Our Class, Darling
By MAUREEN DOWD
-- It would be fun to see what John O'Hara
would make of the Republicans' restoration convention.
The writer from
a small town outside
Philadelphia was so fixated on social mores,
on the unspoken rules of class among the
Main Line types, that Ernest Hemingway once cracked, "Let's start a
bloody fund to send John O'Hara to Yale."
of manners called his fictional town outside Philadelphia
Gibbsville, and he wrote about "the persona gratas of the inner sanctum,"
as he called the swells of the country club set.
"Any member of
the club could come to the dance, but not everyone who
came to the dance was really welcome in the smoking room," he wrote in
"Appointment in Samarra." The smoking room was for "the spenders and
drinkers and socially secure, who could thumb their noses and not have to
answer to anyone except their own families."
Mr. O'Hara, who
savored the self-destructive streak among the pampered,
would have enjoyed Bushville as much as Gibbsville: a millennial
convention rooting for the goof-off son of the fired boss to get the big job.
It is the old-boy network writ large, a bunch of mostly rich, white, male,
older delegates pouring into the city of underdog "Rocky" to see two
overdog oilmen who got to go to Yale preach about a more democratic
The writer who
always had his nose pressed up against the glass would
have understood perfectly why George Walker Bush did not scrutinize
Dick Cheney's voting record before anointing him -- just as George
Herbert Walker Bush never sat down with J. Danforth Quayle to have a
substantive conversation about issues, principles or beliefs before anointing
It would have
been rude. As Bush family icon Henry Stimson, F.D.R.'s
secretary of war, put it, "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail."
The Bushes feel
you should trust them to choose trustworthy seconds from
The arrival of
Dick Cheney, with his "Dr. No" voting record strafing the
little folk, may give Prince Albert more credibility as a populist.
the darling of the meritocracy, jumped on the class issue
at a Boston fund-raiser on Friday. W.'s only message, he mocked, is "My
daddy was president."
The two George
Bushes are engaging and unpretentious. But deep down in
their genes is that elitist sense that the important decisions should be made
by those who are bred to make them. Their ideology is friendship. They
equate integrity with loyalty to them. They are genuinely surprised when
someone accuses them of callousness -- whether it is the Willie Horton
issue with the father or the relentless Texas death-row executions with the
son -- because their perspective is, "I know I'm honorable, therefore I'm
best accountable to myself."
The family code
is rooted in the noblesse oblige air of Prescott Bush, a
craggy senator and a Wall Street executive who inhabited the partners'
room at Brown Brothers Harriman, a rarefied wood-paneled universe filled
with Skull and Bones men and roll-top desks and a sense that the fate of
the nation was best left in their hands over cigars and brandy.
today that W. was always "somewhat oblivious to the
political power of his family ties." Running for Congress in 1978, he went
to a Republican candidates' school. "David Dreier, now a Republican
congressman from California," Newsweek says, "recalls young Bush
excitedly telling him, 'I've got the greatest idea of how to raise money for
the campaign. Have your mother send a letter to your family's Christmas
card list. I just did and I got $350,000!' It doesn't seem to have occurred to
Bush that not everyone has Barbara Bush's Rolodex full of senators and
statesmen and G.O.P. fat cats."
It is disturbing
the way W. first ignored and then defended Dick Cheney's
Draconian anti-woman, anti-child, anti-senior, anti-black, anti-environment,
anti-poor voting record in the House in the 80's.
W. took full
advantage of his unlimited second chances and family
connections. The people hurt by Mr. Cheney's reactionary votes had only
one chance, or no chance.
Asked by Peter
Jennings on Friday if it was politically advantageous to be
George Bush's son, W. replied, "No." Piffle.
Asked about his
political relationship with his father, the son replied, "There
is no political relationship."