George H. W. Bush Outlines Richards Nixon’s Hang-Ups about Ivy League Bastards

Yalie George H.W. Bush served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee under Richard Nixon. Despite this appointment, he felt he did not enjoy the President’s trust and he fretted that Nixon viewed him as a mere “Ivy League bastard.” Nixon’s conflicted feelings about an Ivy League education extended even to his consigliore, the Harvard-educated PhD and Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger. * Bush outlined his worries in a 1972 letter to his sons:

“The President’s hang-up on Ivy League is two-fold.** The first relates to issues. He sees the Ivy League type as the Kennedy liberal Kingman Brewster on the war–arrogant, self-assured, soft professors moving the country left. Soft on Communism in the past–soft on socialistic programs at home–fighting him at every turn– close to the editors that hate him. In this issue context he equates Ivy League with anti-conservatism and certainly anti-Nixon.

Secondly I believe there is rather insecure social kind of hang-up. Ivy League connotes privilege and softness in a tea sipping, martini drinking, tennis playing sense. There’s an enormous hang-up here that comes through an awful lot. I feel it personally. It stings but it doesn’t bleed.”

*“That fucker doesn’t perform surgery or make house calls does he?” Bush is reputed to have asked staffers when they referred to the Secretary of State as “Doctor” Kissinger.

**Bush was correct. “The Ivy League presidents?” Nixon told Kissinger after his meeting with Ivy League College Presidents about Vietnam, “Why I’ll never let those sons of bitches in the White House again. Never, never, never. They’re finished. The Ivy League schools are finished… Henry, I would never have had them in. Don’t do that again… They came out against us when it was tough… Don’t ever go to an Ivy League school again, ever. Never, never, never.”

George Bush letter, July 23, 1972, All the Best, George Bush, Touchstone, 1999.