Tennis. Boating. Summers at Walker’s Point.The story goes on like this for 1283 words. Yes, we have C. Boyden Gray saying that using "every trick you had" has always been part of the Bush ethic, and yes, we're told later that the Bush ethic goes back to "earlier eras" in which "the dirty work of politics, when necessary, was handled behind the scenes, or outsourced to aides." But the bulk of the argument is that Bushes just don't do this sort of thing.
Life among the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite (or WASPs, in sociological shorthand) was good for a young John Ellis Bush....
But that era of polite and high society ... is fast fading....
Against a frustrated, profoundly un-WASP-like Republican electorate that craves the visceral pugnaciousness of Donald J. Trump or the outsider anger of Senator Ted Cruz, Mr. Bush’s family values -- of cordial restraint, of civil discourse, of earnest public service -- can seem almost quaint.
Mr. Bush tells voters who wonder why he cannot summon Mr. Trump’s TV-friendly fury that he “wasn’t brought up that way.” ...
C. Boyden Gray, who served as White House counsel under the elder Bush, ticked through the code of conduct the Bush dynasty has long embodied: “Civility and good manners were kind of assumed,” he said.
“You would be generous to a loser, you would not boast about your victory, you would be civil during an engagement, but you’d use every trick you had, every skill you had to win,” Mr. Gray continued. “They represented a whole generation of people, and I think a whole way of looking at things has been lost.”
Which means there isn't a word about George H.W. Bush's 1988 campaign against Michael Dukakis -- not just the Willie Horton ad, which Bush and allies have always insisted was created by an independent group, but the ad depicting criminals passing in and out of prison through a revolving door, which was created by the Bush campaign, and which dovetailed perfectly with the Horton ad. (Left out of most discussion of this line of attack was the fact that the furlough program was started under a Republican governor who served prior to Dukakis, and the fact that the majority of other states had similar programs.)
No mention is made of H.W. Bush's defense of Dan Quayle's failure to fight in Vietnam -- "he damned sure didn't burn the American flag" -- which was an allusion to a completely unfounded rumor that Dukakis's wife, Kitty, had once burned the flag at an anti-Vietnam War protest.
No mention is made of Poppy Bush's infantile, Trumpian trash talk in the 1992 campaign:
At a midday GOP rally at Macomb Community College, the president unleashed a rhetorical fusillade on Bill Clinton and running mate Sen. Albert Gore Jr., attacking their fitness for office, their character and charging, "My dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos."No mention is made of the whispering campaign conducted in South Carolina by George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, which suggested that rival John McCain had fathered a black child (the child was actually an adopted daughter from Bangladesh), and no mention is made of the deceitful Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry on W's behalf in the 2004 campaign, which was ostensibly the work of independent groups but which availed itself of the talents of two Bush campaign staffers, one of whom was Bush's top outside legal counsel. Both ultimately had to resign from the official Bush campaign.
In particular, Bush targeted Gore, whom he now calls "Ozone Man," or just plain "Ozone." "You know why I call him Ozone Man?" Bush said. "This guy is so far out in the environmental extreme, we'll be up to our neck in owls and outta work for every American...."
Jeb, in fact, wrote a letter in 2005 praising the work of the Swift Boat attackers, so even he has an appreciation for the nasty work of politics, whether or not he's capable of it himself.
But in any case, the notion that Bush's just don't do this sort of thing is nonsense. The fact that it makes for a tidy narrative is no reason for a New York Times reporter to pretend it's true.