Quest for the Presidency, 1992

By Peter L. Goldman; Thomas M. Defrank et al. | Go to book overview

17
He Doesn't Get It

One day in the spring of George Bush's decline, a man of cabinet rank in the government and impeccable loyalty to the president sat sadly cataloguing all the things that had gone wrong in his friend's campaign. Most of them were the obvious ones. Buchanan had damaged Bush. So had Ross Perot and the tidal wave of anti-incumbency he was then riding. Bush's own late start was a continuing handicap. His staffing was weak. He had no message, no agenda for prosperity at home to lay alongside his prodigies of peacemaking in the world.

"But his biggest single problem," the president's comrade said, "is that he hasn't persuaded anyone he has any convictions."

A visitor asked why not.

"Because I don't think he has any convictions," his friend replied softly, almost sadly. "If you asked him why he wanted to be reelected, he'd have to look at his note cards. That's the fundamental problem at the core."

It was a season of despair in Bush's service, and while recrimination was its common currency, the trail of blame most often led back to the empty space at the center of the enterprise. The sustaining hope had been that a rousing recovery would render a Vision Thing unnecessary. The reelection effort, Fred Steeper said, would then have become a no-brainer -- a race so easy that it wouldn't much matter whether Bush seemed to stand for anything or not. But as the economy limped along at stall speed, his people found themselves counting more on a wounded Clinton to lose the election than on the president to win it.

Bush had left them no other option; neither he nor they had come up with a positive rationale for his candidacy, a compelling argument for reelecting him beyond his blue-chip curriculum vitae and his reassuringly familiar face. His speeches, during the spring, had taken on a certain hangdog tone -- an air of helplessness that reminded Dan Quayle, for one, of the late days of Jimmy Carter. The veep showed up for lunch in the Oval Office one day in April with a copy of Carter's famous lament over the Great Malaise of '79. For effect, he had under

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Quest for the Presidency, 1992
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • I - A Quiet National Crisis 1
  • 1 - The Autumn of a President 3
  • 2 - The Age of Anxiety 11
  • 3 - The Winds of Rebellion 20
  • II - The Challenger 29
  • 4 - The Man Who Would Be President 31
  • 5 - Waiting for Godot 48
  • 6 - The Look of a Winner 73
  • 7 - The Scent of a Woman 89
  • 8 - The Comeback Kid 126
  • 9 - Goin' Home 156
  • 10 - The Downside of Charisma 185
  • 11 - The Doom Crier 208
  • 12 - The Manhattan Project 245
  • 13 - The Man from Hope 269
  • III - The President 295
  • 14 - Where Was George? 297
  • 15 - The War against the Crown 318
  • 16 - The Last Inaction Hero 341
  • 17 - He Doesn't Get It 358
  • 18 - The Quayle Hunt 368
  • 19 - The Return of Little Brother 387
  • 20 - This Way to the Jihad 398
  • IV - The Billionaire 411
  • 21 - Citizen Perot 413
  • 22 - The Age of Innocence 424
  • 23 - The War of the Worlds 436
  • 24 - Point Counterpoint 449
  • 25 - The Long Goodbye 463
  • V - The Choice 481
  • 26 - The Boys on the Bus 483
  • 27 - The Search for a Silver Bullet 508
  • 28 - The Second Coming 538
  • 29 - Nine Days in October 553
  • 30 - To the Wire 579
  • Appendix - The Campaign Papers 615
  • Index 736
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