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Wed, 31 May 2000 20:12:10 -0400 (EDT)

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Anecdote Recalls Bush's 'Humility'

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., May 31 – It probably was not the anecdote that the George W. Bush campaign would have chosen.

This morning, introducing Bush to a group of voters gathered at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial Park, Gov. Gary Johnson called Bush a good friend and told this story:

"At one of these governors' conferences, George turns to me and says, 'What are they talking about?

"I said, 'I don't know.'

"He said, 'You don't know a thing, do you?'

"I said, 'Not a thing.'

"He said, 'Neither do I.' And we kind of high-fived."

The moral of this story?

"My point here is, you know, when it comes to politics, it's really hard to find somebody who would admit – or rather talk about – the things they don't know."

Johnson appeared to be commending Bush's humility, his willingness to acknowledge what he does not know. But Bush is a politician who has struggled to demonstrate that he has the gravitas, the intellect, to be president, so it probably wasn't the anecdote the Bush campaign would have preferred. Johnson's introduction was somewhat reminiscent of Rep. J.C. Watts' (R-Okla.) introduction of Bush at a campaign event in South Carolina in February. Watts suggested there that "You don't have to be clever. You can buy clever."

After Johnson's introduction, Bush walked on the stage with Rep. Heather Wilson and delivered a version of his stump speech, which focused heavily on defense issues. Bush reiterated his promise today to devote an additional $20 billion on research and development for the next generation of high tech weapons.

He left the Johnson anecdote alone.

But Bush did seem fixated today on the word "certain" as he explained how his vision of America's military challenges differed from Vice President Gore. He said "certain" or some variation on it 13 times in less than a minute and a half.

"This is a world that is much more uncertain than the past. In the past we were certain, we were certain it was us versus the Russians in the past. We were certain, and therefore we had huge nuclear arsenals aimed at each otherto keep the peace.  That's what we were certain of  . . . but the post Cold War era brings new challenges to the American president," the presumptive GOP nominee said.

"You see, even though it's an uncertain world, we're certain of some things. We're certain that even though the 'evil empire' may have passed, evil still remains.  We're certain there are people that can't stand what America stands for. They resent our freedoms, they resent our successes.  We're certain there are madmen in this world, and there's terror, and there's missiles and I'm certain of this, too: I'm certain to maintain the peace, we better have a military of high morale, and I'm certain that under this administration, morale in the military is dangerously low."