WASHINGTON - President Bush's decision to take revenge on countries that opposed the war in Iraq shocked the diplomatic world, but it fits his longstanding pattern of rewarding friends and punishing enemies.
In a family that prizes loyalty, Bush is known for playing hardball with anyone who crosses him. By his description, he was the chief loyalty enforcer in his father's White House. Later, as governor of Texas, he cracked the whip on Republicans who failed to back his policies - a practice he has taken with him to Washington.
It's: If you're not with us 100 percent, you're against us. And the more independent you are, the more you're against us.
former head of the Texas Republican Party
"He's a velvet hammer. He can charm with the best of them, but he can also cut you off at the knees if he thinks you've got it coming," said Thomas DeFrank, a veteran Washington journalist who has firsthand experience with Bush's wrath. "He never forgets."
Now Bush is making sure that foreign critics of his Iraq policy pay a price by denying them a major role in Iraq's reconstruction. Companies based in the offending countries will not be allowed to serve as prime contractors on any Iraq projects.
Although the policy was drafted and announced at the Pentagon, Bush gave it his full support. In his view, countries that opposed the war should not reap any financial benefit from the sacrifices of American troops and their foreign allies.
The policy has provoked outrage in Canada, Russia, Germany and France, all of which are on the contract blacklist. Even some of Bush's Republican allies have criticized his approach as heavy-handed.
But some longtime Bush watchers weren't surprised.
"He has this thing about personal loyalty," said Tom Pauken, a Dallas businessman who headed the Texas Republican Party when Bush was governor. "It's: If you're not with us 100 percent, you're against us. And the more independent you are, the more you're against us."
Loyalty has always been a highly valued trait in the close-knit Bush family.
When Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, was president, the younger Bush served as the president's eyes and ears within the White House.
"I was the enforcer when I thought things were going wrong," he told Washington writer Ann Grimes in an interview for her 1990 book on political spouses. "I had the ability to go and lay down some behavioral modification."
No transgression was too big or too minor for his attention.
In late 1991, Bush helped force John Sununu's resignation as White House chief of staff by telling Sununu that he had become a liability to the president. He made political adviser Lee Atwater apologize to first lady Barbara Bush for his lack of discretion after Atwater posed for Esquire magazine in boxer shorts, with his pants around his ankles.
Rep. Chris Shays, a moderate Republican from Connecticut, ran afoul of Bush by voting against his father's 1989 legislative program more than any other GOP lawmaker. Bush called Dorothy Stapleton, Shays' chief campaign fund-raiser, and told her to rein in the maverick congressman.
"Junior phoned me this afternoon about this, and I reassured him that I had already taken up the gauntlet," Stapleton told the first President Bush in a follow-up letter that's on file at the George Bush Library in College Station, Texas.
"It definitely got my attention," Shays recalled in an interview years later, when the younger Bush was running for president. "He's a tough, sharp, intelligent, take-no-prisoners kind of person."
Bush turned his anger on DeFrank, then a White House correspondent for Newsweek, when the magazine published a cover story exploring the notion that the elder Bush was a "wimp."
DeFrank, now Washington bureau chief for the New York Daily News, had been promised inside access during the re-election campaign. Bush revoked the offer.
"You're out of business," he told the reporter.
As governor of Texas, Bush demanded loyalty from his fellow Republicans.
Republican state Rep. Toby Goodman said Bush sought his support for property tax reductions near the start of the 1997 legislative session by grabbing Goodman's lapels during a face-to-face encounter.
"I want to bring those property taxes down," Bush told the legislator, "and I'm going to kick your butt if you don't go along with me."
Pauken, the former state GOP chairman, said his relationship with Bush soured when he refused to back the property tax bill.
Bush has also sought to enforce loyalty from the White House. Three months after taking office, he set the tone for his administration by abruptly firing Mike Parker as head of the Army Corps of Engineers after Parker publicly disagreed with cuts in the agency's budget.
The hardball tactics backfired later in 2001 when Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont quit the Republican Party and became an independent, giving control of the Senate to the Democrats. Sources close to Jeffords said his decision was at least partly the result of White House efforts to punish him for opposing elements of Bush's agenda.
The White House retaliation over Iraq has also produced a backlash. Administration officials acknowledge that the anger in foreign capitals will make it harder for Bush to persuade other countries to forgive debts owed by Iraq. Still, Bush shows no signs of backing down.
"It's very simple," he said in defense of the policy. "Our people risk their lives. Friendly coalition folks risk their lives. Therefore, the contracting is going to reflect that."
Copyrighjt 2003 Knight-Ridder