The Spectacle Blog

Barbara Bush Has a Short Memory

By on 3.6.12 | 9:04AM

Barbara Bush is spouting off about this being the "worst" Republican primary season ever because of the negativity, etcetera. Her point was that the negativity is too "ugly." (Never mind that the vast bulk of the negative campaigning now, as it was in 2008, is coming from the campaign of Mitt Romney, whom she and her husband has endorsed in part because establishment types like them have wanted to see a Romney for president for 44 years now.) The lady doth protest too much. Maybe she forgets 1988, where Bob Dole snapped that her husband should "stop lying about my record" -- something Dole did because the elder Bush was indeed lying about Dole's record.

Maybe she forgets the 1980 campaign in which her husband came to be despised by a number of the other candidates. Again, the most significant exchange was with Dole (not captured by microphones, but reported in the magisterial Rendezvous with Destiny, Craig Shirley's account of the 1980 campaign). As Bush tried to block all the other candidates but Reagan from competing in the now-famous debate in Nashua, New Hampshire, and as Reagan invited the others onto the stage, all of them were livid at Poppy Bush. At some point during the near-melee, Dole "leaned into Bush and loudly whispered, 'I'll get you some day, you f---ing Nazi!'"

In public, Dole compared Bush to the "Gestapo" and "Hitler's Germany." Candidate Phil Crane also made Nazi references about Bush, complaining about "shades of the beer halls." And William Loeb of the Manchester Union Leader editorialized that Bush looked "like the little boy who thinks his mother may have dropped him off at the wrong birthday party."

People forget that the patrician elderBushes were perfectly willing to countenance hardball politics, as long as they could leave the nastiness to cut-throat operatives so they, the Bushes, could pretend to keep their own hands clean. (Again, shades of Romney.) 

Then again, I must admit to being secretly sort of thrilled, even though in retrospect I should not have been, when the now-holier-than-thou Barbara Bush in 1984 said there was a word for Democratic VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro that "rhymes with rich." Mrs. Bush always had a salty temperament, which is not necessarily a bad thing and can indeed be a virtue at times. It just seems strange that she now should complain about how tough things are for her chosen boy Mitt.

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