The Truth, Mainly - 08/24/1992

Why re-elect George Bush? An unabridged list of reasons
by Leon Satterfield

In the July issue of Spy magazine, there's a scurrilous list of 1,000 reasons not to vote for George Bush. Reason 5: "Harry Blackmun is 84 years old." Reason 428: "Asked if he wanted more coffee at a truck stop, he said, 'Just a splash.'" Reason 642: "The sooner he's gone, the less likely your kid's school will be named for him." And so forth.

The magazine admitted there must be reasons to vote for Bush; "we just couldn't think of any."

That didn't seem fair to me so I devoted the last month or so to the job of putting more elasticity into the president's post-convention bounce—and I now report to you my complete list of reasons to vote for him:

1. He gave a $40 tip to a peanut vendor at a minor league baseball game last week; she said "I'd love to get it autographed, but I'm broke."

2. Ronald Reagan didn't like him. Thought he was a wimp, according to Lyn Nofziger, the Gipper's former aide.

That's it. My whole list of reasons to re-elect George Bush.

It might have been longer, but he blew his answer to the question a CNN reporter asked him earlier this month about a New York Post story concerning rumors of hanky-panky with an aide named Jennifer (with a J) Fitzgerald back in 1984. The story was based on a book that quoted a now-dead ambassador—a Republican appointee—saying "It became clear to me that the Vice President and Jennifer Fitzgerald were romantically involved…."

Mr. Bush might have scored points by telling CNN that he had started the rumors himself to get bipartisan support from Democrats in Congress by appearing to emulate three of their party's most admired presidents, Jefferson, FDR, and JFK, all of whom are thought to have messed around a bit.

Or he might have done what Tom Gavin in the Denver Post suggested: smiled "a quirky little Clark Gable smile and thanked everyone for a very nice compliment indeed."

"Has there," Gavin asked, "ever been a political candidate more in need of a little rakishness, a little savoir faire, a little aura of mystery, intrigue, adventure?" It would counteract one of his big problems: "he looks like a Rotarian, headed for lunch."

Or he might even have done what Bob Kerrey, who's had experience with such questions, suggested: laugh it off and say he couldn't respond to a dead man.

But George Bush didn't do any of those things. Instead, he got downright cranky, called the question "sleazy," said he was "outraged" and "disappointed" it got asked. And the CNN reporter who asked it, according to Marlin Fitzwater, "will never work around the White House again."

Not very Clark Gablish.

Still, it was a pretty indelicate question to put to a sitting president, especially while the First Lady was sitting beside him, and it might be possible to whip up some righteous indignation at the reporter's impudence.

But only if you didn't know the president's people have had such fun pinning the same rap on Bill Clinton since last spring when Gennifer (with a G) Flowers made her disclosure. Floyd Brown, the man who created the Willie Horton ads for Mr. Bush in 1988, tried pretty hard to link Clinton to a pregnant woman's suicide in 1977, according to CBS News last month. The dead woman's family wasn't having any of it, and they began taping Brown's phone calls. In one of them, Brown said if he could prove the connection, he'd have his lawyers tell Clinton "we want him out of the race…because he's not morally qualified to be president."

CBS concluded that the scandal was "a nasty hoax."

Or you might share the president's indignation if you didn't know that a week before the CNN question, Mary Matalin, a deputy manager of the Bush campaign, said Clinton was spending "thousands of taxpayer dollars on private investigators to fend off 'bimbo eruptions.'" The president said she was getting into "a sleaze area" there, but he also called her "a very good bulldog" for his campaign.

And at the GOP convention last week, a Bush appointee, U.S. Treasurer Catalina Villalpando, called Clinton a "skirt chaser." She later apologized, but the last I heard she was still U.S. Treasurer just as Matalin is still the president's bulldog.

Since Mr. Bush is running on a platform that points to "the fine example of family values and family virtue as lived by the president and the first lady," you'd think he'd welcome the CNN question as an opportunity to talk up his marital fidelity. Instead he gets mad at the reporter who gives him the opening.

He's a hard man to figure, and he makes it tough for those of us trying to compile lists of reasons to vote for him.


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.

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