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Accommodating this faction was bound to be tricky, particularly for the son of an aristocratic Republican Senator from Connecticut to whom moderate Republicanism was a kind of birthright. Despite his 14 years in Texas, there was no mistaking Bush's Eastern Establishment roots. His views on foreign policy matched those of the locals well enough everyone, even Texas Democrats, was staunchly anticommunist. But on domestic affairs, Andover-Yale was not Midland-Odessa. Bush's moderate Republican views on states' rights, civil rights and most social issues clashed with those of the Birchites. As an old friend notes, "Bush was not sitting there asking himself, 'How do we impeach Earl Warren?'"
In 1964, a terrible year for Republicans, Bush lunged for a seat in the U.S. Senate, challenging liberal Democrat Ralph Yarborough. For Bush just to lose respectably required a shift to the right. He called himself a "100%" Goldwater man and lashed out at the 1964 Civil Rights Act, labor unions and the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. He lost but garnered more votes than any Republican in Texas history. That won him the notice of Richard Nixon, who campaigned for him in 1966.
Bush later confessed to an Episcopal minister, John Stevens, that he was ashamed of his pandering to the right in 1964. "I took some of the far-right positions I thought I needed to get elected," Stevens recollects Bush saying. "And I regret it. And hope I never do it again."
A Schizophrenic Straitjacket
Of course he did do it again, although not immediately. In 1966 Bush ran for Congress from Houston as a moderate, attacking "extremists" in his own party. "I want conservatism to be sensitive and dynamic," he said, "not scared and reactionary." That led some Republican groups to tag Bush as a liberal and endorse his conservative Democratic opponent, Frank Briscoe. But Bush prevailed, in part because Texas' Seventh District was then one of the state's few Republican strongholds.
Bush nonetheless kept an eye on the right. In 1970, when he gave up his safe seat to run for the Senate against Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, he endured boos and catcalls at nearly every campaign stop because he had supported a fair-housing law in 1968. Bush had indeed said aye to the bill, but only after voting for a procedural amendment that could have killed it. Paul Eggers, who campaigned with Bush that year as the G.O.P. gubernatorial candidate, remembers his teammate's favorite stump-speech line: "If you don't want to vote for me because of open housing, then don't vote for me."
Most didn't. Bentsen won, and Bush spent the next six years working for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford in a variety of positions in which his future did not depend on the whims of voters. By 1980 Bush was running for the presidency, at first criticizing his rival Ronald Reagan on economic and foreign policy and then adopting most of Reagan's views once the Californian put him on the G.O.P. ticket. Bush deep-sixed his lament of "voodoo economics" and his support for the Equal Rights Amendment. "Please do not try to keep reminding me of differences I had" with Reagan, Bush pleaded with reporters.
As Vice President, Bush continued to swallow his many objections to Reagan's policies. By 1986, when he began his own race for the White House, Bush had shuffled to the right at the suggestion of his campaign advisers. "He took a lot of heat for it," says one who backed the strategy, "and he didn't like it. But it had the effect of putting enough deposits in those accounts so that we didn't have to worry about them anymore." And in 1988 Bush based his campaign on "no new taxes" and the furlough of convicted murderer Willie Horton, wrapping the whole unsavory package in the American flag. The campaign was so inflammatory that Bush's old hero Barry Goldwater came out of retirement and told him to knock off the foolishness and "start talking about the issues." When he took office, Bush sought to appease conservatives further by selecting a top domestic adviser who could act as a kind of ambassador, fluent in the language, totems and rituals of his party's suspicious right wing. So he chose John Sununu.
The constant care and feeding of the right, says a senior aide, "has given Bush not only an uncertainty about domestic affairs but an alienation from them as well." Body language often Bush's most candid form of communication betrays his discomfort with his predicament. Capable of approaching eloquence when he speaks of a "Europe whole and free," Bush delivers domestic speeches that are perfunctory and marred by disingenuous gestures. When he held aloft a bag of crack cocaine obtained after an intricate sting in Lafayette Square across from the White House last year, he broke into an awkward smile, as if to say, "Can you believe I'm doing this?" Says a former adviser: "He's basically embarrassed to be a politician. It's tacky. He has to do these horribly embarrassing things, and he finds it distasteful, except as a competitive exercise."