Pubdate: Wed, 20 Oct 1999
Source: Arizona Republic (AZ)
Copyright: 1999, The Arizona Republic.
Author: Charles Kelly and Kris Mayes
MAP's shortcut to Gov. George Bush items:


George W. Bush did work at a Houston inner-city youth program in the early
1970s, but three people familiar with the program said they never heard
that Bush performed the work to erase a cocaine-possession infraction from
his record.

Even so, the author of a new biography of Bush reasserted Tuesday that
credible sources told him the Texas governor performed community service at
the P.U.L.L. program to work off a drug arrest. The author, J.H. Hatfield,
says a judge covered up Bush's arrest at the behest of Bush's father,
George Herbert Walker Bush, who then was ambassador to the United Nations
and later served as president of the United States.

The Texas governor called the account "ridiculous" during a campaign stop
in Phoenix on Monday.

On Tuesday, his father also called the accusation groundless.

The story was also discounted by three P.U.L.L. observers.

Ernie Ladd, a former Houston Oilers football player who co-founded P.U.L.L.
with fellow Oiler John White, said White never mentioned that the younger
Bush's service was in any way linked to drugs.

"If this would have been true, John White would have told me, and John
White has gone to his grave and he never told me about it," Ladd said.

White died in 1988, and the P.U.L.L. program ended that year.

White's widow, Otho Raye White, also said she never heard that Bush was
forced to work at P.U.L.L. in connection with a drug arrest. She said she
recalled no adverse rumors about Bush, but does remember that he was "very
attached to some of the kids."

Linda McCarthy, an art instructor for the program, said she did wonder why
a young man from a wealthy, prominent family was working there. She thought
it might have been for personal fulfillment.

"It seems like he was an open person with a genuine concern for the
children," she said.

Former President Bush, in a statement issued by his Houston office,
criticized Hatfield's use of anonymous sources.

"He has insulted our son's character, and my character, and I resent it,"
the senior Bush said. "This kind of nasty, groundless attack is the reason
that many good people are unwilling to enter politics."

A spokesperson for the Houston Police Department said the department is
checking its records to see whether it has any information that bears on
the accusation.

The latest cocaine furor surrounding George W. Bush, the front-runner for
the GOP presidential nomination, centers on the afterword to Hatfield's
book, Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President.

Bush has declined to say flatly that he never used cocaine but has denied
using it in for a period stretching back 25 years.

In the book, published by St. Martin's Press, Hatfield quotes three
anonymous sources said to be close to the Bush family who allegedly told
him that Bush's father interceded with a judge who expunged a 1972
cocaine-possession arrest from George W. Bush's record when he successfully
completed service with P.U.L.L.

Hatfield said he wasn't able to document those allegations but had checked
out other information from the sources and said they had proved to be
reliable on many matters.

However, another Bush biographer has a different explanation for Bush's
stint at P.U.L.L.

Dallas Morning News reporter Bill Minutaglio says Bush's father "referred
his son to Project P.U.L.L. after an incident in which George W. drove
drunk with his younger brother Marvin in the car."

Hatfield, who worked as a journalist in Texas for many years but moved to
Arkansas five years ago, says he still believes his version of the story is

A spokesman for Bush's campaign said Hatfield's account isn't credible
because one of Hatfield's sources described the judge who helped Bush as a
Republican, though there were no Republican judges in the county at the time.

Hatfield said he has recontacted that source, who stands by his basic
account while admitting his memory may not have been precise.

"He says, 'My memory there was that they (the elder Bush and the judge)
were good friends, I may have had the political affiliation wrong, but . .
. it doesn't matter,' " Hatfield said.

Hatfield said his sources, to preserve their anonymity, still are declining
to identify the judge or the arresting officer in the case.

Barry Neville, Hatfield's editor at St. Martin's, which published the
biography, said Hatfield told him the identity of one of the three sources
and appeared to be a careful researcher.

Neville said that on one occasion Hatfield dismissed one rumor about Bush
(which the editor declined to describe) after hiring a private investigator
to check it out and working hard to verify it himself.

"He was always so scrupulous about everything," Neville said. "It helped
build a sense of trust between us."
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake