When George H.W. Bush ran for president, he attempted to do so not as a WASP but as a Texan. (No Texan could be a WASP; Lyndon Johnson, the ur-Texan, might have been the anti-WASP.) I recall candidate Bush’s remarking his favorite snack was pork rinds and on his fondness for the music of the Oak Ridge Boys. I don’t mean to make him out a phony, only to underscore what must have been his own sense that the day of the WASP was done and his need to play down his having been well-born if he hoped to be elected.
Yet I would contend that it is as a WASP that Bush should be honored. If he had intellectual interests, they remain unknown. If he had distinctive ideas about governance or anything else, he kept them to himself. His most notable utterance—“read my lips,” about his unwillingness to impose a tax hike—he had to recant. One never thinks of the George H.W. Bush years generally, for there was nothing especially notable about them. Yet he had character.
Here his WASP heritage comes into play. One felt he was steady, honorable, with probity and without deviousness, a man one could count on to preserve the dignity of the presidency. With George H.W. Bush in the White House one didn’t have to think about fellatio in the Oval Office, about vice presidents running the show, about a president’s ambivalence toward his own country, about vanity bigger than the Ritz (or perhaps I should say “than the Trump Tower”).