Tuesday, January 25, 2022 Jan 25, 2022
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Behind the Scenes at Bush Institute Confab

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Watching the personalities involved with the George W. Bush Institute’s two-day, 4% Project conference at SMU was as interesting as listening to all the talk about ways to jump-start the economy. (For a rundown on what was said, go here.)

Karl Rove, for example, worked the rooms like a Rotary Club president running for re-election. He paused long enough to tell us that Donald Trump–who Rove said had some promise in the GOP presidential field as a “plainspoken outsider businessman”–has blown his chances now with all the “birther” talk and his threats to run as an independent.

Rove’s got the firm handshake of a blue-collar guy, by the way–something you might not expect.

Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who delivered Tuesday’s keynote address, sat by herself during the other presentations, but was friendly and approachable during the breaks. She’s just joined the board of EDS parent Hewlett-Packard, and said HP’s previous “dysfunctional” board was a big part of the Mark Hurd sexual-harrassment fiasco.

Dallas civic leader/oil-and-gas magnate Bill Custard, meantime, was laughing about this morning’s Dallas Morning News photo, which misidentified him as his old friend T. Boone Pickens. Custard’s wife Linda was pictured sitting next to him in the photo, which was taken at a Tuesday-afternoon session moderated by Rove. “My wife said, ‘That can’t be Boone Pickens, because that guy is sitting next to his first wife,’ ” Custard recalled with a smile.

And Don Evans, the former commerce secretary and good W pal, found himself temporarily barred from one breakout session after arriving past the starting time. (Like Bush 43 himself, the conference organizers prided themselves on starting and ending everything on schedule.) Finally allowed to enter the packed lecture hall, a flustered Evans cracked, you “better be on time, or they’ll lock you out.”