Meeting the real Barbara Bush

I can remember Barbara Bush’s stint as the First Lady well.  She was the nation’s First Grandma; wildly popular, much more so than her husband.  A lovable plump woman with pure gray hair and the ever present pearl necklace, author of the popular Millie’s Book, written about life in the White House from the perspective of the presidential dog.

Mrs. Bush’s biography on the official White House web site, while obviously a puff piece, isn’t far from the truth, at least in terms of her public image back then, when it says:

Rarely has a First Lady been greeted by the American people and the press with the approbation and warmth accorded to Barbara Pierce Bush. Perhaps this is prompted by the image she calls “everybody’s grandmother.” People are comfortable with her white hair, her warm, relaxed manner, and her keen wit. With characteristic directness, she says people like her because they know “I’m fair and I like children and I adore my husband.”

It was all a myth, of course.  My first taste of the real Barbara Bush came from reading Al Franken’s funny and revealing description of his ill-fated encounter with Mrs. Bush during an airline flight, contained in his best selling and famously long-titled book, Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair And Balanced Look At The Right.  For anyone who hasn’t read it, suffice it to say the encounter ended with the Bush family matriarch telling Franken several times condescendingly: “I’m through with you.”

When Franken, who had apparently, like me, bought into the Grandma Bush storyline hook, line and sinker, later expressed his shock at the encounter to some Washington insiders, they were amused at his surprise; As Franken describes it, they told him:

“I kept hearing things like: ‘Oh, no, she’s a horrible bitch.’ ‘Omigod, she’s the worst bitch on earth. ‘She can be very charming, but Barbara Bush is the Queen Bitch.’”

And sure enough, here lately, we haven’t been seeing much evidence of the First Grandma, but Queen Bitch Barbara (to borrow from Franken’s source) has certainly been on display.  This uglier real-life version of the ex-First Lady first blew into the public’s consciousness shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit when she showed her butt, to be frank, while discussing the hurricane survivors.  Here’s how Editor & Publisher described it at the time:

NEW YORK Accompanying her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, on a tour of hurricane relief centers in Houston, Barbara Bush said today, referring to the poor who had lost everything back home and evacuated, “This is working very well for them.”

*   *   *

In a segment at the top of the show on the surge of evacuees to the Texas city, Barbara Bush said: “Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we’re going to move to Houston.”

Then she added: “What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.

“And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this–this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them.”

Kind of cold-hearted, huh?  And in watching her on television there wasn’t a doubt, not one, that this was coming directly from her heart, such as it is.  And remember, everyone in the know agrees, as Franken also points out in his book, George W. Bush is his mother’s son: But then that will come as no surprise to anyone who’s closely followed his career, or even just his lackadaisical response to the human tragedy following Katrina.

These are people for whom expressing concern about the less fortunate is nothing more than an unpleasant, but necessary, PR exercise.  Barbara Bush just isn’t as good at it as she used to be.

But fortunately, from the Bush family perspective, the mild hubbub generated by these comments quickly died down — until yesterday that is when the Houston Chronicle reported:

Former first lady Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund with specific instructions that the money be spent with an educational software company owned by her son Neil.

Okey dokey then: So the First Grandma couldn’t bring herself to donate money to help those lucky ducky hurricane survivors without first making sure that the principal benefit would go to her son. 

There you have it: Compassionate conservatism at its finest, or at least its most typical.  

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9 Responses to “Meeting the real Barbara Bush”

  1. alwayshope Says:

    Isn’t she a piece of work? Remember when she was on the Toady Show and she didn’t want to waste her beautiful mind on looking at body bags?
    I can actually see how she believes that her lineage, since she is related to 3 US presidents, is unique. She, therefore, thinks of herself as the “ruling class”, those who are burdened by the plight of the lazy, good-fer-nuthin poor people and must pay them lip service. Even that she does begrudgingly, as in her telling statement that “what I’m hearing is sort of scary”.
    Her problem: This isn’t a monarchy! As soon as her subjects realize that, she and her dimwit, wanna-be-king son will be banished to the kingdom of ” This isn’t a damn monarchy!”

  2. Chuck Says:

    Would that be the same billion-dollar-bail-out Neil Bush of the S&L scandal? The same one who didn’t know all those young girls who came to his hotel door were actually paid to do it, not really in love with him? I’M SHOCKED!

  3. rhiannon Says:

    I sing in a peace choir and I wrote the following song last year after the queen mother’s Katrina remarks. I had the truly weird and icky experience of channeling her highness one rainy afternoon…. Anyway, it works as a very singsongy poem. Enjoy!

    My Son George
    My son George
    Is a chip off the old block, you see
    He learned all that he knows from me
    I’m proud of him as I can be
    My son George

    I raised my boy to know that he was better than the rest
    No matter what he did, he knew that he deserved the best
    And when he failed, well, we were there to bail him out once more
    If not to bail our children out, then what is money for?

    If other people’s children die in war and poverty
    That’s what they pay for living in this land of liberty
    But don’t show me the pictures, please, ’cause I don’t want to see
    My mind’s too beautiful to waste on ugly sights like these

    I see the underprivileged riff-raff dying on TV
    The nerve of them to die like that for all the world to see!
    They didn’t even thank us for the opportunity
    For better lives through good ol’ Texas hospitality

    I hear the things they say about my boy and I must say
    I can’t believe they get away with talking in that way
    If they were sent to jail I’ll bet they’d learn a thing or three
    They’d learn to hold their tongues and let my little Georgie be

    They call my boy a liar and they call my boy a fool
    They say that he’s insensitive, they say that he is cruel
    They say that he’s a puppet and the evil Cheney’s tool
    But I say he’s my ’special’ one and he was born to rule

    I hear them say that he likes war and feeds the war machine
    With people’s money, sweat, and blood; whatever do they mean?
    I say they’re simply jealous of his privilege and class
    And everyone can simply kiss his mother’s royal ass

  4. alwayshope Says:


    Great Poem! I love poetry in all it’s free flowing forms, but I have a special fondness for poets who make the effort to make it rhyme and rhythmic.
    The theme of privilege and class and royal attitude rings so true.
    I enjoyed it, please post some more.

  5. haeuptling aberja Says:

    As the well-informed readership of this cafe at the end of time will no doubt be aware, a much under-reported fascist coup of the federal government was attempted in 1934. The plotters were identified as “corporate interests” and “leading families”…in other words, the sort of white-haired, blue-blooded, keep-the-pearls-the-hell-away-from-the-swine matriarchs and patriarchs (any arch, as long as it’s heirarchical) who cannot keep their disdain and disgust at the proletariat from bubbling out of their distinguished, frothing mouths. It was the New Deal that drove them to their mad act, as preserving the Old Deal his their inherent duty. Roosevelt they hated even more than the coarse little sweaty people in the streets, because he was himself of American Aristocracy and had turned his back on the fine tradition of exploitation and subjugation which continues to sustain The Old Feudal Order.

    Unfortunately, this tradition crosses party lines. Since full public campaign financing has not been sewn into our nearly shredded constitution,the Democrats are just as beholden to their donors (and that would be Barbara’s world) as the the Repugnant Ones. The bizarre truth of the matter is that it will probably be the Celebrities, America’s other royalty, who bring us back from the brink. That little interview with Charlie Sheen which, and I kid you not, Showbiz Tonight aired concerning the conspiracy that was 9/11 is the beginning of the end of the two-party system in this country. The ripples from this celebrity interview are going to widen in the coming months, the whistle-blowers will come ungagged, and then we will be living in interesting times indeed. I wonder how the historians will deal with the role that pop culture played in the Second American Revolution?

  6. Again Says:


    Her problem: This isn’t a monarchy!

    wait and see

    The statement represented the latest in a string of high-profile instances in which Bush has cited his constitutional authority to bypass a law….
    But, he said, the statement illustrates the administration’s ”mind-bogglingly expansive conception” of executive power, and its low regard for legislative power.
    ”On the one hand, they deny that Congress even has the authority to pass laws on these subjects like torture and eavesdropping, and in addition to that, they say that Congress is not even entitled to get information about anything to do with the war on terrorism,” Golove said.
    Bush shuns Patriot Act requirement

    monarchs bypass laws

    If they do it [win the next election], Bush will get away with his lawlessness

    and that simply means: Bush can ignore laws - and that’s definitely not democracy


    agree wholeheartedly with alwayshope: great poem

    would you allow to republish it on my private site?

  7. GOPHater Says:

    Ah, the woman who gave birth to the anit-Christ. What a piece of work she, and he, is. Makes you glad humans are mortal… just makes you wish their mortality would kick in sooner than the rest of us.

  8. Chuck Says:

    If anyone wants to know more about the attempted coup that haeupling aberja is talking about. try this link:

    It’s an on-line version of the book by Jules Archer

  9. Chuck Says:

    That should have been then click on The Plot To Seize The White House

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