geraldine ferraro

Classy politics

Bush and Ferraro during kinder times.

Bush and Ferraro during kinder times.

So I’m in Florida, staying at an apartment with a bunch of books, and I stumbled upon, “My Father My President,” a biography of George H.W. Bush written by his daughter, Doro Bush Koch. And, I’ve gotta say, what I’ve read thus far is fascinating. And, best of all, reassuring. No, Bush wasn’t a guy I’d vote for, and his presidential record was four years of spottiness. But the guy has always seemed genuinely decent, and his daughter’s 586-page manifesto (painfully honest at points) reinforces this. Not a surprise, obviously. But cool nonetheless.

In particular, I was taken by pages 190-195, which recount the Reagan-Bush landslide 1984 thumping of Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro. When the defeat was confirmed (Ferraro later told Koch: “My mother was the only person in the entire country who didn’t know we were going to lose.”) the Democratic vice presidential nominee called the sitting VP to concede. The two spoke for a bit, and Ferraro was pleasantly surprised when Bush invited her to lunch at the Executive Office Building. Not only that, he asked that Ferraro bring along Bob Barnett, the Democratic lawyer who played Bush in debate rehearsals. For his part, Bush also invited Lynn Martin, his Ferraro. “I’d have preferred to be the host today, Ferraro said with a laugh. “But under the circumstances, I’ll take what I can get.”

“Hey,” Bush replied. “It’s a free lunch.”

The four dined a few days later, and Ferraro recalled Bush as funny, gracious, classy. This, from the book, really stood out: “Dad knew that in order to prepare for the debate, Bob had not only researched his speeches and issue papers but had read The Preppy Handbook. He’d even bought one of those striped ribbon watchbands that Dad had sometime wore. When Dad noticed Bob had on a plain leather watchband during lunch, he took his own watch off its watchband and gave the striped one to Bob as a souvenir. He later sent photos of them comparing watchbands, inscribed, ‘To Bob, you preppy, solid watchband stand-in.’

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Why do I love this? Because it doesn’t happen today. The Tea Party accuses Bush of selling out. The far left bemoans Ferraro dining with the enemy.

In simpler times, it wasn’t always about hate.

It was about class and decency.