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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

George Bush: The Anatomy Of a Defeat

George Bush never had a real presidency of his own. He was the Young President, heir to Reagan's economic boom, who ended up paying the price for its hollowness. Like an over-bred family of aristocrats whose blood runs steadily thinner, Reagan begat Bush who begat the ridiculously diluted successor generation of Dan Quayle.


Ironically, George Bush had been right all along. Running against Reagan in 1980, Bush used the unforgettable phrase "voodoo economics" to condemn Reagan's blithe faith that tax cuts would spur growth. Born in voodoo, the 12 years of Reagan-Bush died in the deep doo-doo of the lowest economic growth rate of any presidency since the Great Depression.


That makes it sound as if his defeat was inevitable. It was not. By election day, the U. S. economy was growing again, American interest rates were lower than in Germany; unemployment was lower than in France; every economic indicator was better than in Britain; and Wall Street was still trading near its historic highs.


The U. S. looks to be coming out of its economic recession while remaining stuck in a psychological one. As a man with little imagination and even less empathy, George Bush did not understand this. But then he never had the foggiest idea why his predecessor, the Old Pretender Ronald Reagan, remained so popular for so long.


As we should have remembered from his 1970 defeat when running for the U. S. Senate, and his poor stab at the Presidential primaries in 1980, George Bush is a rotten politician. He lost this year not only because he could not make the voters feel good; he only won in 1988 because in Michael Dukakis he was running against an even feebler politician than himself.


And it was not George Bush who won the 1988 election. It was Lee Atwater, a mean-spirited blues guitarist who was also a political genius. He devised the trap of patriotism and crime and welfare into which Dukakis so haplessly blundered. But for Atwater's untimely death. Bush might never have gotten into this year's mess.


Any political obituary of George Bush might begin with his moment of triumph after the Cold War. In March 1991, this president who has now been humiliated by the voters stood at 88 percent in the opinion polls.


He seemed so popular through 1991 that not one of the usual democratic hopefuls dared mount a challenge against him. The democrats and republicans and the media were all bewitched by those polls which General Norman Schwarzkopf and the smart bombs had won for him. Those polls were misleading.