Quest for the Presidency, 1992

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

19.
The Return of Little Brother

T hat James A. Baker III would be called in to rescue Bush's failing presidency had always been inevitable -- a matter not of whether but of when. Though they were old and close friends, neither man was happy with the idea, and they put off confronting it as long as they could. Baker greatly preferred his role as global statesman, building one of the best résumés in modern history for his own possible run for president in 1996. And Bush in turn was reluctant to concede to the world that he couldn't win without the man he sometimes called Little Brother -- a term of affection with visible trace elements of sibling rivalry.

But his presidency was failing, dragged under by a dismal economy, a chaotic infrastructure, and the seemingly irreversible collapse of his support. His approval ratings had started down after Desert Storm, slowly at first, precipitously with the onset of winter. Nothing since had arrested the slide, not the State of the Union, or the spring Sitzkrieg with Congress, or Bush's undefeated run through the primaries -- not even his historic arms-reduction agreement with Boris Yeltsin. He hadn't had a single popular success all year, one aide lamented, or a single week in which his numbers went up instead of flatlining or worse. The embarrassing last chapter of the dump-Quayle story had been a wave of suggestions, whispered and published, that perhaps it was Bush instead who ought to be dropped from the ticket.

His wish scenario all along had been that the economy would perk up, whereupon his glories of international statecraft would kick in and carry him to victory. Realists in his command had argued to no avail that they could not assume a real recovery and in fact had to plan as if it wouldn't happen. The surprising summer uptick in unemployment had been the splash of cold water on Bush's daydreaming, and the indices only got worse thereafter. A high-level presidential adviser sat morosely over a single day's headlines, reading them aloud: "83,000 Jobs Lost in August... Job Losses Cripple U.S. Recovery...167,000 Jobs Lost in U.S. Businesses." People voted their pocketbooks when

-387-

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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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