Susan Page’s new book “The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty” is the revealing biography of Former First Lady Barbara Bush. Page spent hours interviewing the former first lady during the final six months of her life and was given access to decades of Bush’s personal diaries.
Barbara Bush was no typical first lady. She also had the experience of being the “first mother” when her son George W. Bush became president of the United States in 2001—just eight years after her husband had left the same Oval Office.
April 18 will be the one year anniversary of Mrs. Bush’s death, so it’s a timely event for Page’s biographical book on Bush to be released. Author Susan Page is the Washington Bureau chief of USA Today.
Not a Republican in the End
Most notably are Mrs. Bush’s unabashed criticisms of President Donald Trump and her feelings for the Republican Party after he took office.
Months after President Trump took office, Page asked Bush in October 2017 if she still considered herself a Republican, to which Mrs. Bush said “yes,” Page told USA Today in a video interview.
However, when Page asked her again four months later, in Feb. 2018, Bush said, “I’d probably say ‘no’ today.”
Page breaks down why Bush might have felt that way. She writes how Bush’s son Jeb was badly treated during his run for president in 2016. He finished fourth in the New Hampshire primary and did no better in South Carolina, and had decided to call his mother and tell her he was coming home. He was done.
Too Polite for Politics
Mrs. Bush had thought her son was too polite for the presidential race. She told Page in an interview, “He’s got the same values that America seems to have lost. He’s almost too polite. I don’t advise him, but if I gave him advice, I would say, ‘Why don’t you interrupt like the other people do?’ And he does not brag like some people we know.”
Page said of Mrs. Bush: “Mrs. Bush was reluctant for Jeb to run in 2016. She had seen how brutal presidential campaigns and the presidency could be.
“Her husband lost his bid for a second term, a crushing defeat. Her oldest son left the White House excoriated for pursuing a costly war in Iraq. Jeb would inherit all their baggage, all their enemies, she warned. She sensed a dyspeptic mood in the country, a weariness with the political establishment that would disrupt his path.”
Mrs. Bush couldn’t understand why the people chose Trump. She told Page that the tumultuous presidential campaign and Trump’s ridicule of Jeb, in particular, had riled her, causing her “angst.” Mrs. Bush had suffered a crisis in her battle with congestive heart failure and chronic pulmonary disease “that hit her like a sledgehammer one day in June 2016,” said Page. She blamed Trump.
In fact, Page wrote that a friend had given Mrs. Bush a Trump countdown clock as a joke. The clock displayed how many days, hours, minutes and seconds remained in President Trump’s term.
She took the clock everywhere she went. It sat on her bedside table until the day she died.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.