In the art of propaganda, and in the daily business of public relations, a cardinal rule is that if a problem emerges, it must be managed immediately. The trick is to quickly acknowledge and gain control of the new material, mitigating the damage by redirecting it in a beneficial way. This is known in tradecraft as “block and bridge.”
Thus it was that the first and only Bush family acknowledgment of where Poppy Bush was on that red-letter day came in classic form — from the wife, in the most innocuous swathing. The venue was in her 1994 book, Barbara Bush: A Memoir, which was published ten months after the document’s declassification. Deep in that book, mostly a compendium of narrow-gauge, self-serving recollections, there it was: not just a recollection of the assassination, but the reproduction of an actual letter written by Barbara on the very day, at the very moment, that Kennedy was shot. The letter has plenty of details, but it omits one important personal item from that day: Poppy’s call to the FBI; perhaps Poppy did not mention it to her?
Barbara begins to describe that fateful day on page 59 of her memoirs:
On November 22, 1963, George and I were in the middle of a several-city swing. I was getting my hair done in Tyler, Texas, working on a letter home.
Here are some excerpts:
(The following is how the excerpts appear in the book, ellipses and all.)
Dearest Family,Wednesday I took Doris Ulmer out for lunch. They [Al and Doris Ulmer] were here from England and they had been so nice to George in Greece. That night we went to … I am writing this at the Beauty Parlor and the radio says that the President has been shot. Oh Texas — my Texas — my God — let’s hope it’s not true. I am sick at heart as we all are. Yes, the story is true and the Governor also. How hateful some people are…. Since the Beauty Parlor the President has died. We are once again on a plane. This time a commercial plane. Poppy picked me up at the beauty parlor — we went right to the airport, flew to Ft. Worth and dropped Mr. Zeppo off (we were on his plane) and flew back to Dallas. We had to circle the field while the second presidential plane took off. Immediately Pop got tickets back to Houston and here we are flying home. We are sick at heart. The tales the radio reporters tell of Jackie Kennedy are the bravest I’ve ever heard. The rumors are flying about that horrid assassin. We are hoping that it is not some far right nut, but a “commie” nut. You understand that we know they are both nuts, but just hope that it is not a Texan and not an American at all.
I am amazed at the rapid-fire thinking and planning that has already been done. L.B.J. has been the president for some time now — 2 hours at least and it is only 4.30.
My dearest love to you all,