John McCain, Barbara Bush and the B-Word
As Perrspectives has noted repeatedly (see here, here and here), John McCain since 2004 has kowtowed before his former tormenter George W. Bush, all part of his quest for the White House. Now, apparently, McCain is emulating the President's mother. Like Barbara Bush, McCain is content to condone a Democratic woman being labeled a "bitch." And like Babs in 1984, McCain is learning he will be rewarded by Republican voters for doing it.
McCain's Hillary Clinton BitchGate episode harkens back to 1984. Then, Second Lady Barbara Bush trotted out the B-word to describe Geraldine Ferraro, Walter Mondale's running mate and the first woman vice-presidential candidate. Of her husband's opponent, Barbara Bush said, "I can't say it, but it rhymes with rich." (Ironically, Richard Nixon famously said of Mrs. Bush, "she knows how to hate." Whether discussing political opponents, the poor, American war casualties or even her own staffers, "America's Grandmother" proved that her dog Millie wasn't the only bitch in the first Bush White House.)
As we fast forward 23 years, John McCain laughs and describes as an "excellent question" a female supporter's query about Hillary Clinton: "how do we beat the bitch?" McCain, who was quick to denounce Democrats for not renouncing MoveOn.org's ill-advised "General Betray Us" ad in September, refused to apologize the next day. Worse still, his campaign claimed media bias in the coverage of the affair, and sought to raise money from its Hillary-hating supporters in its wake.
More disturbing still, the emerging media consensus is that McCain's dalliance with the B-word is not only good politics, but somehow permissible given the caricature of Hillary Clinton conservatives have successfully propagated. (Imagine for one moment the firestorm had anyone similarly called Laura Bush a bitch.) Howard Kurtz of CNN and the Washington Post declared that CNN (which McCain aide Rick Davis deemed the "Clinton News Network"), "may have overdramatized the incident." The Politico's Mike Allen, while appearing (ironically) on CNN, summed up the conventional wisdom:
"But what Republican voter hasn't thought that? What voter in general hasn't thought that and what people like about McCain is his straight talk, his candor."
And so it goes. Barbara Bush's trash-talking was no barrier to either her husband's political success or her own reputation. And as John McCain's experience now shows, helping Republican voters get their hate on is apparently a formula for success.