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Arrogance, hostility to conservatives sank the moderate president elected as Reagan’s heir.
“I want a kinder, and gentler nation.” — Vice President George H.W. Bush accepting the 1988 Republican presidential nomination
“Kinder and gentler than whom?” — First Lady Nancy Reagan on learning of Bush’s line
There was an uneasiness right from the start.
But with the help of a lot of people — conservatives — Ronald Reagan’s vice president, George Herbert Walker Bush, successfully convinced Republicans that he was in fact Ronald Reagan’s philosophical and political heir.
With ex-Reagan aide Lee Atwater running the Bush campaign, Bush tore into his liberal opponent, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.
The stunned liberal media was agog, then furious.
There was Bush visiting a flag factory to emphasize his support of the pledge of allegiance — which his opponent opposed. There was Bush in the polluted Boston Harbor — Dukakis’s back yard! — exposing the liberal “environmentalist” as having a poor environmental record. Then there was Willie Horton… the issue of a convicted murderer given a weekend furlough by Dukakis. Horton never returned, instead showing up in Maryland where he raped a woman, committing armed robbery and assault (of the woman’s fiancé) in the bargain. No less than Dukakis primary opponent Senator Al Gore had tried to surface this issue, but it went nowhere among liberals. Bush jumped on it.
By the end of the campaign, stunned liberals watched Dukakis, once leading Bush by 17 points, lose 40 states and capture only 45 percent of the vote.
The Bush era began.
And immediately got off track.
Wrote Steven F. Hayward of the Reagan to Bush transition in The Age of Reagan:
But the first order of business for the Bush transition was turning out all of the Reaganites as quickly as possible. It was said of Bush appointees that, unlike Reaganites, they had mortgages rather than ideologies. Paul Weyrich said that he had always feared that the election of Bush meant the arrival of “country club Republicans who couldn’t wait for the end of the Reagan administration.” (Secretary of State) George Shultz’s top aide at the State Department, Charles Hill, recalled, “It was suddenly clear that this would be an adversarial transition. The new people were not friendly. The signals were: get out of here as fast as you can.” Newt Gingrich cautioned, “We are not Bush’s movement.”
The tone was set. And it quickly got worse.
On a visit to the Bush White House sometime after the inauguration, wearing Reagan presidential cufflinks, I was told in a whisper that anything reminding of Reagan was verboten with the new crowd. Except of course, the “new” crowd was really the “old” crowd — Reagan’s vice president’s crowd — that had sworn allegiance to conservative principles in the 1988 campaign. Now? Problems. It was becoming more apparent by the day that conservatism seemed to be a political fashion, not a set of principles. “This isn’t the Reagan White House anymore,” growled a Bush aide to the New York Times at reports restive conservatives were already starting to stir, “it’s the Bush White House.”
Reagan’s White House political director and 1984 campaign manager Ed Rollins later wrote of a conversation he had with then-Vice President Bush about the 1986 Reagan tax cuts.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?