If it had been Hillary instead of Columba Bush, imagine the headlines

By Bev Conover


From what has dribbled out so far, Columba Bush, the wife of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, didn't make a "mistake" in not listing on her Customs Declaration form some $19,000 in clothing and jewelry she bought during a Paris shopping spree. It was deliberate.

Who sez? Why Jeb himself.

"She knew what she did was wrong and made a mistake," Bush told reporters during a bill signing ceremony in Tallahassee.

How about that? Columba's own husband said she blatantly broke the law, but now he wants us to forget the whole thing because she's sorry and is suffering "a deep feeling of remorse."

Dream on, Jeb. This is just one more example of the Bush family's disregard for the law. Or is it, to paraphrase Leona Helmsley, only the little people who must obey the law?

Since the story broke in the St. Petersburg Times, it has gone from being an "innocent" mistake-as if it could slip a person's mind that she had brought back purchases of $19,000 (chicken feed, eh?)- to a wife intent on hiding from her husband how much money she had spent. Uh huh.

The initial story led us to conjure up a cartoon (if only we could draw) where Columba, confronted by Jeb back at the gov's mansion, in reference to the $500 she put down on the Customs Declaration form, says, "But, Jeb, I thought they were asking how many sales receipts."

To be sure Jeb wishes this would all go away, but he and his minions aren't as astute at fobbing off questions as is his brother George Dubya, who wants to be prez. Apparently the coming clean thing is not something the Bushes, who weren't above having at Bill and Hillary Clinton, don't understand anymore than Daddy Bush (the former prez) understood "the vision thing."

"It is a lot of money. But look, that's between her and me," Jeb told reporters.

Not exactly, Jeb. The Florida First Lady fibbed to Customs Service officials, got caught and paid $4,100 in duty and penalties, then allowed a disingenuous cover story to be put out when the press caught wind of her deed. Many Republicans cheered when the media savaged the Clintons and Ken Starr's pornographic report was posted to the Internet. Are there to be two standards-one for Democrats and another for Republicans? You don't like it now that a chicken has come home to roost-as scrawny as this chicken is-do you?

Imagine if Hillary Clinton had been caught in such an act. The headlines would be screaming. Do you think Bill would get away with saying, "But look, that's between her and me?" Right. Kenny Starr would open a new probe of Hillary and go sniffing through her underwear to detect whether she had smuggled anything back from Paris.

Customs Service officials at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, where Columba reentered the country, told the St. Petersburg Times that they gave her two opportunities to amend her declaration. She declined. Then they found the receipts in her purse. Interesting, eh? She got off lightly by having to pay only $4,100. They could have hit her with a $19,000 penalty or confiscated the items. If she were so afraid of explaining a $19,000 expenditure to her hubby, how would she have explained $38,000?

This raises three more questions:

Since it doesn't take a rocket scientist to read and comprehend the declaration form, how many other times has she done this and gotten away with it? Were Customs Service agents in Miami less observant than those in Atlanta? Surely the Bush name wouldn't carry more weight with agents in Miami, would it?

And why would Columba Bush be afraid to tell her husband how much she spent, when he told reporters, "I love my wife more than life-she is my comfort and I am very proud of her. . . . What she does with our money is our business-she can deal with that with me?" Curious.

Moreover, why would Columba, who apparently is not a stupid woman, exercise such poor judgment when her brother-in-law, Dubya who is trying to hide his past, is out to land the GOP presidential nomination and her hubby is working off his butt raising money and support for his brother?

As much as the Bushies all want to wish this away, it is not going to happen while they, their spinmeisters and apologists make such offensive remarks as did Q. Whitfield Ayres, described by The New York Times as "a Republican pollster in Florida and elsewhere in the country," who, in insisting "This is not the stuff of which political commercials are made," is quoted as saying, "I mean, a Democrat is going to attack the Hispanic wife of George Bush's brother? I'd like to see somebody try it."

Whoa! When everything else fails, play the ethnic card.

Columba Bush's ethnicity had nothing to do with what she did. Zip. Zilch. She broke the law-pure and simple -and she got caught.

Online Journal Home Bush Special Reports Media Church & State Racism CNP Kangas

Copyright © 1998-2001 Online Journal. All rights reserved.