I go round to the President-elect's house to interview him. Barbara sits in, knitting dangerously a la Madame Defarge. They clearly have something to get off their collective chest about their eight years as "the help," but Bush's preppy politeness keeps moderating her fury.
"Gotta tellya, I really love that guy, he's such a terrific fellow. Only one thing kinda bothered me, whichistersay, just never been able to understand--guy never seemed to need anybody."
"Except Nancy," says BB, needles accelerando.
"Off to Camp David every weekend, never took their kids with 'em! Bar and me," the VP allows, "we'd go crazy if we found ourselves up there without a whole bunch of family runnin' around."
"Anything else about the President bother you?"
"Listen, he was a prince of a feller, I'd never say anything against him. Nancy neither..." There is a pause as the Bushes exchange glances. "Well, sometimes," he says reluctantly, "I kinda wished they'd shown-- y'know, a little appreciation. Didn't seem to want us upstairs in the White House."
"We would always thank them for their gifts," BB says pointedly.
"Guess they didn't always thank us," he goes on. "Gave him, oh such a neat present for his 75th birthday, took a whole lot of trouble customizing it to the right measurements, borrowed his boots so it would stand up real pretty--"
He notices my perplexity and stands up, a huge, hurt, lovable, distressingly ordinary man. "Lemme show you. We had a duplicate made."
He escorts me to a bathroom upstairs, outside of which stands the single most terrifying piece of kitsch I have ever seen. It would not be out of place at Auschwitz. There, standing booted and spurred, are Dutch's feet and lower legs, supporting, like some flattened dwarfish torso, an embroidered seat, with the presidential seal au centre.
While I marvel, as so often before, at the aesthetic perversity of wellborn WASPs, Bush shakes his head and says in the same hurt voice, "Not a word of thanks."--Author's Diary, December 24, 1988
From "DUTCH: A MEMOIR OF RONALD REAGAN." © 1999 by Edmund Morris. To be published by Random House, Inc.