Behind Barbara Bush’s gray hair and her grandmother’s uniform was a political matriarch who never entirely shed her Waspish flintiness.
There was the Barbara Bush who hugged AIDS babies – but there was also the Barbara Bush who called Geraldine Ferraro a bitch and made it known publicly that she didn’t want her son Jeb to run for president. “We've had enough Bushes,’’ she said.
But for years, America didn’t feel that way, electing her husband and her two sons to higher office. By many accounts, Barbara Bush was a force to be reckoned with behind closed doors – pushing her son George to run for president over brother Jeb who was considered smarter by the political intelligentsia.
In 1992, she also did a better job reading the tea leaves than most of the men behind her husband’s disastrous re-election campaign, trying to create some distance from the culture war unleashed at the Republican National Convention in Houston.
“However you define family, that's what we mean by family values,’’ she said in a largely-overlooked speech to the delegates.
She was more liberal than the party line on social issues, quietly pro-choice and even voting for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016. But she also carried some of her Westchester baggage with her throughout her life, saying of the Hurricane Katrina victims who were living in New Orleans’ Superdome: "This is working very well for them.”
Bush came from a different political era – where smart women were typically relegated to the sidelines, ghost-writing a book penned by the White House dog. But Barbara Bush sometimes had a bark – she just knew how to muzzle it in public.