George Bush and the New Deal Order
Donald K. Pickens
Professor J. H. Hexter once remarked that historians were lumpers and splitters. The former lumped data together to extract a valid insight or generalization; the latter divided material in the desire to find meaning and understanding.1 This chapter is an exercise in lumping, with the added scholarly concern of where and how a split revealed the end of one order and the beginning of another. In the spirit of Hexter’s dictum, this chapter offers an “Hegelian” view of why President Bush served only one term. The emphasis is on the tides or flow of history. Neither a swamp of psychohistory nor a detailed description of the Bush presidency is offered here.2
The object of this presentation is not a criticism of President Bush. His resumé, his governmental experience, are impressive; however, in a dialectical fashion, it may have worked against him. As well noted, television was a significant force during his tenure, and it contributed to the end of one political era and the beginning of another. In fact, partly as a result of television, the political party has declined in electoral significance as the candidate has become central in presidential politics.3 Presidential politics in the age of television is about defining and responding to the “center” of American politics in both its electoral and cultural manifestations.
If President Bush had difficulties with television, his problems with the print media were doubled from the first day of his administration. From dealing with the Reagan legacy to failing to articulate an activist agenda, Bush faced harsh criticism from news correspondents. Journalists from the conservative George Will to the liberal Mary McGrory criticized the style, the policies (or the lack of them), and the personalities of the Bush White House. Mr. Bush was neither FDR nor Ronald Reagan; hence, during the 1992 campaign many journalists felt a generational af-