The Magazine

A Handshake, Not a Hug

Without great enthusiasm, McCain throws his support to Bush

May 22, 2000, Vol. 5, No. 34 • By TUCKER CARLSON
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An hour later, standing at the US Airways gate at the Pittsburgh airport, drinking his fifth cup of coffee of the day, McCain was a bit less tight-lipped. It was a friendly enough meeting, McCain recalled. Bush avoided topics that "might be contentious," and instead chatted about his father, Ronald Reagan, and "how it's important for a president to inspire America." He complimented Cindy McCain on her role in the campaign. He didn't say much about campaign finance reform, though McCain came away with new insight into Bush's feelings about fund-raising. "I don't think he likes it," McCain said earnestly. "I don't think he likes it at all."

Actually, Bush seems to like fund-raising just fine. He's good at it, for one thing. (Bush is never more charming and impressive than when he's circulating from table to table greeting donors.) He has never appeared ashamed of raising money. Last year, as his campaign set new fund-raising records, Bush bragged that the donations were a measure of his popularity. Bush's finance staff describe their candidate as cheerful and tireless, an extremely effective fund-raiser who rarely complains.

Where did McCain get the idea that Bush doesn't like fund-raising? Evidently, Bush told him so. In other words, Bush used his 90 minutes in Pittsburgh to spin his former rival -- and perhaps successfully. George W. Bush may turn out to be a wilier candidate than anyone expected.

Tucker Carlson is a staff writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.