Nancy Reagan & Barbara Bush absolutely despised each other for years

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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.”

[From People]

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.

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53 Responses to “Nancy Reagan & Barbara Bush absolutely despised each other for years”

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  1. Valiantly Varnished says:

    So Nancy Reagan was a shallow mean-spirited b*tch? Shocker.

    • DIRTNAP says:

      No shock here, either. Babs could be equally as bitchy (was known to be a bully even as a child). In another twist, Diana wasn’t fond of Nancy or Ronald. I believe Di’s nickname for Ronnie was “Horlicks,” (which I think was a slang of some sort for a boring, elderly person).

      • Another Anne says:

        Horlicks is a milky bedtime drink, associated with the babies or elders…definitely not a compliment!

      • Mia says:

        @Dirtnap I remember Nancy bringing a gift to the Royal couple when William was born. Supposedly Diana said Nancy only came to get a photo with them. She did go on a walkabout with Barbara.

    • Lightpurple says:

      They both were.

      • Valiantly Varnished says:

        I wouldn’t characterize Barbra as shallow. Mean-spirited and racist? Absolutely.

    • The Other Katherine says:

      Nancy was a mean-spirited person who gave charlatans access to the president and cared about very little other than looking thin and fashionable in public, and turning the WH into a chintzy Better Homes & Gardens photo backdrop. I’m no fan of Barbara either, but she at least seemed devoted to her family and beloved by her children. I doubt very much that Nancy is missed by anyone except the Reagan hagiographers.

  2. S says:

    Have zero idea if any of that is true, but it all certainly sounds more than believable about both women, who were from vastly different class and educational backgrounds, as were their husbands, at a time when such things still very much mattered. (Not that they don’t now, but even more so in the 1940s and ’50s.)

    • MariaS says:

      Both Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush attended Smith College ‘though Nancy actually graduated while Barbara dropped out to marry George. I remember because when I was there there was a t-shirt with caricatures of both of them with text that read: There must be a better way to get a Smithie in the White House.

      • Jegede says:

        Their backgrounds weren’t that different as Maria S says.

        The difference is that Nancy went Hollywood, while Babs stayed East Coast.

      • S says:

        Hollywood starlet, daughter of a divorced couple, grew up in the midwest and married a divorced man (who she likely had an affair with before that) was a HUGE departure from old, East Coast money Barbara Pierce who could trace her blue blood lineage ALL the way back. Even if Nancy grew up quite privileged herself.

    • Darla says:

      I’ve read that Nancy Davis was the bj queen of Hollywood. Swear to god.

      • Paige says:

        Yes! This was in the autobiography of a woman married to peter lawford. She was known for her ‘skill’ while servicing the driver of a car….I find it hard to believe she ever gave head….she seems a little uptight?

      • anniefannie says:

        My sister married into a family of infinite priviledge. At a Thanksgiving dinner I happened to be seated next to a Dr relation that had a storied history in LA and of dating in that circle. He was courtly and hilarious and had dated Nancy, his comment to me was “ She had a way with men in the back seat of a car” , when I looked startled he met my eyes in an unblinking,
        “ ya, I said what I said…” way…needless to say I always jockeyed to sit next to him…

  3. holly hobby says:

    That first picture says it all really. I’m not surprised they didn’t get along. Barbara was too “provincial” for Nancy.

    • KHLBHL says:

      Provincial? But they were both born in NYC and Barbara was from the old money family, wasn’t she? I don’t know much about either of them.

    • minx says:

      Barbara came from old money and married into old money. She was distantly related to President Franklin Pierce. I’m sure Babs thought Nancy was a vulgar Hollywood starlet (if the shoe fits). I loathed both of them so if they hated each other I’m fine with it,

    • Jegede says:

      @holly hobby

      I agree.
      Nancy Reagan hero-worshipped East Coast debutanat prototype Jackie Kennedy.

      She actively courted the friendship of East Cost behemoths like Katherine Graham, CZ Guest, Nan Kempner, Truman Capote, Jerry Zipkin, Babe Paley e.t.c.
      She probably did see Babs as not worthy.

      I doubt she was intimidated by Bab’s old money.
      If anything ol Nancy was very keen to be part of the East Coast society clique
      Esp as a former Smith girl, who always seemed on the outside looking in.

  4. Jay says:

    What a coincidence because I despise both of them! :)

  5. Another Anne says:

    “Princess Diana and her husband” is some A+ level shade. I didn’t know People magazine had it in them.

    • Katy says:

      I know!! I had to go back and read that line again – it kinda threw me off for a second! :)

    • Christin says:

      People remembers the 1980s well, because she was the star. Charles was basically an accessory.

      • Montréalaise says:

        Yes! Everyone treated Diana like a star and Charles as an afterthought – and he bitterly resented it (and her, because he felt shunted aside).

    • Anastasia says:

      I laughed so hard at that! Came to the comments just to see if anyone else caught it!

  6. Paige says:

    They were both horrible people-Barbara’s ‘they were impoverished already, so this is working out quite well for them’ regarding the people in cots at the astrodome after hurricane Katrina, as well as her blatantly racist views throughout her life. And Nancy-so friviolous and condescending to all Americans….

    • Lightpurple says:

      Barbara calling Geraldine Ferraro a bitch but claiming she was too much a lady to say the actual word.

  7. Jegede says:

    Nixon was right in saying Baby Bush knows how to hate.

    She’s entitled to her feelings, but what it sticks in the craw is the hypocrisy of the Bush clan.

    I’ve read enough authorised books about then to read how they take jibes at other dynasties/presidencies (especially the Kennedys); all while insinuating that they’re above that the unseemly behaviour of others.🙄🙄
    All these stories from George’s affair, to Babs’ anger at Trump taking the presidency away from ‘Jebby’ shows they’re as full of it as they come.

    It was an open secret Nancy didn’t like them, only the Reagans didn’t spend the rest of their days taking shots at the Bushes the way both George ‘grab em in the wheelchair’ and Babs “Hurricane Karina was a blessing to them” Bush have consistently and slyly done.🤨

    • Millenial says:

      I was just a touch to young to know about all the elder Bush affair rumors. I was a bit… shocked, but, not shocked when I read about it. I guess I was just more surprised at the length of the affair — something like 10-12 years with that one woman.

  8. GirlMonday says:

    I can’t remember where, but I read a long-form piece a couple of years ago about their hate for each other, and how it all boiled down to classism. Barbara was old money, Nancy was new money, and in a couple of “collisions” pre-white house, Barbara DowagerCountessed Nancy pretty tough. So when Nancy was the first lady and Babs the second, Nance shat in Babs pie.

    Gotta find that article…Vanity Fair, perhaps.

  9. Mumbles says:

    Yeah this is like Godzilla versus Mothra, I really don’t have a dog in the fight. At least Nancy didn’t spend her retirement thinking that her children were entitled to be president. And I’ll take Patti and Ron Jr over any of the Bush jerks any day.

  10. SusieQ says:

    The “working title” of Melania’s “biography” made me spit out my coffee 😂😂😂

  11. BL says:

    So…Nancy was disdainful of Barbara for her “Sturdy figure” and Barbara was disdainful of Nancy because she is “brittle”? That is some misogynist garbage writing.

  12. FluffyPrincess says:

    “Back in the day” — I read a Hollywood Tell-All about the golden age of Hollywood. Gossip from the 20s — from Fatty Arbuckle on up.

    Anyhoodles, I remember one little part about movie “starlet” Nancy Reagan. (forgot her maiden name). Apparently, Nancy was never great shakes as an actress, yet she had friends in very high places all around Hollywood…why? She was known for giving the best BJ’s in town.

    Whether it’s true or not, I dunno, but those were the rumors going down at the time.

    • Miss Shade says:

      “…going down at the time.” :)

    • Jaded says:

      LOL!! “Going down at the time…” Yup…she blew her way into a middling career as an actress, glommed onto Ronnie and was 3 months pregnant when they walked down the aisle. He was so dim he never caught on that she had a “reputation”.

      • Christin says:

        Amazing how the RR worshippers never seemed able to do the math on Patti’s birth date versus the wedding date. Had that been any other high profile 20th century politician (especially a Dem), it would have been an instant scandal.

        I liked his first wife (Jane). IIRC, she more or less left the marriage after they lost a child. He supposedly wanted Jane back, but she wouldn’t have it. Enter Nancy, who spun a story of a great love affair. It sounded like she was second choice and he/they made the best of it.

    • s says:

      Nancy Reagan thought of herself as a big movie star, but in reality she wasn’t. Eventual M-G-M president (and right-hand man before that) Eddie Mannix listed her as being of “adequate ability). The closest thing she did to an A film was “The Next Voice You Hear”. She stank.

      If the stories of giving bjs to everyone in Hollywood are true, it didn’t do her any good, career-wise. She was nothing but a Hollywood snob.

  13. Sam says:

    They could have got into a boxing ring for charity. What a waste.

  14. Lolo says:

    This is basically the sh*t vs diarrhea of 1980s political gossip. They were both awful. Barbara was shrewd, though, to authorize this biography of her to live on after she passed. Gives her the last word.

  15. Mary says:

    This makes me nostalgic. I was a child at the time, but still remember what a big deal the Waleses visit was.
    Btw, that photo of Diana and Nancy is reversed. Diana’s part was on the other side. I see that from time to time with photos and have always been curious about how that ends up happening.

  16. A says:

    It’s really funny that these two didn’t get along when they had so much more in common with each other. Both of them were image obsessed, both of them were women of a certain era, had similar politics and attitudes, and put the fear of god into the people who worked for them (and their husbands). If Barbara Bush really didn’t care for Nancy because she was Hollywood new money, that says a heck of a lot about what she cared about and what her priorities in life were.

  17. Raina says:

    I don’t doubt Nancy gave head, she has a huge one to spare, the ol pez.

  18. Kyle says:

    That “just watch me” quote from Nancy instantly reminds me of Pierre Trudeau and one of the most famous moments in Canadian political history.

  19. Anastasia says:

    So Nancy fat-shamed Barbara?

  20. Dani says:

    Wow…I can’t believe I’m saying this but I can’t tell who is who in those pictures besides Hilary Clinton and Princess Diana. I can finally say that I’m too young for this! They all look pretty mean though in the top pic (aside from Hil who looks as happy as a pig in shit lol). Mean bitter old ladies.

  21. Suz says:

    Born in ‘81. All I remember about Nancy was her stupid and useless “Just say no” anti drugs campaign. And I think she was on Punky Brewster to promote it.