Those we entrust with power need to stand up for all of us.
George H.W. Bush died at his home in Houston on Friday night, launching a blizzard of long-held obituaries praising his legacy and successful stewardship of the country as a one-term president. But it is not too soon to talk about the accusations by eight women that Bush Sr. touched them inappropriately.
Sexual harassment or assault can’t be bracketed off as part of a politician’s private life. It’s an important part of the story of their leadership, their use of power, and their policy. The same is true for Bush.
Relatively little has been made of the accusations against Bush since they emerged last year. A woman initially accused Bush of groping her and telling her a dirty joke as she stood beside Bush, seated in a wheelchair, in a photo opp. The family responded suggesting the aging former president might be slipping a bit. “President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures,” a spokesman, Jim McGrath, said on Bush’s behalf.
But then the story changed. More women came forward describing incidents that took place before Bush was in a wheelchair and even while he was in office. One woman described a credible story dating back to 1992, when she says that Bush, then the president, put his hand on her rear-end while taking a photograph at a re-election fundraiser. Another woman described an incident from 2003, when she was 16 years old — and Bush was still spry, zipping around Kennebunkport on a Segway.