Losing is personal affront for Bush, other politicians


November 27, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

They say George Bush is depressed these days. They say he is "feeling dreadful," "shocked" and "in a state of despair."

The White House has officially denied this, but I don't know why.

Why shouldn't George Bush be feeling dreadful and in a state of despair?

He just got fired. And that is a very depressing thing.

Losing an election is personal. It wasn't just George Bush's policies or promises or platform that were rejected. It was him. It is always that way when a politician loses.

And though Bush has held some impressive jobs -- Congressman, Director of the CIA, Envoy to China, Chairman of the Republican Party, Vice President, President -- in fact, his resume now can end only one way: Loser.

And that was made clear to him very quickly.

I don't think I have ever seen a more pathetic crowd at a political rally than at George Bush's "victory" celebration in Houston on Election Night.

When you subtracted the press corps, the White House staff and the campaign staff, I don't think there were 300 people in the giant ballroom.

And Bush knew it. I have never met a politician who didn't automatically count the house when he stepped up to the microphone.

And George Bush's heart must have dropped when he looked out and saw how many people who had slapped him on the back when he was up couldn't be bothered to appear when he was down.

It is easy to forget that these men who fly around the country in their steel cocoons are human. But they are.

I found that out about George Bush four years ago, when I was collecting anecdotes for a campaign book I was writing.

Ann McDaniel, the White House correspondent for Newsweek, told me this one:

She was traveling with Bush and noticed the campaign was about to visit Fort Lauderdale, her hometown. So McDaniel called her mother and arranged to meet her.

That day Bush went to Morrison's Cafeteria out on North Federal Highway to be photographed eating liver and onions (he was trying to be a Regular Guy in those days), and McDaniel met her mother there.

She kissed and hugged her mom and talked with her and then scooted back over to Bush to see if she had missed any good liver and onion quotes. While standing there, she mentioned to Bush that her mom was in the room.

Bush leapt to his feet. He went over to McDaniel's mom and made a huge fuss over her. He lavished praised on her daughter. He chatted with her.

He motioned over a White House photographer to take his picture with the mom and did all those things that could make George Bush such a likable guy.

McDaniel's mother practically swooned from all the attention and left the restaurant beaming with pride. (The picture, autographed by Bush, arrived at her home a few weeks later.)

At the end of the day, the campaign got to the airport and everybody was standing around on the tarmac waiting to board the planes.

McDaniel heard her name being called. It was Bush. She went over to him.

"See that woman over there?" Bush said, pointing.

McDaniel turned and saw a small, elderly woman standing not far away.

"Well, that's my mother," Bush said. "I said nice things about you to your mother. Now you go over there and say nice things about me to my mother."

McDaniel looked at Bush. And saw he was not kidding.

So she went over to Bush's mother and told her how gracious her son had been.

George Bush was a man who cared what his mom thought of him. He cared a lot. And when she died last week, I am sure the knowledge that his mother may have known he had been turned out of office added to his grief.

Yes, George Bush is still a powerful man. Yes, he will live a comfortable life. Yes, he can look back on a record of accomplishment. And yes, he is a professional politician, who knew the the ups and downs of the business.

But never think these people are not human. Or that they do not feel pain.

They do. And sometimes for a long, long time.

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