By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

George Bush Sr.’s no-class putdown of Michael Dukakis

Michael Dukakis. Via

Michael Dukakis. Via

While you are enjoying George H.W. Bush’s putdowns of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and, yes, George W., pause for a moment and consider his vicious characterization of Northeastern’s Michael Dukakis, one of our great public citizens, as a “midget nerd.”

No, I don’t necessarily expect a 91-year-old to know that “the M-word” is considered offensive to people in the dwarfism community. But one of the reasons it’s offensive is that it’s nearly always used to demean and degrade someone. (Dukakis, obviously, is not a dwarf; he is merely on the short side of average.)

The elder Bush has his good qualities, but he could be a nasty piece of work. You may recall that his late henchman, Lee Atwater, issued a deathbed apology for the “naked cruelty” and racism of Bush’s campaign against Dukakis in 1988, in which Atwater said he “would strip the bark off the little bastard.” Somehow I doubt Bush is going to say he’s sorry.

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  1. Bob Curtin

    Didn’t you see “Love Story”? Being part of the Ivy League-educated, old-money elite means never having to say you’re sorry.

  2. From the article only, it appears the comment about Duke was an entry in his private diary, which he made available to the biographer.

    Would it not have been somewhat dishonest for him to have made the diary available in redacted form? Or not make it available at all?

    • Dan Kennedy

      “Here’s what I wrote about Dukakis at the time. God, what an awful thing to say,” said Bush never.

      • Wouldn’t it have been the biographer’s job to ask him about it? Do you know the circumstances around the author being given the biography and if there were any conditions (I would hope not)?

  3. Mo Cunningham

    For some reason GHWB has escaped much criticism for appointing Dick Cheney Secretary of Defense. Who appoints a five time draft dodger as SoD? Yale must have had excellent courses in irony in his day.

  4. Stan Franzeen

    I think it’s important to keep the Bush family legacy in perspective. GHWB is angry that GWB got slammed. But the whole clan is a disgrace.

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