when it is rescued by Harken Energy, which is owned by friends of his father, the vice president. He is put on the Harken board, has his debts paid, is given another $2.2 million in stock options and a salary of $120,000 a year, with no real duties to perform.
In 1986, Bush celebrates too hard at his 40th birthday party. He promises never to drink again.
In 1984, Kerry is the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, a post he uses to champion better air and water regulations. On the retirement of Paul Tsongas, Kerry runs for his Senate seat, and wins.
In 1985, Kerry bucks his party to support the Gramm-Rudman Balanced Budget legislation.
Sen. Kerry employs his prosecutorial experience to investigate and uncover the Reagan administration's covert dealings with Islamic terrorists and the secret, illegal funding of guerrillas in Central America. The Iran-contra investigations result in convictions of several high Reagan administration officials.
In June 1990, Bush sells two-thirds of his stake in Harken Energy at 2.5 times the original value of the stock, netting $848,560 two weeks before Harken announces a disastrous quarterly report. The SEC investigates the president's son in association with the sale of his stock.
(Washington is put in command of the Continental Army, 1775. His prudent strategy is to avoid direct engagement with the British, but to retreat slowly and strike when least expected. He avoids being wounded in battle but many of his fellow soldiers co nsider him a hero anyway.
With an investment of $500,000 of borrowed money, Bush becomes a part owner of the Texas Rangers. He is given a $200,000 salary.
In 1989, Kerry votes to end the Apache Helicopter program, agreeing with Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney's recommendations to do so.
In October 1990, Kerry votes to follow Cheney's recommendation to end the wasteful B-2 Bomber program. Kerry votes to stop making the F-14, which Cheney is growing skeptical of as well. Cheney proposes cutting the Trident submarine program and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle program, and Kerry, again, votes to support the defense secretary's wishes. Fourteen years later Kerry's support on these defense cuts will emerge as Vice President Cheney's bitterest criticisms of Kerry in the presidential campaign.
In May of 1991, following the roadmap to normalization laid down by President George H.W. Bush, John Kerry visits Vietnam. As chairman of the Senate committee charged with investigating the POW/MIA issue, he works closely with a Republican senator and former POW, John McCain.
With the help of wealthy friends, most notably Enron Chairman Ken Lay, George Bush is elected governor of Texas in 1994. While in office, he will set the record for executions by any governor in American history.
In 1998, Bush sells his shares in the Texas Rangers, which he purchased for $500,000. The shares net $14.9 million. The biggest reason for the large profit is the fancy new stadium he helped persuade the state of Texas to build for the team.
Running for president in early 2000, Bush loses to McCain in the New Hampshire primary but beats McCain in the South Carolina primary, after a very successful phone campaign in which Bush's people suggest McCain fathered a black child out of wedlock.
Bush wins the Republican nomination for president. In November 2000, Bush claims victory in the presidential election, despite winning 500,000 fewer votes than opponent Al Gore. The Electoral College deadlock is broken when the U.S. Supreme Court stops a recount of votes in Florida. Bush receives liberal use of the corporate attorneys and corporate jets of Enron Corp. during the Florida vote-count litigation. He is the first U.S. president to be sworn into office with a criminal record.
In early December 2003, most observers think Kerry's chances of winning the Democratic nomination for president are slim to none.
Kerry accepts the Democratic nomination for president, July 2004.
Eric Hanson is a Minneapolis writer and artist. The above is a selection from his forthcoming book, "The Political Book of Ages."