Several years ago, when I heard that George H.W. Bush’s “biographer” was preparing an authorized account of the 41st president’s life, I was curious, to say the least. How would he handle the remarkable fact that Bush 41, known to friends and family as “Poppy,” was nothing like the man the public thought he was?
Two faces, neither good
For anyone unfamiliar with my work: I spent five years researching Poppy and his clan for my book, Family of Secrets. In the course of my digging, I was positively gobsmacked to discover that this supposedly mild-mannered, nerdy, inarticulate, awkward, indecisive fellow had actually been much more interesting and consequential.
From the moment he went to World War II as a naval aviator through successive stints as an oilman, congressman, diplomat, and party official, his official work masked the fact that he was deeply immersed in the spy world. He Family of Secrets Best Price: $1.93 Buy New $8.85 (as of 05:45 EST - Details) was involved with a succession of highly secretive covert operations affecting not just outcomes in his own country but around the world — from the Bay of Pigs to coups abroad and scandals and cataclysms at home — including Watergate and Iran Contra. (To learn more, begin here, Part 1 of a series of 10 excerpts from Family of Secrets.)
Publicly, he said he couldn’t recall where he was when John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, but I found out. Guess where? Dallas! Guess who he was working for? The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)! Whose longtime director and master coup planner, Allen Dulles, a close friend of the Bush family, had two years earlier been forced out by JFK.
This “double life,” explains why in 1976 — at a moment when Congress was digging into the deepest secrets of the CIA and threatening to dismember that powerful and unaccountable club — the man chosen to run it was none other than the “pleasant”, preppy, purported non-spook, George H.W. Bush.
Because virtually no one knew that he was already in the club, he could come in and give it a phony veneer of a house cleaning. However, if the media actually did its job, dug for the truth and then leveled with the public, Poppy’s appointment might have opened the way to a whole new understanding of how power is wielded in America, through a cast of characters in which Poppy Bush and his brethren played a starring role.
This revelation wasn’t forthcoming, of course, and to this day labeling George H.W. Bush as a master-spook sounds like lunacy, because “everyone knows” he’s an affable fellow who owes his successful public career to little more than a series of curious accidents.
But those who make an effort to get the history of the Bush clan, unfiltered, from unendorsed sources — and I am one of them — know better.
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