|ON THE OTHER HAND, Gore bests Bush in the outdoor-adventure category. Ask Bush’s pals for an anecdote that describes his feeling for nature, and they may have to stretch their memory a bit. Tony Garza, for example, thinks back to July 1995, recalling a scene that was the polar opposite of that seductive moment at Rainbo Lake.
Garza, a member of the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, had joined the governor for a meeting with Mexican officials. Garza and the rest of the entourage—Dubya; his wife, Laura; their 13-year-old twin daughters (they’re now 18); Bush’s personal assistant, Israel Hernandez; and a handful of security men—spent the weekend in a Mexican government guest house tucked away in the pristine coastal jungle in Huatulco. At the end of a frenetic day of jet skiing and trail running, the group was sitting around the table after dinner and contemplating dessert. It was the kind of mellow, soigné moment when the mood meter was set at a nicely reflective level. Abruptly—because that’s how Dubya does things—Bush was yelling for everyone, including Garza, to jump up and form a queue behind him.
Bolting out the door, Bush zipped onto a two-mile trail snaking to the ocean’s edge and back, and without questioning, everyone fell in step behind him. They all jogged down toward the water and then, with barely a glance at the waves, panted back up the slope to collapse once more into their chairs a half-hour after they’d left. As tough as this jaunt was for the victims, it happened to be exactly the kind of thing his Iron Triangle will be promoting all summer and fall in heroic photo ops and campaign spots: the image of George W. Bush as a Texas Teddy Roosevelt who likes to take his nature in big, fast gulps as he’s bolting off the main trail. And of course, look for the Bush for President task force to paint Al Gore as an environmental misanthrope, a nagging Malthusian Chicken Little who can’t stand to enjoy himself among the regular folks.
“It was,” remembers Tony Garza, summoning up that anaerobic image of George Walker Bush barreling down toward the Pacific Ocean on his big-time, buzz-sawing power walk, “one of those moments where you take a deep breath and say that this is someone who doesn’t sit idly in the outdoors.”
Bill Minutaglio is a correspondent for the Dallas Morning News and author of First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty