DEL MAR, CA–Despite strong personal reservations, Republican presidential contender George W. Bush confirmed Monday that he has "reluctantly" agreed to accept a $2 million donation from his parents "to help with some of the mounting expenses involved in running for office."
"I didn't want to do it, as I have always prided myself on paying my own way," Bush told reporters during a campaign stop near San Diego. "Unfortunately, the increasing difficulty of competing with the Gore campaign's unlimited taxpayer war chest has forced me to accept some limited financial support."
According to Bush 2000 spokesman Geoff Bahnsen, Bush has agreed to a one-time loan in the form of a check for $2 million, to help cover some of his travel and grocery expenses between now and November. Bahnsen stressed that the candidate will pay his parents back the full amount, plus interest, "just as soon as he gets back on his feet financially."
Bush's acceptance of money from his parents to help defray campaign costs is said to be a severe blow to his pride. Since announcing his candidacy, the Texas governor has made a point of refusing all financial help from his well-to-do parents and their various friends and business associates.
"For a self-made man like George W. to lower himself to accepting money from his family must have been very hard," said Kate O'Beirne, Washington editor for The National Review. "Here is a man who loathes the notion of privilege. However, this was a case where he had to be man enough to admit that he needed a little help. And, luckily, his parents were able to spare the $2 million."
Throughout the race, Bush has paid for all his expenses out of pocket, supplementing his income with various "odd jobs" while on the campaign trail. Such self-sufficiency and insistence on personal fiscal responsibility is nothing new for the presidential hopeful.
"Bootstrap" Bush, as he was affectionately known at Yale, first gained notoriety for his discipline and thrift while at the Ivy League school, paying his own way through by working as a prep cook at a New Haven-area diner. Several years later, after having donated his six-figure trust fund to charity, Bush won a low-income scholarship to Harvard Business School. He refused the money, however, insisting at the time that "working my way through school by doing night janitorial work is the best way for me to build character and learn the value of a dollar."
In 1989, when his father and various business associates decided that the young George W. might want to try his hand at running a major-league baseball team, the younger Bush refused outside assistance, working a second job at a local convenience store for an entire summer to save up the $137 million he needed to buy the Texas Rangers.
Similarly, he has steadfastly refused his father's offers to share in his oil holdings over the years, opting instead to prospect new sites and dig the oil wells himself.
"By showing a little old-fashioned, Texas-style gumption and hard work, George W. has become a major oil baron in his own right," Washington Post reporter Hanna Rosin said. "Sure, it would have been easier for him to ride his father's coattails to success, but that's not his way. George W. Bush is a proud man who doesn't believe in exploiting the considerable advantages with which he was born."
For his part, Bush maintained that his decision to accept money from his mother and father is a one-time emergency measure.
"I didn't become governor of Texas by using my family's wealth, power, and connections. I did it through hard work–selling Grit door-to-door, holding garage and yard sales, mowing lawns in the summertime, and raking leaves in the fall to get the money I needed to fund my campaign," Bush said at a car-wash fundraiser.
"My family raised me right, teaching me that a little elbow grease and some perseverance are all I need to make my dreams come true," continued Bush, pausing briefly to hose the suds off a 1992 Chevy Lumina. "Just because Dad helped me out with an extra $2 million doesn't mean I'm going to be living the high life on somebody else's dime."
Members of Bush's campaign staff agreed.
"You can bet you'll see him out there on the streets tomorrow morning as usual, broom in hand, sweeping off storefronts for $3 apiece, just like he always does," said Rev. Buford H. Lee, a retired Baptist minister and volunteer Bush 2000 campaign manager. "That's a man who, even when he hardly has enough fuel in his private jet to make a weekend campaign stop in Ohio, still finds it in his heart to take what little jet fuel he does have and give half of it to the Widow Sanderson down the way."
The elder Bush echoed his son's down-to-earth approach.
"There's no shame in accepting charity if, like my son, you are truly in need of securing victory in a presidential election," the former president said. "After all, we're all human beings, and we all need help sometimes."
"But charity can only go so far," Bush continued. "My daddy taught me, as I in turn have taught my son, to always believe in starting your own motor. A man's got to get out there and pound the pavement if he expects to earn a decent, honest living and put food on the table for his family. That's just the Bush way."