December 1, 2018

"The 1988 campaign was anything but kind and gentle. There was the racially charged Willie Horton ad, in which Bush attacked Michael Dukakis’s furlough program for Massachusetts prisoners."

"Bush’s opponents—and some of his friends—thought that he had cheapened himself in the bare-knuckled grasp of his young campaign manager, Lee Atwater. The opponents acted surprised, claimed they were disappointed in him, as if anyone ever got that far in the game without playing rough. (Al Gore had first gone after the furlough program, albeit without mentioning Horton, when running against Dukakis in the primaries.) Bush’s foes derided his résumé as a sort of gilded joke, reciting all the appointive offices he’d briefly held—U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Republican National Committee chairman, U.S. Special Representative to China, C.I.A. director—as if they were a string of presents meted out to some trust-fund boy who’d done nothing to earn them. In fact, Bush rose in the Party because of electoral, not appointive, politics. And he rose, curiously enough, by losing—twice, in Senate runs in a still-blue Texas, in 1964 and 1970.... Even when he tried to kick ass with the silver foot supposedly lodged in his mouth from birth, there remained an irreducible niceness to him, an appealing mixture of noblesse oblige, boy-next-door bonhomie, and parody-begging goofiness—'the vision thing.'... [K]inder and gentler was actually profound...."

From "The Irreducible Niceness of George H.W. Bush" by Thomas Mallon in The New Yorker.

Also in that article — a quote from Richard Nixon: "George is such a sweet guy."

48 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

"And he rose, curiously enough, by losing—twice, in Senate runs in a still-blue Texas" — he was the Beto O'Rourke of his day.

tcrosse said...

The Dana Carvey impression of him on SNL was not especially mean.

mccullough said...

If only Beto had military service.

Beto is W. Drunk driving in his 20s. Pretending not to be a prep school rich kid.

HW, like JFK, fought in WW2. That’s why they were better men than trust fund, prep school guys like FDR, W, Al Gore and Beto.

rcocean said...

Nixon envied Bush's 'people skills' - his ability to make friends and make small talk with large numbers of people.

People forget he was the son of Prescott Bush, Connecticut US Senator.

He was a great guy - who never should have been President.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

The Willie Horton ad is a bit of fake news. It may have run somewhere, and some peolple may have seen it, but the devastating ad was the Revolving Door ad the Bush campaign ran nationwide. I overheard people talking about it on the streets of Boston.

Crimso said...

I'm reminded of Colin Powell's recollection of Bush opining about Iran-Contra.

Big Mike said...

Here is the original "Revolving Door" campaign ad. Lefties tell us that this is a racist ad, but how many black faces do you see in this ad? The Dukakis furlough program really was insane, and Bush was right to point it out.

Lefties think we're fools. For far too many voters (Trumpit comes to mind), they're right.

William Chadwick said...

Bush I was the kind of Republican "Liberals" love (when they're not running against Democrats*): no substantial threat to the Hive.

*Then, of course, they're Hitler.

rcocean said...

Its typical Bush that he ran on "Read my lips, No New taxes" and then raised taxes.

And also ran on being a social conservative - and then appointed Souter and signed a quota bill and in general did ZERO on social issues.

He called Reaganomics, Voodoo economics. He called Reagan an extremist. And then joined the ticket in 1980.

He was sorta like Mitt Romney, a so-called "Nice Guy" who would say anything to get elected.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Only leftwingers are allowed to play hardball.

rcocean said...

The Democrats HATED Willie Horton ads, because they were so effective and proved what a "Card carrying member of the ACLU" the Duke was.

Their only comeback was to cry "Raciss", because Bush never would've brought up Willie Horton if he'd been white.

LOL!

Fernandistein said...

The Willie Horton ad is a bit of fake news.

The "racially charged" reflexive knee-jerk response is the fake news. I just watched the ad, and there was nothing racial about it.

mccullough said...

Raising taxes was breaking a major campaign promise. So it was good he lost. Politicians who break big promises should lose for re-election. It wasn’t even a compromise since he got nothing out of it from the Dems.

HW was elected in 1988 because Reagan was was liked and had done a good job. Same reason Al Gore almost won. People liked Clinton and thought he did a good job.

mccullough said...

Obama won because people thought W did a bad job. Trump won because people thought Obama did a bad job.

This stuff isn’t complicated. The voters were right.

mccullough said...

Re-election races are a different dynamic. A lot depends on your opponent and other factors. W and Obama were vulnerable in their rear-election races but they were fortunate to have such weak opponents.

alanc709 said...

Clinton won because Ross Perot took more votes away from Bush than from Clinton. No other reason.

Matthew Sablan said...

I woke up to this news; I found out because I saw a few posts on Facebook.

Among them were people posting "DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD" and the "George Bush is in Hell" Twitter.

I guess he's not a useful enough bludgeon against Trump to not be disrespected in death.

AJ Lynch said...

If Dukakis had won that 1988 election, I think the Repubs would have trounced him 4 years later and that means the country probably would have been spared from ever really knowing the corrupt Clintons.

Sebastian said...

"'the vision thing.'

The American upper class has been remarkably and inexcusably inarticulate.

"[K]inder and gentler was actually profound"

Actually, it was insulting, a prelude to "compassionate conservatism."

The Bushes did much for the country. They also have a lot to answer for.

@alan: "Clinton won because Ross Perot took more votes away from Bush than from Clinton"

The NeverLearning NeverTrumpers will give us a repeat.

LYNNDH said...

he was the Beto O'Rourke of his day. Except of course President Bush had a lot more real experience than the False Hispanic will ever have. Plus of course he was a Naval Aviator.
As for the tax thing, I don't remember just what taxes were raised. I seem to remember that it was part of a Dem package - maybe Budget - that he felt compelled to sign. Just saying he raised taxes after his pledge not too is way too simplistic. Sounds more like a Dem talking point.

Yancey Ward said...

"He was the Beto O'Rourke of his day".

I am confused.....did he run as Papi Bush?

Unknown said...

Was the willie Horton ad before or after the ad accusing Dubya of lynching someone? Sod off democrats.

narciso said...

no bush sr, was nothing like beto, I guess the latter was more like gary hart, who staked the farthest acceptable position in the 84 democratic primary, yes Jackson was the farthest left, as McGovern's campaign manager, he had learned nothing in the intervening twelve years,

so you see how made it impossible to call out any domestic policy position,

narciso said...

no that was for the 2000 campaign, ironically texas put one of the gary byrd killers to death, gave another a life sentence,

Kevin said...

The opponents acted surprised, claimed they were disappointed in him,

Civility bullshit.

In 1992 the media wasn't interested in a repeat, burying stories of Clinton's "bimbo eruptions" while concocting a fake story about how Bush didn't know how a grocery scanner worked.

Roy Lofquist said...

"the so-called Willie Horton ad featuring a felon who was let out on a weekend furlough in Massachusetts and subsequently assaulted and raped a woman, was considered racist by many but was actually run by an independent group rather than the Bush campaign.)"

https://www.britannica.com/event/United-States-presidential-election-of-1988#ref1087612

rehajm said...

The tank killed Dukakis.

Jon said...

Bush was forced (by Gore, among others) to renege on his "no new taxes" promise - they threatened to vote against Gulf War I if he didn't drop the promise. HARDLY a "lie", just (to him and many others) a choice forced by real circumstances.

Joe said...

At the time, I felt that Bush was in over his head. I think he had no "taste" for the nastiness of politics (I think the behavior of the democrats in the tax negotiations genuinely shocked him), and by early 1992 had decided he didn't care if he was reelected or not. Only after Perot's antics and seeing Clinton did the duty-bound side of him finally take over.

Without Perot, I believe Bush would have won. But, I also believe he would have won had he started a devoted campaign earlier in 1992 so that Perot wouldn't even have been a factor. In the end, though, his heart still wasn't in it.

Nothing has persuaded me since that this wasn't the case.

Narayanan Subramanian said...

Its typical Bush that he ran on "Read my lips, No New taxes"
I saw on related thread that Bush I raised *existing* taxes (rates) ... forerunner Clintonesque - definition of new.

n.n said...

Diversity politics, when politically congruent.

William Chadwick said...

"the so-called Willie Horton ad featuring a felon who was let out on a weekend furlough in Massachusetts and subsequently assaulted and raped a woman, was considered racist by many but was actually run by an independent group rather than the Bush campaign.)"

Even if the Bush campaign did run the ad . . . why would that have been bad? Especially given that that claim has been made by "liberals," the stupidest people in the world and the Gang That's Wrong About Everything. Was the ad inaccurate? Was Mr. Horton not let out on furlough? Did he not rape the woman? Note that the squawks about that ad come mainly from people who follow the credo "No truth but socialist truth."

rcocean said...

Bush wasn't forced to do anything.

Fucking A, people are still pushing that story.

Lydia said...

"By the time we're finished, they're going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis' running mate."--Lee Atwater

A few years later, when he was dying from a brain tumor, Atwater apologized to Dukakis for the statement.

William Chadwick said...

"A few years later, when he was dying from a brain tumor, Atwater apologized to Dukakis for the statement."

Too bad Dukakis didn't apologize for being a statist douche.

Robin Goodfellow said...

As a reminder, the specter of Willie Horton was first raised by Gore.

Big Mike said...

I guess I am still trying to figure out what sort of imbecile Michael Dukakis would have to be to give weekend furloughs to prisoners who were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. He had already abolished the death penalty, so prisoners sentenced to life without parole were already dealing the maximum sentence to which the Commonwealth of Massachusetts could sentence them. Then his administration opens the cell doors to them and tells them pretty please be back to prison bright and early Monday morning.

Dad29 said...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Horton

All you need to know about the ads. GORE brought it up while running against Dukakis. The BUSH campaign did not run that ad. However, they used a "Revolving Door" ad based on Dukakis' policies--which happen to be similar to the proposed Fed sentencing standards, by the way.

Huh. Democrat X runs Willie Horton ads against Trump? Wow....

Dr Weevil said...

Big Mike:
I read years ago that Dukakis not only didn't believe in the death penalty, he didn't believe in life in prison for even the most horrendous crime. The weekend furloughs were to help Willie Horton and others like him prepare for the unconditional liberty he intended to give them all in the long run.

narciso said...

a very big one, they made a big deal over exonerating sacco and Vanzetti, the Antifa bankrobbers from 50 years earlier,

narciso said...

Gore and later accounts, based on the work of the Lawrence eagle tribune, the same sentiment underlay Dukakis's response to Bernie shaw's question,

The Godfather said...

I always liked George Bush. I grew up in Conn., while his father was our Senator, and when I was in college and George ran for Senate (unsuccessfully in the Goldwater debacle) I thought he was the hope of the Republican Party in Texas and elsewhere in the Democrat South. When Reagan picked him to be his running mate, I thought it was a good pairing, because George had DC experience that Reagan could use, and George could learn from Reagan how to reach a broad spectrum of voters.

But when George became President (hs was elected to the 3d Reagan term) he showed that he had learned nothing after 8 years with Reagan. He announced that he wanted "a kinder, gentler America", implying that the 8 Reagan years were somehow unkind and ungentle. He thought that promising no new taxes was enough, and that he was still free to raise taxes if he thought it necessary -- and he didn't have to explain to the people who'd trusted him why it was necessary for him to break his pledge.

Yes, Bush might have been able to win re-election, if he'd campaigned harder and earlier, and if there hadn't been a nutty third-party candidate, and if the economists had told the public before the election that the recession had been over for a year. But the sad lesson that his defeat taught us was true: Nice guys finish last. The 1992 election was the real beginning of the Era of Trump. Romney proved that "nice guys finish last" was not a fluke, but an iron law of American politics.

God help us.

narciso said...

it was an uphill battle certainly:

https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/australia/justine-damond-mohamed-noor-intended-to-shoot-justine-prosecutors-seek-to-upgrade-murder-charges-ng-4c7489ba40636da2fd34d476ba7534d4

Tina Trent said...

Willie Horton was a vicious rapist and serial torturer.

We live in such a sick world that it is taboo to so much as suggest that freeing Horton was a crime against humainty.

The only sincere thing Atwater or Bush ever did. Only, Gore did it, not them.

Horton was a killer extralegally excused by the powers that be to kill again.

And now we misremember it and cannot tell the truth about any of it.

Kansas City said...

I judge presidents on whether they face a great challenge and, if so, whether they successfully handled it.

For example, Kennedy (otherwise a mediocre president) falls into my "great" category because he successfully navigated the Cuban Missile Crisis. This included rejecting bad advice from senior military leaders.

On George Bush, he was a great president because when the challenge of Saddam Hussein seeking to control the Middle East, Bush was excellent.

Clinton never had a great challenge, although I judge him a poor president because he lied to America in order to save his job. Terrible example.

George W. was a failure based on Iraq. Carter a failure based on Iran. Reagan great based on meeting the challenge of the Soviet Union and cold war.

Obama is either a nothing or a failure based on how bad the Middle East gets.

Trump so far is a nothing.

narciso said...

Incomplete I would say if prince Salman survives this ambush and forges a strong anti Iran block, I disagree about Kennedy he refused to act till practically the last moment

The Godfather said...

@Kansas City: The greatest accomplishment of Bush (41) was to handle the collapse of the Soviet Union with sufficient delicacy that no nuclear weapons were used. That wasn't by any means a foregone conclusion, and I don't know of any modern president who could have accomplished that better -- except maybe Eisenhower -- than Bush.

Kansas City said...

Godfather:

I agree he handled the Soviet collapse well. I also accept it might have been a bigger challenge than Saddam Hussein, but Hussein was a real war that was handled well and prevented a catastrophe. So I still rank Hussein first and Soviet second. Perhaps either would make him a great president.

Narciso:

Agree incomplete a more accurate grade for Trump. Maybe for Obama too, in the sense that he either will be a failure or a president who never faced a great challenge - we don't yet know the consequences of his faiures.