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New Book Analyzes Barbara Bush and Her Contentious Relationship with Nancy Reagan

Marion Charatan

Posted on April 7, 2019 11:19

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"The Matriarch" chronicles the life of Barbara Bush and her discord with another former First Lady Nancy Reagan

History tells us that Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan had a contentious relationship. Both women had a lot in common-- on the surface; that is. They were close in age, grew up in the so-called normative 50’s and were accustomed to a civility that is not as apparent today, married to Republican presidents, born in New York and were alumni of Smith College, mothers and even distant cousins. Each First Lady was married to her husband for decades and fiercely protective of him. In spite of the many similarities, these First Ladies were not close at all.

A new biography about Barbara Bush, “The Matriarch,” by Susan Page, chronicles the iciness between Mrs. Reagan and Mrs. Bush. Biographer Susan Page wrote how upset the Bushes were to learn that Mrs. Reagan had personally called NBC news to dispute reports that she had been unfriendly to them. Apparently, the Bushes were “aghast.”

Mrs. Reagan complained that Barbara Bush had never invited the Reagans to a State Dinner, even after she had personally given Mrs. Bush a full tour of the White House when the elder Bush took over the Presidency from Ronald Reagan in 1989.

She hated us,” Mrs. Bush told Page. “I don’t know why, but she really hated us.” Mrs. Reagan evidently felt marginalized, too--that Barbara Bush simply was not in her corner.

There is speculation around why the two women didn't click. According to Page, “Nancy was disdainful of Barbara for her sturdy figure, her matronly clothes, and her blunt manner.” She added, “Barbara was disdainful of Nancy as brittle and shallow, and as a mother who had failed to forge a close or even functional relationship with her children.”

In later years, there might have been a little softening. Mrs. Regan said, regarding Mrs. Bush: “I never got to know her very well; somewhat conciliatory. And at Ronald Reagan's funeral, Mrs. Bush commented, "Nancy Reagan was totally devoted to President Reagan, and we take comfort that they will be reunited once more. George and I send our prayers and condolences to her family.”

However, even given their differences,  we cannot dispute the value of the causes each woman embraced—Mrs. Reagan’s 'Say No To Drugs' campaign and Mrs. Bush's 'Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.'

"Just Say No" was the slogan for an ad campaign in the 1980s and early 1990s. The goal was to discourage children from using illegal recreational drugs and educate them about the danger of drugs.  Mrs. Reagan championed the cause until her death in 2016 at age 94.

Mrs. Bush established the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. The non-profit's website states, quoting Mrs. Bush, ”The American Dream is about equal opportunity for everyone who works hard. If we don't give everyone the ability to simply read and write, then we aren't giving everyone an equal chance to succeed.“

Let's remember Mrs. Reagan and Mrs. Bush for their work-- not their personality conflicts.

Marion Charatan

Posted on April 7, 2019 11:19

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Source: WashPost

The research suggests a disturbing relationship between prejudice and politics.

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