Molly Ivins on Vice President George H.W. Bush's Image

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NBC Today Show
Bryant Gumbel/Molly Ivins
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NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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Columnist Molly Ivins comments on presidential style, and how President George H.W. Bush fails to meet her definition of a "real Texan."



"Molly Ivins on Vice President George H.W. Bush's Image." Molly Ivins, correspondent. NBC Today Show. NBCUniversal Media. 3 Nov. 1988. NBC Learn. Web. 5 February 2015.


Ivins, M. (Reporter), & Gumbel, B. (Anchor). (1988, November 3). Molly Ivins on Vice President George H.W. Bush's Image. [Television series episode]. NBC Today Show. Retrieved from


"Molly Ivins on Vice President George H.W. Bush's Image" NBC Today Show, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 11/03/1988. Accessed Thu Feb 5 2015 from NBC Learn:


Molly Ivins on Vice President George H.W. Bush’s Image


No matter how hard consultants may try to cultivate a political image, sometimes a glimpse of the real person, not the image, manages to come shining through. We asked Molly Ivins, political columnist for the Dallas Times Herald to look at this year’s contenders and examine their style. This morning, she focuses on the man who claims to be a fellow Texan, Vice President George Bush.

MOLLY IVINS reporting: It is generally agreed that our last President with style, with wit, glamour and presence was John F. Kennedy, who incidentally brought us the Bay of Pigs. But, let’s not quibble. Except for maybe Jerry Ford, who could fall down a flight of stairs with a certain je ne sais quoi all his own, style has long been a stranger at the White House. Now, Ronald Reagan is a smooth performer, but he’s better at saying other people’s lines than he is at creating his own.

First Lady NANCY REAGAN: Doing everything we can.

President RONALD REAGAN: Doing everything we can.

IVINS: Well, what hope is there for this year’s contenders? Let’s take Bush first. We know him well enough to recognize his style. It’s classic American preppy, in the aging division. But there is a funny hitch to his get along: the twit factor. The goofy quality. Newsweek once observed, ‘at least once a day, George Bush achieves a moment of transcendent dorkiness.’ This usually happens when he’s trying too hard to be a regular fellow. Bush claims to be a Texan, because he rents a hotel room in Houston. But there are a few minimal requirements for Texan-hood. Real Texans do not use the word ‘summer’ as a verb. Real Texans never wear those blue slacks with the little green whales all over them. And real Texans never describe trouble as “deep doo-doo.” Bush often says goofy things.

Vice President GEORGE H.W. BUSH: That’s Debbie Stets from Florida, the little round one.

IVINS: And he often does goofy things. He has a form of verbal dyslexia.

BUSH: Did I say September 7th? I’m sorry about that, December 7th, 1941.

IVINS: Sometimes, he can’t talk at all.

BUSH: Our policy of peace through stren—strength has made the world a safer place, believe me.

IVINS: My all time favorite moment was during the ‘84 campaign. Bush had to get up at 6 o’clock in the morning to milk the cow in order to prove his concern for the plight of the American farmer. What followed was the worst case of attempted milking I ever saw. He finally gave up, went behind the cow to chat with reporters. But he forgot what a good Texan should know, which is that cows are retromingent. That’s a fancy word meaning they pee backwards. This was just a few days after his debate with Geraldine Ferraro, where he said that Walter Mondale had said our Marines in Lebanon…

Vice Pres. BUSH: That these men died in shame.

IVINS: Now, Mondale never said that. He said our Marines died in vain and demanded…

Mr. WALTER MONDALE: Mr. Bush, apologize, today for that remark.

IVINS: Instead, Bush appeared at a press conference with a dictionary, trying to prove that ‘in shame’ and ‘in vain’ mean the same thing.

Vice Pres. BUSH: Let’s just go by this dictionary, then.

IVINS: Word of this festive event went back to the Mondale camp, and Mr. Mondale went into a Norwegian snit and announced, ‘George Bush does not have the manhood to apologize.’ Well, word of that got back to the Bush camp. All the reporters rushed up to the Vice President saying ‘Mr. Bush, Mr. Bush, Mr. Mondale said you do not have the manhood to apologize.’ And George Bush said ‘Well, on the manhood thing, I’ll put mine up against his anytime.’ Now you may not like Bush’s style, but you have to admit it is original. It is all his own. None of his television advisers thought it up for him. For TODAY, this is Molly Ivins.