Related Topics
The memoir of former 60's Marxist David Horowitz and how he made a political about face to become a Reaganite Republican. Cripes.
Join My Email List

*Your email address will remain private and it will not be used for any commercial purposes.

Post-Game Wrap Up by Sander Hicks (1 2 3)

Compassionate CommunistS & Cussing Conservatives:

How Karl Rove Won Bush the White House with David Horowitz and "Compassionate Conservatism"

Divergent Views on the '60s: Bush Versus His Braintrust

During his days in Austin, Governor Bush would often find respite from the grind of the government by visiting the home of Karl Rove. In Rove he found a compatriot, someone he could talk to in the common language of his West Texas birthplace. Rove hadn't finished college, and Bush found his own anti-intellectual streak reinforced by the man who some call "the thinking man's anti-intellectual" [Minutaglio, Bill. First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty. New York: Times Books, 1999 p. 167.]

Rove gave Bush suggestions about conservative books to pick up and authors to study. David Horowitz's writings formed one third of a triumvirate of New Right thinkers Rove used to create a curriculum for the nascent presidential contender. Horowitz's Radical Son is a memoir of his tumultuous and violent transition from a late '60s Marxist radical to a born-again Reagan Revolution neo-conservative. Using Horowitz, Marvin Olasky, and the Manhattan Institute's Myron Magnet, Rove created a way to combat the liberal humanist legacy of the 1960s. The emerging right-wing solution would blame the '60s for all present social ills. Magnet, in his book The Dream and the Nightmare, states that the counterculture was a huge social disaster because it set a bad example for the underclass. The Boomer generation encouraged indulgence and laziness instead of hard work and competition. In a similar book, The Destructive Generation, David Horowitz wrote, "We saw Pandora's Box being opened in the '60s." Fellow ex-Marxist Marvin Olasky wrote The Tragedy of American Compassion, and in the context of his colleagues' analysis of the '60s and the underclass, suggests that normal state social services be severely downsized and replaced by faith-based organizations.

The lessons Bush takes from the 1960s however are neither harsh nor negative. On Newshour with Jim Lehrer on April, 27, 2000, Bush deviated from Magnet's thesis. He instead spoke about his pride in the "responsible" nature of his generation. He claimed the legacy and the political consciousness of the '60s as his own: "I'm a strong candidate because I come from the Baby Boomer generation recognizing that we've got to usher in an era of responsible behavior."
As Mark Crispin Miller points out in his excellent The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder, one can chalk this up to Bush's dyslexia. Miller writes "that inversion of the Myron Magnet thesis was the opposite of what Bush had meant to say-and what he did say all the time." [Miller, Mark Crispin, The Bush Dyslexicon. New York: Norton 2001, p. Tk] Perhaps. Even David Horowitz admits Bush, "has some kind of dyslexia or something....the way he talks in public is not the way he talks. I have no idea why. Why his TV presentations are really not up to where he is...he talks very slowly, and he makes these mistakes all the time." [Horowitz, Author Interview. ]

The Dallas Morning News' Bill Minutaglio stated that Horowitz's writings "confirmed Bush's hunch that the '60s were the 'root of all societal ills of the '80s and '90s.'" [Minutaglio, p. 290.] But George W. Bush and Karl Rove have different talents and divergent levels of intellectual ability: Rove is a self-educated historian who reads seven hundred page biographies of Disraeli. Bush on the other hand can't carry around a Dean Acheson book without Maureen Dowd in the New York Times mocking him ruthlessly for failing to effectively pretend that he was actually reading it. A case can be made that Bush doesn't actually share Rove's agreement with the Horowitz/Magnet thesis on the '60s. A close reading of Bush's public statements on the '60s corroborates his conservative attitude, but inconsistencies remain. Bush's memories of the '60s are not as negative as advertised. Perhaps his memory is dominated by fuzzy recollections of his own wild times.Bush doesn't even seem to have a single strong personal opinion or memory of the those politically charged times. When asked about his college-era views on Viet Nam, and what he made of campus discussions on the Yale campus, Bush responded dryly, "I don't remember any kind of heaviness ruining my time at Yale." [Hatfield, J.H. Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President. New York. Soft Skull Press, 1999. p. tk]

Bush's chief asset as a politician is his charisma, his easy-going manner, an informality that borders on likeable goofiness. This common-touch everyday friendliness can be traced back to the values of the Baby Boomer generation: honesty, transparency, directness. George W. Bush does have charisma and talent. In his first term, the Governor became known for a casual, friendly style, spontaneously visiting his fellow lawmakers at their offices in Austin. Of course, Bush's Baby-Boomer informality threatens to overshadow the results of his record in Texas: the political ideology of his party opposes the environmental and social justice concerns that gained mainstream support in the 1960s. Bush understands but probably doesn't fully believe the emerging anti-'60s ideas of his party platform. Perhaps because in the case of David Horowitz, those beliefs are less the products of logic and more the result of his pain and personal disintegration.

The Legacy of Lee Atwater

Clinton's triumph over the Reagan/Bush legacy in '92 taught the Republicans a hard lesson: the American people were disenchanted with the traditional Republican image of the preppie, landed, white man of hereditary wealth. President George H. W. Bush had made the tragic mistake of giving interviews from the back of his golf cart. [Brady, John. Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater. Reading: Addison Wellesey, 1997. p. Tk.] His re-election chances slid fast after he appeared to fail to recognize a bar code scanner in a supermarket trade show. [Miller, p. Tk] Bush was alienated from the objects and processes of regular life. His speech and thinking were alienated from the issues and cares of normal people. When the media picked up on the price scanner embarrassment, Bush's distance from the people made headlines. Chaos reigned. Clinton, and even Perot, dominated Bush in polls.

In 1988, a dream team of Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, and eldest son George W. Bush helped papa Bush swamp Dukakis. They used negative television ads and media spin. Perhaps more importantly, the flamboyant, charismatic, and utterly driven Lee Atwater knew how to translate poll data into a reading of subtle shifts in the thinking of the nation. In a way, Atwater's ghost haunted the 1992 campaign. Atwater (and later Horowitz) understood the importance of the social activism of the Baby Boomer generation. Clinton represented "all those hip, New Politics things Atwater had seen coming." [Minutaglio, ibid ]

Atwater understood that the upheavals of the '60s had created a seismic shift: people demanded more humanity from their leaders. The good old boy model in the Republican Party was dead and ninety percent of the country was not mourning it. In fact, Atwater's unfinished PhD dissertation drafted a thesis having to do with the political use of music, a lesson obviously learned from the antiwar movement that seamlessly blended culture and politics. (Conservative social critic David Brook's recent Bobos in Paradise further elucidates the shifting zeitgeist, in his analysis of the bohemian, anti-establishment buying habits of the "new Ruling Class.")

By 1992, Atwater was dead of brain cancer, Rove was working for Philip Morris, and first son George W. was working as the financial face man for the management of the Texas Rangers. Junior was not asked to work on the campaign until the last minute. Too little, too late, young Bush approached his father and discussed whether Vice President Dan Quayle should de dropped from the ticket. He begged that his dad replace the incompetent campaign manager Bob Tweeter with someone like Sam Skinner, the former White House Chief of Staff. Both suggestions were ignored.

On Election Day, the voters were attentive and expressive, with the biggest turnout since 1972 (55.1% of all eligible voters). Perot walked away with 19% of the popular vote, a decisive wedge that would have been Bush's if he hadn't alienated it. In addition to his image problem, Bush had made several tactical mistakes. He relied on his Gulf War exploits to maintain his popularity, but the heat of the 91% wartime approval rating cooled by November. Bush alienated moderates and female GOP members by allowing Buchanan to spew forth hate speech at the Republican National Convention in Houston. [Morrow, p. tk] Meanwhile, the stagnant economy wore on. The American people lost confidence in the Republicans and along came Clinton, who represented the hope, drive and optimism of a new generation.

1 2 3

disclaimer        copyright        privacy policy