Nothing makes me feel older than cold tea from my childhood. Even when I was a kid, I knew that Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan hated each other. It was never a secret – while their husbands got along well enough, Nancy Reagan always took pains to exclude the Bushes from White House events, state dinners and more. It was a thing. And while the modern Republican party has pretty much canonized both Nancy and Ronald Reagan, I’m here to tell you that neither of them really was all that, or all that popular in their time. Nancy was seen as what she was: a pushy, flaky drama queen who exerted too much authority over her husband. Anyway, in the new Barbara Bush authorized biography, The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty, Bush talked more about how Nancy Reagan f–king hated her guts.
Not once but twice the names of George H. W. and Barbara Bush were slashed out as invitees for the famed 1985 White House dinner hosted by President Ronald Reagan and his wife for Prince Charles and Princess Diana. The culprit? A new biography on Mrs. Bush, Susan Page’s The Matriarch, doesn’t give a definitive answer but notes “the universe of those empowered to do so wouldn’t extend much past the president and the First Lady” — and Nancy Reagan and Mrs. Bush had never been friends.
“She hated us,” Mrs. Bush told Page for her book. “I don’t know why, but she really hated us.”
The dust-up over the Bushes and the dinner for the prince and princess of Wales is only one example of the years-long animosity between the once and future first ladies, according to Page. (According to one anecdote recounted in a 1991 unauthorized biography, Mrs. Reagan once “immediately” re-gifted a wreath sent to her by Mrs. Bush.) In her book, Page writes that while protocol dictated the Bushes be invited to state dinners, it seems that was all Mrs. Reagan would allow them.
“During their eight years of residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the Reagans invited the Bushes upstairs to the private family quarters of the White House only a time or two before Bush had been elected to the presidency himself. They never invited the Bushes to accompany them to Camp David,” Page writes.
And then there was the Nov. 9, 1985, dinner for Princess Diana and her husband — “one of the most sought-after invitations of Reagan’s presidency,” according to Page. And one that someone took pains to keep out of reach for the Bushes. Citing documents from the Reagan Library archives, Page writes that the names of the Bushes, then vice president and second lady, were crossed out by hand from both an initial invite list and an accompanying plan for them to “greet guests in the Red Room.” On the third list, their names had again been “slashed out by pen.”
The snub did not go unnoticed, Page writes: “When deputy White House chief of staff Michael Deaver cautioned Nancy Reagan against excluding the vice president and his wife from the dinner, saying it would be a breach of protocol, she reportedly responded, ‘Just watch me.’ “
“Nancy was disdainful of Barbara for her sturdy figure, her matronly clothes, and her blunt manner,” Page writes. (Some White House staffers told Page that Mrs. Bush could seem “imperious at times.”) For her part, “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.”
Mean Girls: FLOTUS Edition. Seriously though, at this point, is it really scandalous? I guess people would prefer to talk about how Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan despised each other rather than talking about how Melania Trump is a lazy golddigging idiot who hates her husband. In 30 years, what will be Melania’s authorized biography? I Don’t Really Care DO U: Fashion Model Fascism Be Best.
Photos courtesy of Getty.