Used book sales are one of the joys of life, because they appeal to two corners of my personality – the reader and the cheapskate. A recent find was a collection of Molly Ivins’s best columns. A native Texan, Molly was one of the sharpest, most fearless, most acerbic political writers of our time, and wherever she is, I’m sure she verified that there was a source of good bourbon before she agreed to go there.
In a column written during then-Vice President Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign, she recounted his tendency to activate his mouth in front of reporters before his brain was fully engaged (an affliction that must have been genetic). It’s a cautionary tale for politicians and writers alike about choosing your words and expressions most carefully.
Seems that the VP had been sparring through the media with Democrat Walter Mondale – perhaps history’s only presidential candidate who appeared to be incurably depressed – and Bush 41 had misquoted Mondale in way that misinterpreted what was actually said. Mondale swiped, “George Bush doesn’t have the manhood to apologize.” I’ll let Molly take it from there:
“This comment was relayed to Bush, by now in California, and he was asked to respond. Said the Veep, ‘Well, on the manhood thing, I’ll put mine up against his anytime’.”
Molly said the comment drove the reporters to shocked silence, with “pencils frozen in wonder.” Later that evening, as Bush boarded his plane, the assembled reporters asked if he’d answer any more questions. Molly again:
“No, he indicated, no more questions. He waved once and called, ‘So long.’ About half the press corps replied spontaneously, ‘How long, George?’”
If you ever see one of Molly’s collections at a used book sale, do yourself a favor and grab it.