(Let them hate me, provided that they fear me.)
Accius, “Atreus” (c. 125 BC), attributed by Suetonius to Caligula.
George Bush’s quest for the summit of American political power was so sustained and so unrelenting that it is impossible to assign the beginning of his campaign for president to any specific date. It is more accurate to report that his entire tenure as vice president was consumed by the renovation and expansion of his personal and family network for the purpose of seizing the presidency at some point in the future. During this phase, Bush was far more concerned with organizational and machine-building matters than with ideology or public relations. For most of the 1980’s, it was convenient for Bush to cultivate the public profile of a faithful and even obsequious deputy to Reagan, while using the office of the vice president to build a national-electoral and international-overt/covert power cartel.
This arrangement worked very well for Bush, since it gave the Bush camarilla considerable power in the inner councils of the second Reagan administration. But as the 1987-1988 period approached. it also became clear that Bush’s public toadying to the Reagan mystique had been so exaggerated as to give rise to his notorious “wimp” problem. Bush could easily have refuted these charges by citing the long series of brutal and bloody covert and semi-covert interventions he had directed in his role as boss of the Special Situation Group, but he judged this impolitic.
Bush started with the knowledge that he was a weak candidate. Reagan had embodied the popular ideology in such a flawless way as to remind everyone of their favorite uncle; whatever the crimes of his administration, whatever the decline of their living standards, the masses could not hate him; this was why Reagan was such an ideal facade for regime that kept getting nastier. Reagan also had an ideological following of people who would support him almost without regard to what he did: Reagan was the beneficiary of the fully justified ideological backlash against the Democrats and Carter, against the Rockefeller-Ford liberal Republicans.
But Bush had none of this. He had no regional constituency in any of the half-dozen places he tried to call home; his favorite son appeal was diluted all over the map. He had no base among labor, blacks, or in the cities, like the Kennedy apparat. Blueblood financiers gravitated instinctively to Bush, and his lifeline to the post-Meyer Lansky mob was robust indeed, and these were important factors, although not enough by themselves to win an election. Bush’s networks could always tilt the media in his favor, but the Reagan experience had provided a painful lesson of how inadequate this could be against a clever populist rival. Otherwise, Bush’s base was in the government, where eight years of patient work had packed the executive branch, the Congress and its staffs, and the judiciary with Bushmen. This would give Bush’s effort undoubted power, but also an aroma of a modern Bonapartism of a special kind, of a regime in which the government asserts the imagined interests of government itself against the population, a vindictive and tyrannical government set above the people and in direct conflict with them. That would work well as long as the population were atomized and passive, but might backfire if they could find a point of coalescence against their tormentors.
Nor was it only that Bush lacked a loyal base of support. He also had very high negatives, meaning that there were a lot of people who disliked him intensely. Such animosity was especially strong among the ideological Reaganite conservatives, whom Bush had been purging from the Reagan Administration from early on. There would prove to be very little that Bush could do to lower his negative response rate, so the only answer would be to raise the negatives of all rival candidates on both sides of the partizan divide. This brutal imperative for the Bush machine has contributed significantly to the last half decade’s increase in derogation and villification in American life. Bush’s discrediting campaigns would be subsumed within the “anything goes” approach advocated by the late Lee Atwater, the organizer of Reagan’s 1984 campaign who had signed on with Bush well in advance of 1988.
Elements of Reagan’s success posed a very real threat to Bush. There were for example the Reagan Democrats, many of them ethnic, Catholic, and blue collar workers in the midwest and Great Lakes states who had turned their backs on the Democrats in disgust over the succession of McGovern, Carter, and Mondale and were now supporting Reagan. These voters were not likely to show up in the Republican primaries, but any that did so would hardly vote for Bush. In the general election, there was a real danger that they would be repelled by Bush and return to their traditional Democratic home, as squalid as that had become. Bush would need heavy camouflage to pass muster with these voters. The Bushmen recalled that before they had been Reagan Democrats, many of these intensely frustrated voters had flirted with Wallace in 1968 and 1972. The flag, the death penalty, and an appeal to racism might provide an ideological smokescreen for the patrician Bush.
Bush could not model his effort on Reagan’s campaigns from 1968 on. For him, the closest model was that of Gerald Ford in 1976, a weak liberal Republican with powerful network and masonic support, but no issues, no charisma, and no popular appeal. Ford’s defeat highlighted many of the pitfalls that Bush faced as he prepared for 1988. Ford and Carter had been locked in a virtual dead heat as the voters went to the polls. An honest count would have given Ford the election, but ballot-box stuffing by the Democratic machines in Ohio and New York City had given Carter the palm. Bush therefore had to pay attention to any marginal factors that might tilt a close race in his favor. Was it a conincidence that, during 1985 and 1986, the Democratic machines in Ohio and New York were decimated by scandals and indictments, much to the dismay of Ohio mob banker Marvin Warner, and Stanley Friedman and the late Donald Mannes, the corrupt borough presidents of the Bronx and of Queens? For Bush, these reckonings were simply the most elementary precautions, and a harbinger of what would befall rival candidates as the primaries drew nearer.
Bush also had to look back at his performance in the 1984 campaign, hardly an epic effort. Bush had gotten in some trouble because he had refused categorically to rule out a tax increase in terms as adamantine as Reagan’s. Bush tried to wiggle out of press onferences where this came up: “No more nit-picking. Zippity doo-dah. Now it’s off to the races,” was his parting shot as he sought to exit one press conference where he was being grilled. Otherwise Bush was the ultra-orthodox Reagan cheerleader, judged “fawning” by Witcover and Germond: “he had the reputation of being a bootlicker, and his conduct in office did nothing to diminish it.” [fn 1] Columnist Joseph Kraft wrote of Bush: “the patrician has tried to be a populist. He comes across, in consequence, as puerile.” [fn 2]
Bush’s big moment was his vice presidential debate with Geraldine Ferraro. During the debate, Bush remarked that the marines who had been killed in the bombing of their Beirut, Lebanon barracks in October, 1983 had “died in shame.” On the morning after the debate, Bush went to Elisabeth, New Jersey for a rally with longshoremen. He said to a man in the crowd that “we tried to kick a little ass” in the debate with Ferraro. Then he saw that a microphone suspended from a boom was within earshot. “Whoops! Oh, God, he heard me! Turn that thing off,” said the tough guy of the royal “we.” Barbara Bush got inot the act with her quip that Ferraro was a “four million dollar — I can’t say it but it rhymes with rich.” Britisher Teeley added that Ferraro was “too bitchy.” [fn 3] In the most stupefied election of modern times, these slogans were the stuff of which great issues were made.
The Washington Post went after Bush as “the Cliff Barnes of American politics,” a reference to a character in the soap opera Dallas whom the Post found “blustering, opportunistic, craven, and hoplessly ineffective all at once.” Others, foreshadowing the thyroid revelations of 1991, talked about Bush’s “hyperkinesis.” Even the unsavory George Will commented that “the optimistic statement ‘George Bush is not as silly as he frequently seems’ now seems comparable to Mark Twain’s statement that Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.” [fn 4]
There was thus very little hope that Bush could help himself by campaigning effectively. But did George have any new achievements in his resume that he could point to?
There were few that he would or could talk about. In the context of his “you die, we fly” role as Reagan’s official surrogate at state funerals, he had met the new Soviet leader Yuri Andropov at Brezhnev’s funeral for a “spook to spook” conversation, as Bush said. He had then met Michael Gorbachov at Andropov’s funeral in the spring of 1985. But Bush would not want to play up his role in turning the “evil empire” Reagan of the first term into the summit-going “useful idiot of Soviet propaganda” of the second term, since this would stir up problems along Bush’s right flank.
All Bush could talk about were his foreign trips. When Brezhnev died in November, 1982, Bush had been in Africa, whence he diverted to Moscow. This was a trip to seven black African states, including Nigeria and Kenya. When he got back to Washington he tried to capitalize on the African junket, which was undertaken in the spirit of the Reagan Administration’s “constructive engagement”, meaning in practice offering various rewards and inducements to the Pretoria regime while gently prodding them to withdraw from Namibia. In both Lagos and Nairobi, Bush was denounced for establishing a US-sponsored linkage between the departure of Cuban forces from Angola and the termination of the South African protectorate over Namibia. [fn 5]
In the summer of 1983, Bush went to Scandinavia, accompanied by scores of Secret Service agents and aides, bulletproof limousines, and White House communications equipment. Bush’s staff were trying to plan photo opportunities and television perspectives in the tradition of Michael Deaver and Dr. Goebbels. During a visit to a memorial to the monument to Denmark’s World War II resistance fighters, a US Navy officer on Bush’s staff instructed the Danish protocol chief that Danish Prime Minister Schluter and other Danish offocials had to be “herded” to one side as Bush strode toward the momument: a boorish insult, to say the least. (Bush’s travelling entourage has gotten progressively uglier over the years, as we are reminded by the Bush party’s clash with Swiss security officers at Geneva Airport during Bush’s meeting with Hafez Assad in the fall of 1990. Hyperthyroid at the top infects the people further down the line.)
In Iceland, Bush gave a speech so generic that it was not clear if he had lost track of what country he was in. In Stockholm, he clashed heatedly with Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme over the US “contra” covert action programs in Central America. A few years later Palme was to be assassinated, and many attribute his death to his very detailed knowledge of the European dimension of Iran-contra. But for Bush the trip was a big success: he got to play tennis doubles with Bjorn Borg, and went fishing off Iceland. [fn ]
In May of 1984, Bush was off to India and Pakistan. Indira Gandhi was rightly suspicious of Bush, and had recently commented about bad US-Indian relations: “What can be done? The problem is the orientation of the [US] administration.” [fn 7] The policy which Bush presented to Mrs. Gandhi included sharp cutbacks in residual US aid and US sabotage of loans to India by the international agencies. In November, 1984, Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated.
In March, 1985, Bush’s handlers staged a globetrotting photo opportunity to begin building up their man for 1988. Bush flew to the Sudan, to Niger, and to Mali, where he was overtaken by word of the death of Konstantin Chernenko, the Soviet leader. Bush’s “you die, we fly” operation took him at once to Moscow, where he met with Gorbachov, Nakasone of Japan, Helmut Kohl of Germany, Margaret Thatcher, Rajiv Gandhi, and Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan. Then it was on to post-invasion Grenada, followed by Bush’s appearance at the inauguration of the new civilian government of Brazil. Here Bush dodged Danny Ortega, the leader of the Nicaraguan Sandinista regime, who wanted to confront Bush on US policy in the region. The ninth and last stop on Bush’s junket was Honduras, where Bush visited with President Roberto Suazo Cordova, a key player in the world of contra policy. [fn 8]
Naturally, there was more to each one of these stops than met the eye. The insipid platitudes of Bush’s public speeches were matched more often than not with vicious covert activity. Often the verbiage was at variance with the real policy, or soon would be. In 1981, Bush had been Reagan’s envoy to an inauguration of President Marcos of the Philippines. Bush’s toast to Marcos, “We love your adherence to democratic principle and to the democratic process” had been castigated by the liberal press (the New York Times called it “a real clanger”), but when the line changed and it was time for the US government to overthrow Marcos, it was the Bush apparatus that did it with the “people power” of the US-guided enrages of Manila.
One small window on the real dimensions of Bush’s vice presidential travel agenda is provided by the visit to the Sudan just mentioned. During this trip, Bush was accompanied by televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell, two Elmer Gantries of the video ether, each with strong intelligence connections. Robertson made the trip with Bush, while Falwell was already in the country on a mission of his own in the framework of the ongoing famine in the Sahel region. Robertson brought a camera crew from his CBN network, which got a demagogic shot of Bush and Robertson slowly descending from Air Force Two in Khartoum while the band played “Hail to the Chief.” Robertson was bringing relief supplies. On March 6, 1985, he told CBN that he was working with the genocidal US Agency for International Development on relief projects. Reliable Sudanese sources report that US AID policies are designed to exacerbate mortality in areas where they are applied.
Bush’s urgent purpose was to arrange the overthrow of the President of the Sudan, Jaafar Nimiery, whom Wall Street wanted deposed. Bush seems to have some difficulty in planning and executing a swift and effective coup d’etat. His response to the Moscow putsch of August, 1991, “Coups can fail,” reflected his own bitter experience, in Panama in October 1990 and in the case in point in the Sudan. The CIA was backing a group of junior officers who wanted to take power, but they dawdled too long. They waited until Nimiery left the country on a one-week visit to the United States. Then, instead of seizing the obvious nodal points, they spent a full week in orchestrating a typical CIA “people power” upsurge, with demonstrations in the streets of the capital and a strike by 10,000 doctors, teachers, bankers, and judges. Nimiery was by now flying back from the US. This inordinate delay allowed a group of senior officers who were not US puppets plenty of time to develop their own plan for a pre-emptive seizure of power. The senior group, led by General Abdul Rahman Swareddahab, acted decisively on April 6, 1985, catching Bush’s junior officer clique flat-footed. [fn 9] The lustre was gone from Bush’s reputation as a golpista, and it has never really returned.
Bush’s trip to Khartoum was also designed to serve the Israeli Mossad. During his visit, Bush secured the consent of Nimiery to an Israeli airlift known as “Operation Moses,” which transferred thousands of Ethiopian Jews from the Sudan to Israel. The Israeli presence was linked to the plan to topple Nimiery.
In July, 1985, Bush was President for a Day, when Reagan transferred his powers to the vice president before undergoing anesthesia in the course of an operation to remove an intestinal polyp. Bush had flown to Kennbunkport on July 12, the same day that Reagan was admitted to Bethesda naval hospital for an examination. When it was found that Reagan would require an operation the next day, Bush flew back from Kennbunkport to get his hands on the long-awaited levers of power. At 10:32 AM, Reagan signed letters to House Speaker Tip O’Neill and Senate President Pro Tempore Stron Thurmond passing the helm to Bush. Reagan’s operation began slightly before noon, and Bush was acting president when he arrived at Andrews Air Force Base about half an hour later. Bush got to his home at the Naval Observatory and spent the rest of the day there. His staff said that nothing presidential happened before Reagan awoke from his anesthesia at 7:22 PM and signed a paper resuming his powers.
Had nothing presidential really happened? As Jack Anderson wrote some years later, it was really “nothing…unless you’re talking to former president Gerald R. Ford, the king of pratfalls.” It appears that Bush, doubtless overcome by the euphoria of power, had slipped while playing tennis and hit his head rather seriously. According to some high-level White House officials polled by the Jack Anderson column, the manic Bush had actually been “unconscious” for a time, but never “incapacitated.” “It wasn’t serious enough to be checked,” according to a Bush aide, and Bush “slept it off.” [fn 10] Not much here for a campaign speech celebrating Bush’s experience, which now included a brief encounter with the dizzy apex of power itself.
For Reagan’s State of the Union message in January, 1986, Bush’s handlers worked hard to prevent him from “squirming, yawning, slumping, gazing into space and mostly looking…bored by his president.” Bush was drilled into rapt attention for the Great Communicator’s words by viewing embarrassing film clips of himself presiding over earlier joint sessions of the Congress. [fn 11] Otherwise, Bush had won some notoriety for changing his watchbands to match his suit. [fn 12]
More than anything, Bush wanted an early endorsement from Reagan in order to suppress or at least undercut challenges to his presumptive front-runner status from GOP rivals in the primaries; it was already clear that Senator Bob Dole might be the most formidable of these. Bush feared Dole’s challenge, and desperately wanted to be annointed as Reagan’s heir-apparent as soon as possible before 1988. But Reagan had apparently not gotten over the antipathy to Bush he had conceived during the Nashua Telegraph debate of 1980. According to a high-level Reagan Administration source speaking in the summer of 1986, “more than once the president [told Bush], ‘Obviously, I’m going to stay neutral until after the convention, and then I’m going to work for whichever candidate comes out on top.” [fn 13] Despite Bush’s “slavish devotion,” Reagan wanted to keep the door open to his good friend, Senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada, whom Reagan apparently thought was getting ready to run for president. One can imagine Bush’s rage and chagrin.
As the months went by, it became clear that there was no love lost on Bush by Reagan. Bush was running much of the administration, but he was not running Reagan in certain matters, and this seemed to be one of them. In the late summer of 1987, Reagan granted a magazine interview in which he seemed to praise Bush: “I don’t know that there has ever been a vice president who has been more completely involved in all that goes on than this vice president.” In the middle of Iran-contra, that might not have been exactly what Bush wanted. The Reagan was asked to cite examples. “I can’t answer in that context,” replied Reagan. Bush had grown up in the liberal GOP paradise of the Eisenhower years, and he could not help remembering old Ike’s disparaging answer to a similar question that had invited him to name some decisions Vice President Nixon had participated in. “If you give me a week, I might think of one,” quipped Ike. [fn 14]
Reagan stubbornly refused to come out for Bush until the endorsement could no longer help him in the Republican primaries. Reagan chose to wait until Super Tuesday was over and the rest of the Republican field had been mathematically eliminated. Reagan actually waited until Bob Dole, the last of Bush’s rivals, had dropped out. Then Reagan ignored the demands of Bush’s media handlers and perception-mongers and gave his endorsement in the evening, too late for the main network news programs. The scene was a partisan event, a very large GOP Congressional fundraising dinner. Reagan waited to the end of the speech, explained that he was now breaking his silence on the presidential contest, and in a perfunctory way said he would support Bush. “I’m going to work as hard as I can to make Vice President George Bush the next president of the United States,” said old Ron. There were no accolades for Bush’s real or imagined achievements, no stirring kudos. Seasoned observers found Reagan’s statement “halfhearted…almost grudging.” [fn 15]
Some day we may know how much of the public denigration of Reagan in accounts both true and invented, including studies showing mental impairment that surfaced in late 1987 and early 1988, was due to the efforts of a Bush machine determined to create the impression that a president who refused enthusiastically to endorse Bush was a mental incompetent. Had the Discrediting Committee been unleashed against the President of the United States? It would not be the first time.
Reagan’s endless reticence meant that Bush had to work especially hard to pander to the right wing, to those people which he despised but neverthless needed to use. Here Bush stooped to boundless public degradation. In December, 1985 Bush went to Canossa by accepting an invitation to a dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire held in honor of the late William Loeb, the former publisher of the Manchester Union Leader. We have already documented that old man Loeb hated Bush and worked doggedly for his defeat in 1980. Still, Bush was the “soul of humility,” and he was willing to do anything to be able to take power in his own name. Bush gave a speech full of what the Washington Post chose to call “self-deprecating humor,” but what others might have seen as grovelling. Bush regaled 500 Republicans and rightists with a fairy tale about having tried in 1980 to woo Loeb by offering rewards of colored watchbands, LaCoste shirts and Topsider shoes to anyone who could win over Bill Loeb. The items named were preppy paraphernalia which Loeb and many others found repugnant.
Bush quoted what Loeb had said about him: “hypocrite…double-standard morality, involved up to his neck in Watergate…unfit to be the Republican nominee…incompetent; liberal masquerading as a conservative; a hypocrite…a spoon-fed little rich kid who has been wet-nursed to success,” and so on from the series of 1979-1980 editorials. Bush then praised the author of these words as a man of “passionate conviction and strong belief…In never mincing his words or pulling his punches, Bill Loeb was part of a great tradition of outspoken publishers.” Some of the assembled right-wingers repeated the line from the Doonesbury comic strip according to which Bush “had placed his manhood in a blind trust.” Loeb’s widow Nackey Scripps Loeb was non-commital. “We have decided on a candidate for 1988–whoever best fights for the Reagan agenda,” she announced. “Whether that person is here tonight remains to be seen,” she added. [fn 16]
Lawfully, Bush had earned only the contempt of these New Hamsphire conservatives. In October, 1987, when the New Hampshire primary season was again at hand, Mrs. Loeb rewarded Bush for his grovelling with a blistering attack that featured reprints of Bill Loeb’s 1980 barbs: “a preppy wimp, part of the self-appointed elite,” and so forth. Mrs. Loeb wrote, “George Bush has been Bush for 63 years. He has been Ronald Reagan’s errand boy for just the last seven. Without Ronald Reagan he will surely revert to the original George Bush.” Mrs. Loeb repeated her late husband’s 1980 advice: “Republicans should flee the presidential candidacy of George Bush as if it were the black plague itself.” [fn 17]
Displays of this type began to inspire a more general public contempt for Bush during 1987. Bush was coming across as “deferential almost to the point of obsequiousness,” “too weak, too namby-pamby.” George Will, anxious to pick a winner, began to ridicule Bush as a “lapdog.” The “wimp factor” was beginning to torment Bush. Old Bill Loeb was still making Bush squirm. Two veteran observers pointed out: “Reagan’s own physical presence and self-confidence made Bush in contrast seem even weaker, and Bush’s penchant for the prissy remark at times cast him as the Little Lord Fauntleroy of the campaign trail..” Bush said he was running a negative campaign so as not to leave the Democrats a monopoly on “the naughty stuff.” [fn 18]
All of this culminated in the devastating Newsweek cover story of October 19, 1987, “Fighting the ‘Wimp Factor.'” The article was more analytical than hostile, but did describe the “crippling handicap” of begin seen as a “wimp.” Bush had been a “vassal to Kissinger” at the United Nations and in Beijing, the article found, and now even Bush’s second term chief of staff said of Bush, “He’s emasculated by the office of vice president.” To avoid appearing as a television wimp, Bush had “tried for the past 10 years to master the medium, studying it as if it were a foreign language. He has consulted voice and television coaches. He tried changing his glasses and even wearing contact lenses. […] Bush’s tight, twangy voice is a common problem. Under stress, experts explain, the vocal cords tighten and the voice is higher than normal and lacks power.” According to Newsweek, 51% of Americans found that “wimp” was a “seriously problem” for Bush. The magazine offered various sophomoric psychological explanations of how Bush got that way, mainly concentrating on his family upbringing. Here Bush was allegedly taught to conceal his sociopathic drives beneath a veneer of propitiation and sharing, as in his childhood nickname of “Have Half” George.
The Newsweek “wimp” cover soon had Bush chewing the carpet at the Naval Observatory. Bush’s knuckle-dragging son George W. Bush called the story “a cheap shot” and added menacingly: “…I’d like to take the guy who wrote that headline out on that boat,” i.e., the Aronow-built Fidelity in which Bush was depicted on the Newsweek cover. Which sounded very much like a threat. George W. Bush also called Newsweek Washington bureau chief Evan Thomas to inform him that the Bush campaign had officially cut off all contact with Newsweek and its reporters. The decision to put Newsweek out of business was made by candidate Bush personally, and aborted a plan by Newsweek to publish a book on the 1988 campaign. The press got the message: portray Bush in a favorable light or face vindictive and discriminatory countermeasures.
Bush campaigns have always advanced on a cushion of money, and the 1988 effort was to push this characteristic to unheard-of extremes. In keeping with a tradition that had stretched over almost three decades, the Bush campaign finance chairman was Robert Mosbacher, whose Mosbacher Energy Corporation is one of the largest privately held independent oil companies in Texas. Mosbacher’s net personal worth is estimated at $200 million. During the 1988 campaign, Mosbacher raised $60 million for the Bush campaign and $25 million for the Republican National Committee. It was Mosbacher who formed the Team 100 corps d’elite of 250 fatcats, among whom we have seen Henry Kravis. The trick was that many of these $100,000 contributors were promised ambassadorial posts and other prestigious appointments, a phenomenon that would reach scandalous proportions during 1989. In 1984, Mosbacher’s son Rob Jr. ran a strong but losing race for the senate seat vacated by John Tower.
Mosbacher by the mid-1980’s had become a director of the biggest bank in Houston, and a member of the most exclusive clubs in the city. He was a central figure of that cabal of financiers and oil men which in the postwar years was called “the Suite 8F crowd,” and which has since evolved into new forms. Mosbacher, Baker, and Bush are now at the center of the business oligarchy that runs the state of Texas.
Mosbacher was also a celebrity. When he was between his second and third marriages during the early 1980’s, he was billed as Houston’s most eligible bachelor. His third wife Georgette, a cosmetics entrepreneur, was the star of the Bush inaugural as far as the photographers were concerned. The Mosbachers habitually flew around the country in their own private jet, and maintained homes in New York, Washington DC, and the expensive River Oaks section of Houston.
During the mid-1980’s, Mosbacher reportedly lined his pockets to the tune of $40 to $50 million through a scam called the Houston Grand Parkway. Mosbacher’s gains derived from the Texas Transportation Corporation Act, which provided for the de facto privatization of highway building in conformity with the ideological tenets and fast-buck mentality of the Reagan-Bush economic climate. Local landowners were empowered to set up “transportation corporations” which would solicit donations of the rights-of-way of new roads, and which would fund the engineering studies for the roads. If right-of-way and design plans were approved, the state would proceed to actually build the roads.
In practice this became a gigantic speculation at the center of which lay Mosbacher’s Cinco Ranch, a property he had acquired for $5 million in 1970. One provision of the bill was that many small landowners in the general area of the proposed rods would be hit by special road assessment tax levies of up to eight times the value of their property. Mosbacher cashed in by selling off his Cinco Ranch for $84 million, the highest price in Houston’s history. The leap in the value of the land was made possible by the Grand Parkway passing right through the center of Mosbacher’s ranch, a route that had been designed by a Mosbacher old boy network that reached into the Texas highway department. [fn 19]
Mosbacher’s network for the Houston Grand Parkway caper included Harris County Commissioner Robert Y. “Big Bob” Eckels, whose personal friendship and close political ties with George Bush were well known. [fn 20] Eckels was a landowner who stood to benefit from the new road-building projects permitted under the new law. Eckels was also a dedicated GOP activist who made the Harris County government into a de facto arm of the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1984. In 1985, Houston press reports showed that Big Bob Eckels had deployed county government employees, county government telephones, and county computer equipment to organize and service a group calling itself National Conference of Republican County Officials which, according to Roanoake County, Virginia Treasurer Fred Anderson, functioned as “a working arm for the White House and the national [Republican] party.” [fn 21] Eckels later admitted that he had also spent at least $20,000 of his own funds for “a world” of mailings for the Reagan-Bush ticket and had not reported these expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. Eckels was convicted on misdeamenaor charges of accepting a gift from a county contractor in the form of a road on his Austin County tree farm. Eckels had been indicted six times while still in office, on various charges.
By June, 1989, Eckels was in semi-retirement on his tree farm, but was telling the press that he was working on his autobiography which he assured a reporter would not be just a “muck-raking deal.” [fn 22] This book project was widely viewed in Houston as an attempt by Eckels to develop a retaliatory capability to ward off possible further attacks by his own former partners.
Big Bob Eckels may have been serving George Bush in other ways as well. In the spring of 1985, Houston attorney Douglas Caddy says he was told by Richard Brown of the International Intelligence Network Corporation that “a secret Reagan-Bush campaign fund” with “$1.5 million in it” had been uncovered follwing the 1984 presidential campaign. Caddy alleged that Brown told him the fund was “controlled by Harris County Commissioner Bob Eckels.” According to Caddy, Brown further alleged that “IRS Criminal Intelligence knows about it.” According to Caddy, Brown was a person with links to both the FBI and the IRS. Caddy also asserts that a report of the existence of the secret fund was also repeated to him by private investigator Clyde Wilson. [fn 23] During May 1988 and June 1989, Caddy wrote to the FBI and the FEC on the matter. The FEC declared the allegations Matter Under Review (MUR) 2925, but later decided in February 1991, despite “reason to believe” Caddy’s charges, to take no action. [fn 24] During 1989, Caddy was hit by an Internal Revenue Service audit which led to an IRS assessment of hundreds of thousands of dollars of penalties against him, a lien on his property, and other measures. In Caddy’s view, this audit was a retaliation against his having raised the issue of the $1.5 million Reagan-Bush campaign fund.
Further investigation of this potentially embarrassing complex of allegations was greatly hindered by the death of Robert Y. Eckels on December 24, 1989.
Bush’s big money campaigning was especially dependent upon Texas oilmen, whose largesse he required to stoke his political machine. Bush was running a political action committee called the Fund for America’s Future which raised $3.9 million in off-year 1985, a hefty sum. Of that take, about a fifth was raised from 505 Texas donors, with Texans giving more than the residents of any other state. $135,095 of Bush’s money harvest came from persons who could be clearly identified as oil industry figures, and the rakeoff here was probably much greater. When the price of a barrel of oil fell during this period from $39 to $12, Bush had a big problem. His donors began to squawk.
Overall, the collapse of the oil price, itself a result of the world-wide industrial depression, was a boon to the bankrupt US dollar. The insolvent greenback was shored up by this new subsidy, which restored a little of the currency’s ability to command some real commodities in the real world. But for Bush’s immediate cronies and money-minded political base, it was a disaster. “You’ve got to figure George was getting banged around by all his oil friends, particularly the drillers, who have been hurt the most,” a Congressional Bushman told the Washington Post. [fn 25] Sure enough, Bush’s old pal Bill Liedtke, now the president of POGO Producing in Houston, a drilling company, confirmed that his man was highly attuned to the issue: “George understands very well that you’re going to lose a certain percentage of production permanently if the price goes too low. Ever since I have known him, back to the Eisenhower era, he has been very sensitive to the connection between a strong [oil] industry and national security.” [fn 26] Robert Mosbacher, Bush’s moneybags, confirmed this view in spades: “I always find that when I talk to George about the oil and gas business, he’s up to speed. He has two sons in the business, and he stays in touch through them.”
The collapse of the oil price posed a real problem that should have been answered by introducing an oil tariff with a trigger price of $25 per barrel, so that the domestic price of oil would never fall below that figure, as was proposed at the time by a few spokesmen for the oil patch. That would have been the equivalent of setting up a parity price for oil, and would have given domestic producers solid certainties for long-term development and planning. But the Reagan Administration in general was still wedded to the president’s irrational fetishism of “the magic of the marketplace,” and would violently oppose anything smacking of dirigism or re-regulation.
Bush was not interested in a parity price for oil. He rather took advantage of a scheduled trip to the Middle East, during which he was supposed to be discussing regional security matters, to talk up the price of oil with his long-time crony King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. Bush expressed his concern about “the free fall” of oil prices and talked with Fahd about “how [the Saudis] feel there can be some stability to a market that certainly can’t be very happy to them.” He denied that he had come to Saudi Arabia on a “price-fixing mission,” but invoked national security. Bush lectured Saudi Oil Minister Zaki Yamani about the saturation of the world oil market. The implication was clear: the Saudis were supposed to cut back their production. [fn 27] It was a few weeks later that the US bombed Libya.
Bush sanctimoniously claimed that his remarks had nothing to do with the quest for political advantage. His performance may have played well in the oil patch, but reviews elsewhere were not laudatory. A White House official said that “poor George” had committed “a gaffe” that was sure to hurt him in New Hampshire. Reagan was still very committed to free market forces setting the price of oil, was the word in this quarter. Up in the rust bowl, the Detroit News headlined: “Bush to Michigan: Drop Dead.” A Dole spokesman gloated that “given Bush’s background, the last thing he needs to be doing is carrying water for the oil industry and the international banks….It was as if his whole resume was talking.”
Once again, as so frequently in his career, politics was proving unkind to the hopes of George Bush. By the spring of 1987, Bush was “catching the dickens” out on the hustings for his Iran-contra activities. On the Democratic side, Gary Hart, the former senator from Colorado who had run second to Mondale through the 1984 primaries, was emerging as a clear front-runner. With his own efforts foundering, Bush had every reason to fear succumbing in a long season of photo opportunities in competition with Hart. But if politics was fickle, there was always the bedrock of covert action.
Gary Hart talked about being the candidate with new ideas, but he had an immense vulnerability. He was a habitue of Turnberry Isle, a 234 acre earthly paradise located north of Miami. Part of the complex was a 29 story condomium. Turnberry was frequented by celebrities of the sports and entertainment world, by politicians and by Mafiosi like Joey Ippolito, a convicted marijuana kingpin. The developer and manager of Turnberry was Don Soffer, who was also the owner of a yacht named the Monkey Business. (After the February, 1987 murder of Don Aronow, Soffer received a telephone call, from a person who told him, “You’re next.” Soffer hired extra bodyguards and went for a one-week Atlantic cruise on the Monkey Business.) Soffer was a friend of Don Aronow. Ben Kramer was also a frequent visitor to Turnberry Isle. The establishment employed a staff of hostesses who were termed “Donnie’s girls” or “the party girls”. According to some, these hostesses doubled as luxury prostitutes for the Turnberry clientele of wealthy male patrons.
Among the employees of Turnberry was the sometime model Donna Rice. Another woman, Lynn Armandt, was in charge of the staff of party girls, and also had retail space for a bikini boutique in an upscale and remunerative Turnberry shopping complex. Lynn Armandt was the widow of a reputed Ben Kramer associate, a Miami drug dealer and underworld figure who had disappeared and never been found. The car of Armandt’s husband was eventually found, riddled with machine-gun slugs and stained with blood. In the glove compartment, investigators found the telephone number of Ben Kramer.
When federal agents raided Bem Kramer’s Fort Apache Marina on August 28, 1987, they examined the contents of Kramer’s safe and found the original manuscripts of early primary stump speeches by Gary Hart. [fn 28]
At 8:30 PM on the evening of Monday, April 27, 1987, journalist Tom Fiedler, who had just written a story on the rumors of sexual promiscuity that had begun to surface around the Gary Hart campaign, received a telephone call at his office. It was just after Gart Hart had told E.J. Dionne of the New York Times, “Follow me around. I don’t care. I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me. go ahead. They’d be very bored.” An extensive and well-organized network in the media was hyping the story that Hart was promiscuous. The telephone call received that day by Fiedler was from a woman who told him, “Gary Hart is having an affair with a friend of mine. We don’t need another president who lies like that.” The next morning at 10:30 AM the same woman called back with the report that her female friend was likely to accept an invitation to spend the weekend with Gary Hart at his Washington townhouse, and that the friend was likely to make the trip by air Friday evening. Published sources and unnamed aides in the Gary Hart campaign have identified Lynn Armandt as the woman who made this call to Tom Fiedler of the Miami Herald, although Fiedler denies this is true. [fn 29]
These telephone calls led to the stakeout of Hart’s townhouse by Fiedler and other reporters of the Miami Herald who came upon Hart together with Donna Rice, detonating the scandal which destroyed Hart’s candidacy.
The woman caller described herself as a liberal Democrat but a foe of mendacity. She told Fiedler that she and her girlfriend had spent time on a yacht with Hart and an older man named Bill who was supposedly Hart’s lawyer. This turned out to be a cruise by Hart, Donna Rice, Lynn Armandt and Hart’s lawyer William Broadhurst plus a crew of five on board the Soffer-owned “chartered yacht” Monkey Business to Bimini and back in the springtime. Donna Rice later confirmed she had met Hart at Turnberry.
William Broadhurst or “Billy B.” was a Washington lawyer and Hart backer who served the candidate as an operative on the campaign trail. Broadhurst had a Capitol Hill townhouse near Hart’s. Broadhurst later explained that Lynn Armandt had come to Washington to consider his offer to be a social director for his lobbying and entertaining activities in Washington. Broadhurst said that Donna Rice had come along with her friend Lynn Armandt, and that both women had stayed overnight at his house, not at Hart’s. Lynn Armandt soon left Washington after the story had broken, and the Hart campaign people said they never heard from her again.
There is no need to recount the ostracism and revelations that followed, leading to the destruction of Gary Hart as a political figure. Nor is it our intention here to defend the lost cause of the decidedly unsavory former Senator Hart. But given the situation of the Bush campaign in April-May, 1987, we are reminded by Seneca’s “Cui prodest” proposition that the Bushmen as prime beneficiaries would necessarily qualify as prime suspects if any “naughty stuff” were to overtake Hart, as it did. Our suspicions can only be heightened by the obvious degree to which Bush, Aronow, Kramer, Soffer, Armandt, and Rice must be seen virtually as one interrelated social amalgam in the setting of Miami, Thunderboat Alley, Turnberry Isle, and the Monkey Business. Perhaps an old score was being settled here as well, dating back to December, 1975, hearings in which Gary Hart had taunted Bush about the Liedkte money laundering apparatus referenced in Richard M. Nixon’s “smoking gun” tape.
James Baker was the titular head of the Bush campaign, but the person responsible for the overall concepts and specific tactics of the Bush campaign was Lee Atwater, a political protege of Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Thurmond had been a Democrat, then a Dixiecrat in 1948, then a Democrat again, and finally a Republican. The exegencies of getting elected in South Carolina on the GOP ticket had taught Thurmond to reach deeply into that demagogue’s bag of tricks called the wedge issues. Under Thurmond’s tutelage, Atwater had become well versed in the essentials of the Southern Strategy, the key to that emergent Republican majority in presidential elections which Kevin Phillips had written about in 1968. Atwater had also imbibed political doctrine from the first practitioner of the Southern Strategy, the dark-jowled Richard M. Nixon himself. In January 1983, for example, Lee Atwater, at that time deputy director of the White House office of political affairs (and a creature of the Bush-Baker connection), met with Nixon for three and a half hours in Columbia, South Carolina. Nixon held forth on three points: the decisive political importance of the Sun Belt, the numerical relations within the Electoral College, and the vast benefits of having no primary competition when seeking re-election. Atwater found that Nixon knew the Electoral College like the back of his hand, and knew that the electoral votes of the southern states were the key to the ball game as presently constituted. Nixon had railed against two Congressmen, Pete McCloskey of California and John Ashbrook of Ohio, who had challenged him from the left and right when he sought re-election in 1972. “Those guys were two gnats on my ass,” complained Nixon. [fn 30] Bush has obviously attributed great importance to Nixon’s advice that all primary competition be banned during the quest for a second term. Nixon’s advice underlines the real problems posed for Bush by a candidacy like that of television commentator Pat Buchanan.
In 1988 as well, Nixon was brought in to be the spiritus rector of the Bush campaign. During March of 1988, when it was clear that Bush was going to win the nomination, Nixon “slipped into town” to join George Bush, Bar, and Lee Atwater for dinner at the Naval Observatory. This time it was Bush who received a one hour lecture from Tricky Dick on the need to cater to the Republican right wing, the imperative of a tough line on crime in the streets and the Soviets (again to propitiate the rightists), to construct an independent identity only after the convention, and to urge Reagan to campaign actively. And of course, where Nixon shows up, Kissinger cannot be far away.[fn 31]
1988 saw another large-scale mobilization of the intelligence community in support of Bush’s presidential ambitions. The late Miles Copeland, a high-level former CIA official who operated out of London during the 1980’s, contributed a piece frankly titled “Old Spooks for Bush” to the March 18, 1988 issue of National Review. (Since the magazine’s editor, William Buckley, was a notorious Skull and Bones cultist, the allusion to “spooks” assumed the character of an insider pun.) Copeland based his endorsement of Bush on the candidate’s anti-Soviet firmness, a viewpoint that seems odd in retrospect. Copeland suggested that Bush would go back to the procedures of staff work that had been standard under Eisenhower: “Ronald Reagan is apparently oblivious of this simple ‘Standard Operation procedure,’ but we know from experience that Bush isn’t. This is why my old friends and I are in George Bush’s corner in the presidential race: we see him not only as one who has the wisdom, discretion, and ability to grasp the facts of our situation on the international gameboard, but as one who will appoint as his key advisors real experts in the relevant fields — unlike the inexperienced men with whom President Reagan has surrounded himself. […] It happens that we are in a state of national crisis, but, due to the Soviets’ success at dezinformatzia and to our peculiar susceptibilities, it isn’t recognizable. We see Bush as the candidate who, speaking with a voice of authority, can make it recognizable.” This statement is doubly interesting because it is a clear precursor of the mood of bureaucratic triumphalism that marked the early weeks of the Bush Administration, when the new team launched what was billed as a “policy review” on Soviet relations to get back to hard bargaining after the departure of the slobbering sentimentalist Reagan.
Bush and Atwater feared all their competition. They feared former Gov. Pierre DuPont of Delaware because of his appeal to liberal and blueblood Republicans who might otherwise automatically gravitate to Bush. They feared New York Congressman Jack Kemp because of his appeal to the GOP right wing, to the blue-collar Reagan Democrats, and his disturbing habit of talking about the Strategic Defense Initiative and many other issues. They feared that Senator Bob Dole of Kansas with his “root canal economics,” right-wing populism, and his solid backing from the international grain cartel might appear more credible to the Wall Street bankers than Bush as an enforcer of austerity and sacrifices. But at the same time, they knew that Bush had more money to spend and incomparably more state by state organization than any of his GOP rivals, to say nothing of the fabled Brown Brothers, Harriman media edge. Bush also ruled the Republican National Committee with Stalin-like ferocity, denying these assets to all of his rivals. This allowed Bush to wheel towards the right in 1986-87 to placate some of his critics there, and then move back towards the center by the time of the primaries. Indeed, Bush’s many layers of money and political apparatchiki made it possible for him to absorb even stunning defeats like the outcome of the Iowa caucuses without folding. Victory, thought Bush, would belong to the big battalions.
But all the money and the organization could not mask the fact that Bush was fundamentally a weak candidate. This began to become obvious to Atwater and his team of perception mongers as the Iowa caucuses began to shape up. These were the caucuses that Bush had so niftily won in 1980, imparting to him the fickle charisma of the Big Mo. By 1988, Bush’s Iowa effort had become complicated by reality, in the form of a farm crisis that was driving thousands of farmers into bankruptcy every week. Farm voters were now enraged against the avuncular thespian Ronald Reagan and were looking for a way to send a message to the pointy-headed set in Washington DC. Governor Branstad of Iowa complained as early as February, 1986: “I don’t think his advisors are even keeping [Bush] informed on the extent of the farm crisis. We’ve got a crisis in agriculture and no one is in charge.” Bush’s Iowa campaign was dripping with lucre, but this now brought forth resentment among the grim and grey-faced rural voters.
In mid-October, 1987, five of the six declared Republican candidates attended a traditional Iowa GOP rally in Ames, just north of Des Moines, on the campus of Iowa State University. Televangelist Pat Robertson surprised all the others by mobilizing 1,300 enthusiastic supporters for the Saturday event. The culmination of this rally was a presidential straw poll, which Robertson won with 1,293 votes to 958 for Dole. Bush trailed badly with 864. This was the occasion for Bush’s incredible explanation of what had happened: “A lot of people that support me, they were off at the air show, they were at their daughters’ coming out parties, or teeing up at the golf course for that all-important last round.” [fn 32] Many Iowans, including Republicans, had to ask what a debutante cotillion was, and began to meditate on the fact that they were not socially acceptable. But most concluded that George Bush was the imperial candidate from another planet, bereft of the foggiest notion of their lives and their everyday problems.
During the buildup to the Iowa caucus, Bush continued to dodge questions on Iran-contra. The famous “tension city” encounter with Dan Rather took place during this time. Lee Atwater considered that performance Bush’s defining event for the campaign, a display which made him look like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Gary Cooper, especially in the south, where people like a pol who “can kick somebody’s ass” and where that would make a big difference on Super Tuesday.
But Bush’s handlers were nevertheless shocked when Dole won the Iowa caucuses with 37% of the vote, followed by Robertson with 25%. Bush managed only a poor show, with 19%, a massive collapse in comparison with 1980, when he had been far less known to the public.
Bush had known that defeat was looming in Iowa, and he had scuttled out of the state and gone to New Hampshire before the results were known. Bush was nevertheless stunned by his ignominious third-place finish, and he consulted with Nick Brady, Lee Atwater, chief of staff Craig Fuller and pollster Bob Teeter. Atwater had boasted that he had built a “fire wall” in the southern Super Tuesday states that would prevent any rival from seizing the nomination out of Bush’s grasp, but the Bush image-mongers were well aware that a loss in New Hampshire might well prove a fatal blow to their entire effort, the advantages of money, networks, and organization notwithstanding. Atwater accordingly ordered a hugh media buy of 1,800 gross rating points, enough to ensure that the theoretical New Hampshire television viewer would be exposed to a Bush attack ad 18 times over the final three days before the election. The ad singled out Bob Dole, judged by the Bushmen as their most daunting New Hampshire challenger, and savaged him for “straddling” the question of whether or not new taxes out to be imposed. The ad proclaimed that Bush “won’t raise taxes,” period. Bush was glorified as opposing an oil import tax, and for having supported Reagan’s INF treaty on nuclear forces in Europe from the very beginning. It was during this desperate week in New Hampshire that Bush became indissolubly wedded to his lying and demagogic “no new taxes” pledge, which he repudiated with considerable fanfare during the spring of 1990.
The Bush campaign brought in former Boston Red Sox star Ted Williams, test pilot Chuck Yeager, and finally even old Barry Goldwater to help humanize George’s appearance on the hustings. George worked a long day, putting in five or six radio interviews before 7:30 AM, proceeding to a staged telegenic campaign event for the local evening news and then campaigning intensively at locations suggested to him by New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, his principal supporter in the state.
When Bush had arrived in Manchester the night of the disastrous Iowa result, Sununu had promised a nine point victory for Bush in his state. Oddly enough, that turned out to be exactly right. The final result was 38% for Bush, 29% for Dole, 13% for Kemp, 10% for DuPont, and 9% for Robertson. Was Sununu a clairvoyant? Perhaps he was, but those familiar with the inner workings of the New Hampshire quadrennials are aware of a very formidable ballot-box stuffing potential assembled there by the blueblood political establishment. Some observers pointed to pervasive vote fraud in the 1988 New Hampshire primaries, and Pat Robertson, as we shall see, also raised this possibility. The Sununu machine delivered exactly as promised, securing the governor the post of White House chief of staff. Sununu soon became so self-importantly inebriated with the trappings of the imperial presidency as reflected in his travel habits that it was suggested that the state motto appearing on New Hampshire license plates be changed from “Live Free or Die” to “Fly Free or Die.” In any case, for Bush the heartfelt “Thank You, New Hampshire” he intoned after his surprising victory signalled that his machine had weathered its worst crisis.
Bush’s real thank you to New Hampshire would come gradually, in the form of an accelerated economic depression. Soon after the 1988 vote, the bottom fell out of the state’s real estate boom, banks began failing, and the unemployment rate spiked upward. During 1991, food stamp usage there went up 51%.-an object lesson of what happens to those who fail to resist George Bush.
In the South Carolina primary, the Bushmen were concerned about a possible threat from television evangelist Pat Robertson, who had mounted his major effort in the Palmetto state. Robertson was widely known through his appearances on his Christian Broadcasting Network. Shortly before the South Carolina vote, a scandal became public which involved another television evangelist, Jimmy Swaggart, a close friend of Robertson and an active supporter of Robertson’s presidential campaign. Swaggart admitted to consorting with a prostitute, and this caused a severe crisis in his ministry. Jim Baker of the PTL television ministry had already been tainted by a sex scandal. Robertson accused the Bush campaign of orchestrating the Swaggart revelations at a time that would be especially advantageous to their man. Talking to reporters, Robertson pointed to “the evidence that two weeks before the primary…it suddenly comes to light.” Robertson added that the Bush campaign was prone to “sleazy” tricks, and suggested that his own last-place finish in New Hampshire was “quite possibly” the result of “dirty tricks” by the Bush campaign. Bush responded by dismissing Robertson’s charges as “crazy” and “absurd.” Robertson had been linking Bush to the “international banking community” in his South Carolina campaigning. [fn 33]
True to his Southern Strategy, Atwater had “front-loaded” Bush’s effort in the southern states with money, political operatives, and television, straining the legal limit of what could be spent during the primary season as whole. A few days before Super Tuesday came the South Carolina primary. Here Bush appeared before a group of two dozen evangelical fundamentalist ministers and declared with a straight face: “Jesus Christ is my personal savior.” The state’s governor, Carol Campbell, was a former customer of Lee Atwater’s. Strom Thurmond was for Dole, but his endorsement proved to be valueless. Here Bush got all the state’s 37 delegates by scoring 48% of the vote to 21% for Dole, 19% for Robertson, and 11% for Kemp.
On the way to Super Tuesday, Bush stopped off in Miami to address a constituency with which he had been closely associated for three decades: the Miami Cubans. Bush was joined by Barry Goldwater and Florida Governor Bob Martinez, later chosen as field marshal of Bush’s phony war on drugs. There was a good turnout of Republican Cuban Americans, who lionized George and also his son Jeb Bush, the former Dade County GOP chair who was now the Florida Secretary of Commerce. Obviously with some help from the family network, Jeb had been lobbying the Immigration and Naturalization Service to procure work permits for the wave of Nicaraguan emigres flooding into south Florida, not a few of whom were part of the contra drug-running operations. The rally was held at Florida International University, and before his main speech Bush talked to a class in international relations, where he wore his old obsessions on his sleeve. Had there been any sign of a change in Fidel Castro, a student wanted to know. “No,” said Bush, “and our policy will not change toward Fidel Castro.”
Bush was shocked when Professor Mark Rosenberg of the FIU Latin American Caribbean Center introduced him to the rally in terms that were somewhat short of panegyric. Rosenberg noted that Bush had been part of “questionable political decision making” in the Iran-contrea scandal and also referred to the “high sleaze factor” of the Reagan-Bush regime. “Does [Bush] have the will to clean up the Reagan economic mess?,” asked Rosenberg. “Time will tell.” Rosenberg was grabbed by the shoulders and hustled off the platform by FIU President and presumed Bushman Modesto Madique. Bush built his speech around a promise that no Cuban-Americans would be deported to Cuba under a Bush administration. “They are fleeing oppressive Marxism under Fidel Castro and they will not be treated as though they were coming in here for some other [economic] purpose,” intoned Bush. There were shouts of “Ariba!” from a crowd that contained knots of marielitos, those who came during Castro’s boat lift. It was a promise that Bush was to violate in any case, as some prison riots later on would remind the public. [fn 34]
Then, in the March 8 Super Tuesday polling, Bush scored an across-the board triumph, winning in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennesse, Virginia, Missouri, and Maryland, plus Massachusetts and Rhode Island outside of the region. It was better than one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s plebiscites. With this, Bush took 600 of 803 delegates at stake that day. 4.5 million Republicans had voted, the best turnout ever in southern GOP primaries. Most of the votes were votes for Reagan in the part of the country that felt least disillusioned by the Great Communictor, but they were all scored as votes for Bush. When Bush beat Dole by a three to two margin in Illinois, supposedly a part of Dole’s base, it was all over. Bush prepared for the convention and the choice of a vice president.
The Bush campaign of 1988 had no issues, but only demagogic themes. These were basically all on the table by June, well before the Republican convention. The first was the pledge of no new taxes, later embroidered with the Clint Eastwood tough-guy overtones of “Read My Lips- No New Taxes.” The other themes reflected Atwater’s studies of how to drive up the negatives of Bush’s Democratic opponent, who would be Massachusetts Governor Dukakis. Very early on, Bush began to harp on Dukakis’s veto of a bill requiring teachers to lead their class each day in the pledge of allegiance. Speaking in Orange County, California on June 7, Bush said: “I’ll never understand, when it came to his desk, why he vetoed a bill that called for the pledge of allegiance to be said in the sschools of Massachusetts. I’ll never understand it. We are one nation under God. Our kids should say the pledge of allegiance.” [fn 35]
This theme lent itself very well to highly cathexized visual portrayal, with flags and bunting. Atwater was assisted in these matters by Roger Ailes, a television professional who had been the executive producer of the Mike Douglas Show by the time he was 27 years old. That was in 1967, when he was hired by Richard Nixon and Leonard Garment. Ailes had been one of the most cynical designers of the selling of the president in 1968, and he had remained in the political media game ever since. Between them, Atwater and Ailes would produce the modern American television equivalent of a 1930’s Nurmeburg party rally.
At about this time, the Bush network we have seen in operation at the Reader’s Digest since the 1964 campaign conveniently printed an article about a certain Willie Horton, a black convicted murderer who was released from a Masschusetts jail on a furlough, and then absconded to Maryland, where he raped a white woman and stabbed her fiance. The Massachusetts furlough program had been started by Republican Governor Frank Sargent, but this meant nothing. Bush was to use Willie Horton in the same way that Hitler and the Nazis exploited the grisly crimes of one Harmann, a serial killer in Germany of the early 1930’s, in their calls for law and order. In Illinois in mid-June, Bush began to talk about how Dukakis let “murderers out on vacation to terrorize innocent people.” “Democrats can’t find it in their hearts to get tough on criminals,” Bush ranted. “What did the governor of Massachusetts think he was doing when he let convicted first-degree murderers out on weekend passes, even after one of them criminally, brutally raped a woman and stabbed her fiance? Why didn’t he admit his mistake? Eight months later, he was still defending his program, and only when the Massachusetts legislature voted by an overwhelming majority to abolish this program did he finally give in. I think Governor Dukakis owes the American people an explanation of why he supports this outrageous program.”
As packaged by Bush’s handlers, it was throughly racist without being nominally so, like Nixon’s “crime in the streets” shorthand for racist backlash during the 1968 campaign. Later, Bush would embroider this theme with his demand for the death penalty, his own Final Solution to the problem of criminals like Willie Horton. These themes fit very well into the standard Bush campaign event, which was very often Bush appearing before a local police department to receive their endorsement. Bush’s ability to organize these events in places like Boston, to the great embarrassment of Dukakis, doubtless reflected strong support from the CIA Office of Security, which was the bureau that kept in contact with police departments all over the country and, inevitably, infiltrated them.
All of Bush’s themes corresponded to wedge issues, the divisive Pavlovian ploys the southern Republicans had become expert in during their decades of battering and dismantling the classic Franklin D. Roosevelt coalition of labor, the cities, blacks, farmers, and intellectuals. They were designed to propitiate the vilest prejudices of a majority, while offending a minority, and studiously avoiding any real politics or economics that might be deterimental to the imperatives of Wall Street or the Washington bureaucracy.
To crown this demagogy, George H.W. Bush of Skull and Bones portrayed Dukakis as an elitist insider: “Governor Dukakis, his foreign-policy views born in Harvard Yard’s boutique, would cut the muscle of our defense.” Bush’s frequent litany of “liberal Massachusetts governor” was shameless in its main purpose of suggesting that Bush himself was NOT a liberal. Later, in 1990, Barbara Bush would confess that both she and George “cared about people” and were thus both liberals.
When Bush arrived in New Orleans for the Republican National Convention, he displayed signs of being unusually race-conscious. The image-mongers had set up a Reagan-Bush meeting on the airbase taxiway; Reagan was departing the convention after a long nostalgic-platitudinous farewell the day before. Now he would pass the mantle to George, with the appropriate camera angles. After a few seconds of small talk with Reagan, Bush and Bar called over three of their grandchildren, all from the family of their son Jeb, the Miami GOP party boss, and his Ibero-American wife Columba. “That’s Jebbie’s kids from Florida,” Bush said, in a voice that was picked up by the airport public address system. “The little brown ones. Jebbie’s the big one in the yellow shirt saying the pledge of allegiance tonight.” “Oh, really,” observed Nancy Reagan. Skin color has always meant a lot to Bush, but he really had been born with a silver foot in his mouth. [fn 36]
Bush now repaired to the admiral’s house at the Belle Chase Naval Air Station where this scene had played. Bush was accompanied by Baker, Teeter, Fuller, Atwater, Ailes, and Baker’s girl Friday, Margaret Tutwiler. Up to this point Bush’s staff had expected him to generate a little suspense around the convention by withholding the name of his vice presidential choice until the morning of the last day of the convention, when Bush could share his momentous secret with the Texas caucus and then tell it to the world.
Bush’s vetting of vice presidents was carried out between Bush and Robert Kimmitt, the Washington lawyer and Baker crony who later joined Baker’s ruling clique at the State Department before being put up for Ambassador to Germany when Vernon Walters quit in the spring of 1991. United Germany can now boast a US Ambassador whose greatest achievement was to guide Bush towards the choice of J. Danforth Quayle. Bush and Kimmitt reviewed the obvious choices: Kemp was out because he lectured Bush on the SDI and was too concerned about issues. Dole was out because he kept sniping at Bush with his patented sardonic zingers. Elizabeth Dole was a choice to be deemed imprudent. John Danforth, Pete Domenici, Al Simpson and some others were eliminated. Many were the possible choices who had to be ruled out not because of lack of stature, but because they might seem to have more stature than Bush himself. Quayle had shown up on lists prepared by Fuller and Ailes. Ed Rollins, attuned to the Reagan Democrats, could not believe that Quayle was being seriously considered. But now, at Belle Chase Naval Air Station north of New Orleans, Bush told his staffs that he had chosen Dan Quayle. Not only was it Quayle, but Bush’s thyroid was now in overdrive: he wanted to announce his selection within hours. Quayle was contacted by telephone and instructed to meet Bush at the dock in New Orleans when the paddle-wheel steamer Natchez brought Bush down the Missisippi to that city’s Spanish Plaza.
Quayle turned up at the dock in a state of inebriated euphoria, grabbing Bush’s arm, prancing and capering around Bush. Bush was momentarily taken aback: had he engaged a dervish? As soon as the dossiers on Quayle came out, a few questions were posed. Had his senate office been a staging point for contra resupply efforts? One of the Iran-contra figures, Rob Owen, had indeed worked for Quayle, but Quayle denied everything. Had Quayle, now a hawk, been in Vietnam? Tom Brokaw asked Quayle if he had gotten help in joining the National Guard as a way of ducking the draft? Quayle stammered that it had been twenty years earlier, but maybe “phone calls were made.” Then Dan Rather asked Quayle what his worst fear was. “Paula Parkinson,” was the reply. This was the woman lobbyist and Playboy nude model who had been present with Quayle at a wild weekend at a Florida country club back in 1980. The Bush image-mongers hurriedly convened damage control sessions, and Quayle was given two professional handlers, Stuart Spencer and Joe Canzeri. Spencer was an experienced GOP operative who had done public relations and consulting work worth $350,000 for Gen. Noriega of Panama during the mid-1980’s. [fn 37] After a couple of Bush-Quayle joint appearances before groups of war veterans to attempt to dissipate Quayle’s National Guard issue, Quayle was then shunted into the secondary media markets under the iron control of his new handlers.
Although Bush’s impulsive proclamation of his choice of Quayle does indeed raise the question of the hyperthyroid snap decision, the choice of Quayle was not impuslve, but rather perfectly coherent with Bush’s profile and pedigree. Bush told Baker that Quayle had been “my first and only choice.” [fn 38] Bush’s selection of political appointees is very often the product of Bush-Walker family alliances over more than a generation, as in the case of Baker, Brady, Boy Gray, and Henry Kravis, or at least of a long and often lucrative business collaboration, as in the case of Mosbacher. The choice of Quayle lies somewhere in between, and was strengthened by a deep ideological affinity in the question of racism.
J. Danforth Quayle’s grandfather was Eugene C. Pulliam, who built an important press empire starting with his purchase of the Atchison (Kansas) Champion in 1912. The bulk of these papers were in Indiana, the home state of the Pulliam clan, and in Arizona. “Gene” Pulliam had died in 1975, but his newspaper chain was worth an estimated $1.4 by the time Dan Quayle became a household word. Pulliam was a self-proclaimed ideologue: “If I wanted to make money, I’d go into the bond business. I’ve never been interested in the money I make but the influence we have.” [fn 39] Gene Pulliam was one of the first power brokers to encourage the political career of young Barry Goldwater in 1949 through the support of the Pulliam Arizona Republic and Gazette of Phoenix. When Gene Pulliam died, his last word was not “Rosebud” but “Goldwater,” scratched onto a pad just before he expired.
Old Gene was a firm opponent of racial integration. When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Gene Pulliam sent a note to the editors of his papers in Indianapolis, Indiana ordering them not to give the King tragedy “much exposure” because he considered the civil rights leader a “rabble rouser.” He instructed that the news of King’s death be summarized in as few words as possible and relegated to the bottom of the front page.
The Bush-Quayle alliance thus reposed first of all on a shared premiss of racism.
Old man Pulliam also had a vendetta against the Kennedy family. During the 1968 primaries, he sent a memo to his editors instructing them: “Give Sen. [Eugene] McCarthy full coverage, but this does not apply to a man named Kennedy.” Pulliam was supporting Tricky Dick. Bobby Kennedy also held the Pulliam chain in contempt. Once when he came to Indianapolis he found that he was being refused a permit to hold a rally downtown. When when of his supporters urged him to go ahead and have the rally without the permit, Kennedy retorted that he couldn’t think of a worse fate than having to spend the night in the Marion County Jail and having nothing to read but the Indianapolis Star, the Pulliam paper.
Dan Quayle had been a mediocre student at DePauw University, where he managed to graduate with a 2.4 grade point average. He was a party boy, and received numerous Ds in his political science major. Quayle lived at the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (the same fraternity of which Bush had been a member at Yale.) During the fall of 1968, the DKE house, according to one account, “unleashed a party without a house mother for the first time and sponsored a frat party known as ‘The Trip.'” According to some, this actually was a party at which the hallucingoen LSD was dispensed. According to one published account, a photograph of J. Danforth Quayle that appears in the DePauw University yearbook has a caption which reads: “‘The Trip’ is a colorful psychedelic journey into the wild sights and sounds produiced by LSD.” [fn 40]
Quayle is known to the vast majority of the American public as a virtual cretin. Quayle is the first representative of the post-war Baby Boom to advance to national elective office. Unfortunately, he seems to exhibit some of the mental impairment that is known to overtake long-term, habitual marijuana users.
Quayle was admitted by the University of Indiana Law School in violation of that school’s usual policy of rejecting all applicants with an academic average of less than 2.6. He wanted to be a lawyer because he had heard that “lawyers make lots of money and do little,” as he told his fraternity brothers at De Pauw. As it turned out, the dean of admissions at the University of Indiana Law School was one G. Kent Frandsen, who was a Republican city judge in Lebanon, Indiana, a town where the Pulliam family controls the local newspaper. He had always been endorsed by the Pulliam interests. Two years later, Frandsen would officiate at the marriage of J. Danforth Quayle to Marilyn Tucker. Still later Frandsen would serve as Quayle’s campaign manager in Boone County during the 1986 senate race. It was thus no surprise that Frandsen was willing to admit Dan Quayle to law school as part of a program for disadvantaged students, primarily those from the black community.
After all this, it may appear as a mircale that Dan Quayle was ever able to obtain a law degree. J. Danforth’s receipt of that degree appears to have been mightily facilitated by the plutocratic Quayle family, who made large donations to the law school each year during Dan’s time as a law student.
What were Quayle’s passtimes during his law school years? According to one account, they included recreational drugs. During the summer of 1988, a Mr. Brett Kimberlin told Dennis Bernstein and a radio audience of WBAI in New York that he had first met J. Danforth during this period at a fraternity party at which marijuana was indeed being consumed. “He found out that I had marijuana avilable at the time,” said Kimberlin. “It was good quality, and he asked if I had any for sale….I thought it was kind of strange. He looked kind of straight. I thought he might be a narc [DEA agent] at first. But we talked and I felt a little more comfortable, and finally I gave him my phone number and said, ‘Hey, well, give me a call.’ He called me a couple weeks later, and said, ‘Hey, this is DQ. Can we get together?’ and I said ‘Yes, meet me at the Burger Chef restaurant.’ We struck up a relationship that lasted for 18 months. I sold him small quantities of marijuana for his personal use about once a month during that period. He was a good customer. He was a friend of mine. We had a pretty good relationship. He always paid cash. […] When him and Marilyn got married in 1972, I gave him a wedding present of some Afghanistan hashish and some Acapulco gold.” [fn 41]
Kimberlin repeated these charges in a pre-election interview on NBC News on November 4, 1988. Kimberlin was a federal prisoner serving time in Tennessee after conviction on charges of drug smuggling and explosives. Later that same day Kimberlin was scheduled to address a news conference by telephone conference call. But before Kimberlin could speak to the press, he was placed in solitary confinement, and was moved in and out of solitary confinement until well after the November 8 presidential election. A second attempted press conference by telephone hookup on the eve of the election did not take place because Kimberlin was still being held incommunicado. On August 6, 1991, US District Judge Harold H. Greene ruled that the allegations made by Kimberlin against US Bureau of Prisons Director J. Michael Quinlan were “tangible and detailed” enough to justify a trail. Kimberlin had accused Quinlan of ordering solitary confiment for him when it became clear that his ability to further inform the media about Quayle’s drug use would damage the Bush-Quayle effort.
In March, 1977, Congressman Dan Quayle contributed an article to the Fort Wayne Indiana News-Sentinel in which he recommended that Congress take a “serious” look at marijuana decriminalization. In April, 1978, Quayle repeated this proposal, specifying he supported decriminalization for first-time users. [fn 42]
As for Quayle’s military service, he had enlisted in the Indiana National Guard on May 19, 1969, in the midst of a freeze on further recruiting which had been ordered because the Indiana National Guard had exceeded its legally mandated full complement of manpower. Guard service was popular among those threatened by the draft, since it virtually guaranteed that service in Vietnam could be avoided. Dan Quayle had been declared 1-A on May 25, 1969, when he was about to graduate from DePauw University. Quayle-Pulliam family influence was instrumental in inducing National Guard Major General Wendell Phillippi to admit Quayle and assign him to a desk job. At this time Wendell Phillippi was also the managing editor of the Indianapolis News, a Pulliam family property. [fn 43] Dan Quayle spent about one year in the National Guard working as a reporter for the quarterly publication, Indiana National Guard, a sinecure.
In contrast with all this, Quayle campaigned as a “Vietnam-era veteran” and a warmonger of apocalyptic proportions. He once told a gathering of fundamentalist preachers that a nuclear war “would hurry Jesus’s second coming” [fn 44] During the Gulf crisis and the Iraq war of 1990-91, Quayle was the principal voice in the Bush Administration threatening the use of nuclear weapons by the United States against Baghdad. This points to Quayle’s important role in cementing Bush’s own Armageddon connection to the apocalyptic-millenarian strata among the Protestant evangelical fundamentalists.
The power behind Dan Quayle is widely acknowledged to be his consort, Marilyn Tucker Quayle. Mrs, Quayle has been described as a “prototype of the new-age political spouse: an asset to her husband as a polished professional, not just a decorative surrogate.” [fn 45] Mrs. Quayle comes from an evangelical family; her father, of Nineveh, Indiana, believes that Satan is trying to destroy the world and agrees with Ronald Reagan that the best president of his lifetime was “Silent Cal” Coolidge. Mrs. Quayle advocates the death penalty and says she grew up in a home environment in which daily Bible study was a duty for all. The Quayle family was Presbyterian at first, but later broke with this denomination to gravitate towards the teachings of Houston, Texas spiritual leader Colonel R.B. Thieme, whose taped messages were an institution in the Tucker household.
Marilyn’s sister Nancy Tucker Northcott told a journalist that Thieme’s taped sermons were a constant background refrain in the Tucker home. Mrs. Tucker “played them all day, every day.” This sister also pointed out that Marilyn “uses some of [Thieme’s] Sunday school things.. in her home as a supplement for thir own church,” which latter is a branch of the Prebyterian Church of America. Marilyn Quayle herself endorsed R.B. Thieme’s devotional materials as “very good.” But Quayle and his handlers have attempted to distance the family from Thieme.
Colonel R.B. Thieme is the pastor of the Berachah Church, an interdenominational-fundamentalist institution located in the Galleria neighborhood of Houston, Texas. Thieme is a preacher of decidedly military cast who sometimes wears his World War II US Army Air Force unform during his appearances in the pulpit. The Bulletin and Prayer List for the Berachah Church stresses the military motif, with a quarter of its space being devoted to parishioners who are on active duty with the US military. Thieme sees the world approaching the end-time, and exhorts his congregation to “prepare for battle,” while “preparing for the rapture.” His ideal is one of “Christian knights, soldiers going to war for Jesus.” The official hymnal of the Berachah Church contains “Christian Soldier,” with ranting doggerel lyrics by Thieme set to the tune of “Men of Harlech,” the traditional Welsh air: **INDENT Christian solider with Christ soaring Do not fear the devil’s roaring, Wave on wave of Satan’s demons Clash with groaning sound.
‘Tis the thrust of Satan’s dagger Sin and death to make men stagger With their unbelief in darkness, They shall die in hell.
Gospel of a new salvation, In Christ a new creation The Word of God now going forth Shall launch its bolts of thunder.
Christian soldiers you’re victorious, Trusting Christ the strong and glorious, Faith with faith a mighty victory Conquers sin and death. **END
In politics, Thieme rails about the modern United States as a “mobocracy” threatened by “satanic propaganda” and “creeping socialism.”
The liturgy for Thieme’s lilly-white congregation is built around a lecture in which Thieme dispenses a strange and eclectic mixture of Hebrew and Greek philology, Biblical nominalism, modern psychological jargon, and plain gibberish while his audience sit in what looks like a high school auditorium and busily take notes and underline passages in their Bibles. Sin nature control, we learn, can lead to dissociation and multiple personality disorder. There are eight stages of reversionism through which a psycho-believer may descend to implosion and self-fragmentation. It is a blasphemy to make promises to God. We should not be sorry for sins, but we should turn our minds away from sin. It is blasphemy to say that we invite Christ to come into our hearts; rather, Christ invites us. Spiritually brain dead believers do not understand that they can be saved by faith alone and by the spirit (pneumatikos). There are those among the born again who become murderers, and so forth in eclectic and vindictive brew.
R.B. Thieme has been described as “a cult figure” by James Dunn, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs in Washington. Controversial through he may be even among fundamentalists, Thieme is one of the Quayle family’s contact points with the legions of Armageddon, who provided a decisive base of support for the Bush-Quayle administration during the Gulf war.
Bush himself has a very strong apocalyptic streak, which he has more often expressed in the doomsday language of the RAND Corporation than in the theological terminology of an R.B. Thimeme. But there is ample convergence, as shown in this interview with Robert Scheer on the campaign trail in early 1980. Scheer started by asking Bush, “How do you win in a nuclear exchange?” Bush’s response:
- Bush: You have a survivability of command in control, survivability of industrial potential, protection of a percentage of your citizens, and you have a capability that inflicts more damage on the opposition than it can inflict upon you. That’s the way you can have a winner, and the Soviets’ planning is based on the ugly concept of a winner in a nuclear exchange.
Scheer: Do you mean like five percent would survive? Two percent?
Bush: More than that– if everybody fired everything he had, you’d have more than that survive. [fn 46]
Bush’s presidential campaign offered nothing of value. In his acceptance speech to the Republican national Convention on August 18, 1988, Bush professed the Calvinistic creed of a man who sees life in terms of “missions”; the mission now, he thought, was to make sure that the crumbling “American Century” of Col. Stimson and his World War II cabal which “lit the world with our culture” were followed by “another American century.” Bush promised to avoid war: “We have peace, and I am not going to let anyone take it away from us.” Bush harped on his theme of voluntarism-boosterism-corporatism with his celebration of “the idea of community” and his notorious “thousand points of light” as a recipe to deal with the human wreckage being piled up by the unbridled free enterprise he had stood for all his life. The irreverent soon transformed that into “a thousand points of blight.”
Remarkably, Bush still had a few promises on the economic front. He went on record once again with his “Read my lips: no new taxes.” He boasted that the Reagan-Bush forces had created 17 million jobs over the previous five years of recovery. He pledged to create “30 in eight, 30 million jobs in the next eight years.” (Non-farm payrolls were slightly over 107 million when Bush took office, and rose to slightly more than 110 million by the middle of 1990. Then, with layoffs averaging 2,000 a day, total unemployment sagged through the early autumn of 1991, with a net loss of about 1 1/2 million jobs. Bush is not on track to filfill this promise, which nobody has heard him repetaing since the election. There has been no “kinder, gentler nation.”
The final stages of the campaign were played out amid great public indifference. Some interest was generated in the final weeks by a matter oif prurient, rather than policy interest: rumors were flying of a Bush sex scandal. This talk, fed by the old Jennifer Fitzgerald story, had surfaced during 1987 in the wake of the successful covert operation against Gary Hart. The gossip became intense enough that George W. Bush asked his father if he had been guilty of philandering. The young Bush reported back to the press that “the answer to the Big A [adultery] question is N-O.” Lee Atwater accused David Keene of the Dole campaign of helping to circulate the rumor, and Keene, speaking on a television talk show, responded that Atwater was “a liar.” Shortly thereafter, a “sex summit” was convened between the Bush and Dole camps for the purpose of maintaing correct GOP decorum even amidst the acrimony of the campaign. [fn 47]
Evans and Novak opined that “Atwater and the rest of the Bush high command, convinced that the rumors would soon be published, reacted in a way that spelled panic to friend anmd foe alike.” On June 17, 1987, Michael Sneed of the Chicago Sun-Times had written that “several major newspapers are sifting …reported dalliances of Mr. Boring.” [fn 48] But during that summer of 1988, the Brown Brothers, Harriman/Skull and Bones networks were powerful enough to suppress the story and spare Bush any embarrassment.
During the weeks before the election, the LA Weekly, an alternative paper in Los Angeles, devoted an entire issue to “the dark side of George Bush.” British newspapers like the tabloid London Evening Standard repeated some details, but US news organizations were monolithic in refusing to report anything; the Bush networks were in total command. Then rumors began to fly that the Washington Post was preparing to publish an account of Bush’s sex pecadillos. On Wednesday, October 19, the New York Stock Exchange was swept by reports that stories damaging to Bush were about to appear, and this was cited as a contributing factor in a 43 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The Wall Street Journal and USA Today gingerly picked up the story, albeit in very vague terms. The Wall Street Journal wrote that the Washington Post was preparing a story that “Bush had carried on an extramarital affair,” with a “report that he [Bush] has had a mistress for several years.” One of the allegations was that Bush had had an extramarital affair during the mid-1970’s with a woman who was no longer in his entourage.
Donna Brazile of the Dukakis campaign staff told reporters in New Haven, Connecticut: “I wasn’t on the stock market yesterday but I understood they got a little concerned that George was going to the White House with somebody other than Barbara. I think George Bush owes it to the American people to ‘fess up….” “The American people have every right to know if Barbara Bush will share that bed with him in the White House. I’m talking about Barbara Bush and someone with the initials J.F. or whatever the names are,” said Ms. Brazile. Was this a reference to Jennifer Fitzgerald? A few hours later, Donna Brazile, a young black woman who had also accused the Bushmen of using “every code word and racial symbol to package their little racist campaign,” was fired from the Dukakis campaign. Paul Brountas, one of Dukakis’s close advisers, said that he would not accuse the Bush campaign of being racist. With the Willie Horton ads running full clip everywhere, many could not believe their ears. After an Associated Press wire sent out on Thursday, October 20 had offered another summary of the rumor, Bush’s press aide Sheila Tate dismissed the entire story as “warmed over garbage.” [fn 49] But in the end, the Washington Post published no story, and the entire issue was stifled by the brutal power of the Bush media networks.
In the end, the greatest trump card of Bush’s 1988 campaign was Bush’s opponent Michael Dukakis. There is every reason to believe that Dukakis was chosen by Bush Democrat power brokers and the Eastern Establishment bankers primarily because he was so manifestly unwilling and unable seriously to oppose Bush. Many are the indications that the Massachusetts governor had been selected to take a dive. The gravest suspicions are in order as to whether there ever was a Dukakis campaign at all. Reagan soon made his celebrated quip, “I’m not going to pick on an invalid,” focussing intense public attention on Dukakis’s refusal to release his medical records.
The colored maps used by the television networks on the night of November 8 presented a Bush victory which, although less convincing than Reagan’s two landslides, nevertheless seemed impressive. A closer examination of the actual vote totals reveals a much different lesson: even in competition with the bumbling and craven Dukakis campaign, Bush remained a pitifully weak candidate who, despite overwhelming advantages of incumbency, money, organization, years of enemies’ list operations, a free ride from the controlled media, and a pathetic opponent, just managed to eke out a hairsbreadth margin.
Bush had won 53% of the popular vote, but if just 535,000 voters in eleven states (or 600,000 voters in 9 states) had switched to Dukakis, the latter would have been the winner. The GOP had ruled the terrain west of the Mississippi for many moons, but Bush had managed to lose three Pacific states, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii. Bush won megastates like Illinois and Pennsylvania by paper-thin margins of 51%, and the all-important California vote, which went to Bush by just 52%, had been too close for George’s comfort. Missouri had also been a 52% close call for George. In the farm states, the devastation of GOP free enteprise caused both Iowa and Wisconsin to join Minnesota in the Democratic column. Chronically depressed West Virginia was having none of George. In the oil patch, the Democrats posted percentage gains even though Bush carried these states: in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana the Democratic presidential vote was up between 7 and 11 percent compared to the Mondale disaster of 1984. In the Midwest, Dukakis managed to carry four dozen counties that had not gone for a Democratic presidential contender since 1964. All in all half of Bush’s electoral votes came from states in which he got less than 55.5% of the two-party vote, showing that there was no runaway Bush landslide.
Exit polls showed that less than half of Bush’s voters were strongly committed to him, underlining the fact that Bush has never succeeded in winning the loyalty of any identifiable groups in the population, except the spooks and the bluebloods. At the time of the election, the official statistics of the Reagan regime were alleging a yearly consumer inflation rate of 5.2% and an unemployment figure of 4.1%. Exit polls that 53% of all voters through that the economy was getting better. As the economic depression worsens into 1992, all of those figures will belong to the good old days. A comparison of Bush’s victory in the Iowa caucuses of 1980 with his wretched third-place finish there in 1988 is a good indicator of how utterly support for Bush can collapse as a result of a dramatic deterioration in economic conditions, given once again that Bush has no loyal base of political support.
The voter turnout hit a new postwar low, with just 49.1% of eligible voters showing up at the polls, significantly worse than the Truman-Dewey matchup of 1948, when just 51% had deemed it worthwile to vote. This means that Bush expected to govern the country with the votes of just 26.8% of the eligible voters in his pocket. Bush had won a number of southern states by lop-sided margins of about 20%, but this was correlated in many cases with very low overall voter turnout, which dipped below 40% in Georgia and South Carolina. A big plus factor for George was the very low black voter turnout in the south, where a significant black vote had helped the Democrats retake control of the Senate in 1986. With Dukakis capturing 90% of the black vote, a bigger black turnout would have created some serious problems for George. Bush knows that victory in 1992 will depend on keeping the black turnout low, and this is part of the rationale behind his “wedge issue” nomination of the black rightist Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, which successfully split national black organizations in such a way that Bush hopes he will be able to ignore them in 1992.
More generally, it would appear that Bush would be very happy to keep across the board voter turnout at such depressed levels, since a larger vote could only threaten his results. Dukakis was able to attract only about half of the Reagan Democrats back to their traditional party, despite the preppy-blueblood aura of the Bush campaign, which these voters would normally have found highly offensive. The Bush cause is therefore well served by public scandals and media campaigns that tend to elicit widespread disgust with politics and government, since these increase the probability that citizens will stay home on election day, leaving George to dominate the field. It is no surprise that precisely such scandals, from Congressional pay raises and the Keating five to the Thomas nomination hearings have proliferated during the years of the Bush regime.
Among those Republicans who had succeeded in winning the White House in two-way races (excluding years like 1948 or 1968, when the totals were impacted by Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrats, or by George Wallace), Bush’s result was the weakest since fellow Skull and Bones alumnus William Howard Taft in 1908. [fn 50] These patterns might also indicate that the dominant role of the electoral votes of the former Confederate States of America within the Electoral College under the post-1968 Southern Strategy of the national Republican Party may be subjected to erosion in 1992, especially under the impact of the Bush economic depression.
It is also to be hoped that 1988 will prove in retrospect to have represented the high-water mark of hired gun media and campaign consultants in presidential elections. Atwater at one time boasted that his staff contained at least 28 media experts and political operatives who had worked in at least three previous presidential elections, many of which were also winning efforts for the GOP. These men were drawn from New York’s Madison Avenue and from Washington’s Connecticut Avenue “Power Alley,” where many of the best-connected political consulting firms have their offices. It is clear that men like Atwater, Ailes, Spencer, Deaver and others have performed a function in the consoldation of a modern American leviathan state that is exactly analagous to the vital services rendered to the Third Reich by Propaganda Minister Dr. Josef Goebbels between 1933 and 1945. There is a crime of menticide which consists in the deliberate destruction of the cognitive powers of another human being, and the campaigns organized by these consultants have represented menticide on a mass scale. Further: if the international economic policies inflicted on the world by the Reagan-Bush and Bush regimes have exacted a yearly global death toll of upwards of 50 million needless deaths, primarily in the developing sector, it has been the image mongers and public relations men who have organized the US domestic electoral consensus that has permitted those genocidal policies to go forward. For all of these reasons, the media and campaign consultants are fascists. They are virulent fascists typical of the American totalitarian state of the late twentieth century, and this is true even if these consultants lack the bombastic trappings of the central European fascists of more than a half century ago.
Lee Atwater celebrated the Bush inauguration by playing his electric guitar at a rhythm and blues concert in which his gyrations bordered on the outright obscene. Although Lee Atwater had masterminded the most racist presidential campaign in modern history, he still had the gall during the spring of 1989 to be a candidate for a post on the Board of Trustees of Howard University, the historically black institution of higher learning in Washington, DC. Atwater was forced to abandon this outrageous candidacy by a mass mobilization of the Howard students.
Some months later, Atwater was found to be suffering from a malignant brain cancer. It is rumored around Washington that Atwater in his final days became a convert to Roman Catholicism and expressed repentance for many of the deeds he performed during his political career. It appears certain that he personally apologized to some of the candidates whom he had vilified during the course of various political campaigns. When Atwater died in April, 1991 at the age of 40, it was widely rumored in Washington that he had expressed the deepest remorse for having contributed to the creation of the Bush administration.
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1. Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover, Wake Us When It’s Over: The Presidential Politics of 1984 (New York, 1985), p. 489.
2. Joseph Kraft, “The Real George Bush,” Washington Post, October 18, 1984.
3. Wake Us When It’s Over, p. 522.
4. George Will column, January 30, 1986, in Will, The Morning After, p. 254.
5. Philip Geylin, “Makings of a Success in Africa,” Washington Post, December 10, 1982.
6. “Bush Makes Few Waves at Home, Creates Big Splash in Sandinavia,” Washington Post, July 12, 1983.
7. “Bush Ends Trip to Subcontinent With US Ties Largely Unaltered,” Washington Post, May 19, 1984.
8. “Globe-Spanning Mission Strengthens Bush for ’88,” Washington Post, March 24, 1985.
9. See Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare, pp. 72 and 254.
10. Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta, “Bush’s Day at the Helm,” Washington Post, January 27, 1988.
11. “Bush is Counseled to Look Sharp Tuesday,” Washington Post, January 26, 1986.
12. Maxine Cheshire,”VIP,” Washington Post, April 25, 1981.
13. Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta, “Bush Waits and Hopes for Reagan Nod,” Washington Post, August 18, 1986.
14. “Reagan Won’t Cite Issues Bush Affected,” Washington Post, September 12, 1987.
15. Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover, Whose Borad Stripes and Bright Stars: The Trivial Pursuit of the Presidency, 1988 (New York, 1989), p. 156.
16. “Bush Proves Successful in Ticklish Appearance.” Washington Post, December 12, 1985.
17. “New Hampshire Chill,” Washington Post, October 11, 1987.
18. Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars, pp. 71-72 and 366.
19. Joe Conason, “Robert Mosbacher’s Grand Scheme,” Texas Observer, April 28, 1989.
20. Ibid., p. 12.
21. “County resources utilized by Eckels to boost the GOP,” Houston Post, February 8, 1985.
22. Houston Chronicle, June 2, 1989.
23. Douglas Caddy, letter to FBI Director William Sessions, May 2, 1988.
24. Federal Election Commission Bulletin, Volune 17, Number 2, February, 1991, p. 11.
25. Washington Post, April 9, 1986.
26. Washington Post, April 14, 1986.
27. Washington Post, April 7, 1986.
28. See Thomas Burdick and Charlene Mitchell, Blue Thunder (New York, 1990), pp. 73, 167, and 290-293.
29. Blue Thunder, p. 167; Germond and Witcover, Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars, p. 185, quote unnamed Hart campaign aides who “said later they were convinced” that Lynn Armandt had called journalist Tom Fiedler of the Miami Herald with a tip-off that Donna Rice was going to washington to be an overnight guest of Gary Hart. But Fiedler denies that Armandt was the caller.
30. Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover, Wake Us When It’s Over (New York, 1985), pp. 326-327.
31. For Bush in the 1988 campaign, see Germond and Witcover, Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars.
32. Washington Post, October 16, 1987.
33. “Robertson Links Bush to Swaggart Scandal,” Washington Post, February 24, 1988.
34. “The Contra Country Campaign,” Washington Post, March 6, 1988.
35. Germond and Witcover, Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars, p. 161.
36. Washington Post, August 17, 1988.
37. Frank McNeil, War and Peace in Central America, p. 277.
38. Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars, p. 385.
39. Eleanor Randolph, “Ghost of Dan Quayle’s grandfather laid to rest,” Dallas Times-Herald, August 23, 1988.
40. Alexander Cockburn, “Beat the Devil: Dan Quayle, Acid Freak?” The Nation, September 26, 1988, p. 226.
41. Joel Bleifuss, “In Short,” In These Times, 16-22 November, 1988, p. 5, cited by Arthur Frederick Ide, Bush-Quayle: The Reagan Legacy (Irving, Texas: Scholars Books, 1989), pp. 55-56.
43. Ide, Bush-Quayle, p. 14.
44. Ide, Bush-Quayle, p. 5.
45. Elinor J. Brecher, “Marilyn Quayle called ‘prototype of the new-age political spouse,” Louisville Courier-Journal, September 25, 1988.
46. “Burning Bush,” The Nation, March 8, 1980, p. 261.
47. Washington Post, July 1, 1987.
48. Washington Post, June 26, 1987.
49. Eleanor Randolph, “Bush Rumor Created Dilemma for Media,” Washington Post, October 22, 1988.
50. See Kevin Phillips, The Politics of Rich and Poor, (New York, 1990), p. 215; Facts on File,, November 11, 1988; and Paul R. Abramson, John H. Aldrich, and David W. Rohde, Change and Continuity in the 1988 Elections (Washington DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1991).