George Bush just lost the job he wanted more than this one.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Jan. 18 2008 4:18 PM

The Benchwarmer

George Bush just lost the job he wanted more than this one.

80_thehasbeen

Friday, Jan. 17, 2008

Bud Selig. Click image to expand.
Bud Selig

Riding the Pine:As the economy and the markets headed south this past week, George Bush faced even worse news about his own economic prospects. With exactly a year till he has to look for work, the president got an early taste of how it feels. Thanks to Major League Baseball owners, who voted Thursday to extend Commissioner Bud Selig's contract till 2012, Bush just lost the job he has always wanted much more than the one he's in.

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After seven years in the White House, Bush's apparent interest in the presidency isn't much greater than America's interest in keeping him there. Baseball, by contrast, is a pastime he understands—and by all indications, commissioner of baseball is the dream job he has spent his whole career chasing.

One of Bush's close childhood friends, Doug Hannah, told Vanity Fair's Gail Sheehy as much in 2000:

"He wanted to be Kenesaw Mountain Landis," America's first baseball commissioner, legendary for his power and dictatorial style. "I would have guessed that when George grew up he would be the commissioner of baseball," says Hannah. "I am still convinced that that is his goal."

One assumes that this close pal of the Republican presidential candidate is speaking with tongue in cheek. But no. "Running for president is a résumé-enhancer for being the commissioner of baseball," he insists. "And it's a whole lot better job."

In a 2002 book, former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent revealed that he and Bush had discussed the job a decade earlier. According to Vincent, Bush thought he was being groomed for the post by Selig (who had replaced Vincent as acting commissioner in 1992). Bush asked Vincent, "What do you think about me becoming commissioner?" and "Do you think I'd be a good commissioner?" He added, "I've been thinking about it. Selig tells me that he would love to have me be commissioner and he tells me that he can deliver it."

Vincent told Bush that Selig wanted the job for himself. Showing the naive, unfounded optimism that has since become his trademark, Bush replied, "He told me that I'm still his man but that it will take some time to work out."

Fifteen years later, Commissioner Selig must still be working on it. After owners gave him his last contract extension in 2004, Selig all but promised to retire in 2009. He is 73 and will be 78 when his new term runs out in 2012. But now his attitude seems to be that as long as Julio Franco can keep going, so can Bud Selig.

Selig has plenty of selfish reasons to stay put. He's earning around $15 million, as the sport's fortunes continue a boom that began in the steroid era. Any new commissioner would have every incentive to blame the game's drug problems on his predecessor. Selig would rather stick around to take credit for cleaning up baseball than take the fall as the one under whose nose the game was tarnished.

Selig will soon become the second-longest-serving commissioner ever and may want to try to break Landis's all-time record of 24 years. Judge Landis was hired to rescue baseball after the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Selig has a chance to go in the history books for presiding over both scandal and crackdown.

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