From James Hohmann, reporter and editor of Politico's "Morning Score"
|Lawrence E. Spivak and RNC Chairman Dole, 1972|
The product of Russell felt like he earned his position on the national stage. A series of experiences deepened his sense that Bush got it handed to him: Dole had been in the House for the better part of a decade when Bush showed up in the late 1960s and nabs a coveted seat on the Ways and Means Committee because the freshman had family connections. Dole is bothered by Bush’s continued rise even after he lost his 1970 Texas Senate race. (Bob had won his in Kansas against the odds, after all.)
Then Dole gets pushed out as chairman of the Republican National Committee after the 1972 election, and goes to gauge Bush’s interest in the job at Nixon behest. Bush doesn’t reveal during their meeting that he’s already talked with the president. Richard tells us that Dole kept “an unfading memory of Bush’s blank, friendly smile.”
|Chuck Grassley at Ames, 1987|
“In the Bush-mind,” meanwhile, “Dole was a Beltway Bandito, an inside player, the kind you watch out for…Bush had known Bob Dole for 20 years – and never known him.” Richard also ties all this to Dole’s continuing insecurity, an important theme which drives the senator to bring Bill Brock on board and replace some of his longtime loyalists.
It’s all part of an ever-present sense of grievance that drives Dole. It’s the little details that make readers understand. He liked his bean-counter at headquarters, an old Kansas friend named Kirk Clinkenbeard, because he had a vision disability, for example.
Four fun pieces of color
- Ways and Means Committee Chairman Wilbur Mills nicknamed Bush “Rubbers” because he introduced a birth control bill soon after winning his House seat
- Dole fell in love with Nixon because he was the only one in Washington who stuck out his left hand to shake.
- Dole gave Washington the CREEP nickname for Nixon’s Committee to Reelect the President.
- Bush allowed Roger Ailes, now the Fox News chief then Bush's image consultant, once chastised Bush after a speech in which he took off his suit coat to reveal his tie and a short-sleeve dress shirt. “Don’t ever wear that shirt again,” he told him after. “You looked like a fucking CLERK!”
After hundreds of pages of Gary Hart, Joe Biden and Dick Gephardt breaking their necks, getting pulled under by their campaigns, George Bush returns in this section... on vacation.
In the harried summer of 1987, George Bush spent twenty-five nights "reck-reating" with Bar and the "grands." The Bush consultants -- "the white men," as Cramer calls them -- were content with him in repose. They didn't need any unforced errors. And indeed, their strategy at that point was all about capitalizing the relationship with his "Big Friend," RR, Ronald Reagan. Bush was a loyal guy who treated Reagan with the deferential respect the presidency deserved -- the deferential respect all presidents deserved.
|Bush and his Big Friend|
And then there is the case study of Bush and Richard Nixon. Bush, chairman of the RNC, served with unfailing loyalty in the most troubled years of the Republican Party's existence. And it came at a steep price to his personal integrity. The letters he sent and signed "Very Truly Yours," the speeches he gave and meetings he had, reassuring nervous Republicans that Nixon was unfairly accused, would be exonerated, that he had the President's word.... Well, loyalty had turned George Bush from the respectable U.N. ambassador to the party shill. It was terribly difficult.
Of course, Bush and Dole, from their different stations in birth and life, have wildly varying definitions of 'difficult.' Bush's years at the RNC stole some personal integrity; Bob Dole's years took his personal life.
|Brock'n'Dole (Bill Brock and Bob Dole), 1987|
So Bob needed a Big Guy to match Bush's Big Friend, and found one in former Senator Bill Brock. Brock was surrounded by a bunch of smart guys, so naturally Dole turns over the campaign to them. As the 'Klingons' slowly mow down Dole's Kansas friends-turned-staff, Bob does his best to stomach it, to play in the big leagues. But he has to put his foot down somewhere: when the Klingons can one too many of Bob's farmboys. One might call them the 'little friends.'
|Bush edits on the spot, Ames, 1987|
Inside the Chapter: "White Men"
There's a lot about Bush's "white men" in this section, Cramer's term for Bush's consultants. Barbara Bush took great offense to this, as Cramer later said in the C-SPAN "Booknotes" interview:
After I had sent her the pages, she wrote me a note that she had to stop reading it because she found it hurtful. I subsequently heard that what really bothered her was when I started talking about all of Bush's advisers as "the white men in suits." She thought I was trying to make Bush look like some kind of racist when, in fact, it had nothing to do with race. I was talking about class or, better yet, American substitute for class, which is power and money. So I think her unhappiness was based on a misreading, but there you have it.
The February 1992 issue
And as for the whitest of the white boys, Lee Atwater, Cramer portrays him here as a lovable, mumblin' rascal. In the "Booknotes" interview, after Atwater's untimely death, Cramer said he felt he was "a man quite a bit misunderstood" by those who covered him.
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