Twice in two days a woman has come forward to say that former President George H.W. Bush touched them inappropriately.
Heather Lind, an actress now starring in a cable TV show, said on Tuesday that Bush patted her behind during a 2014 photo shoot. On Wednesday, Jordana Grolnick said the ex-president touched her rear end in August 2016 during a photo-op at a theater in Maine while she was working on a production of Hunchback of Notre Dame.
A host of media immediately played up the “allegations,” giving them the same breathless coverage as the charges against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and a gaggle of other Hollywood types now accused of similar — and far worse — actions.
Bush spokesperson Jim McGrath responded with a statement that said: “At age 93, 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. To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke — and on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner.
“Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.”
Patting someone on the rear end while making a “joke” isn’t exactly the same as Weinstein forcing a women into a corner while he masturbates and ejaculates into a potted plant — or, as at least six women have now charged, raping them.
But in my opinion, there’s much more going on here.
I’ve known George H.W. Bush for many years — not well, mind you, I’m just a political reporter. But I was invited twice to Kennebunkport to cover the festivities of his birthday, including his 85th, when he jumped out of a plane with the Golden Knights and parachuted to the ground. We had several long interviews and he wrote a wonderful note to my son, Conor, in a copy of his book, All The Best.
Each time I’d see him, though, he had lost another step, as they say in baseball. At his 85th, I asked about his golf game. He said he hadn’t played for some time because his equilibrium was askew. The next time I saw him he was in a wheelchair.
His mind was also slower. He’d search for words, take longer pauses. The wonderful light in his eyes was also dimming, just as it did in my mother as she got sicker and sicker.
And there is another similarity there, too. My mother had Lewy body dementia. We didn’t know it at the time but she’d been exhibiting the symptoms for several years.
“Most people with dementia undergo behavioral changes during the course of the disease,” says the Lew Body Dementia Association. “As the disease progresses, your loved one’s behavior may seem inappropriate, childlike or impulsive.”
The association also says those who suffer from “dementia with Lewy bodies” (DLB) have other symptoms, like “unpredictable levels of cognitive ability, attention or alertness, changes in walking or movement, visual hallucinations, a sleep disorder called REM sleep behavior disorder, in which people physically act out their dreams.”
So when I heard about the recent allegations, I immediately thought about dementia.
So did some other readers of the salacious reports.
“Former President George HW Bush has vascular parkinsonism, a form of Parkinson’s, therefore he is now showing what often accompanies that disease is Lewy Body dementia. His words to her, actions to her, and even his apology brought out the dementia by saying it thought he was being humorous. My husband died of Lewy Body dementia so I know the manifestations of it,” Kristi Mangino wrote in the comments section of a story on Deadline.com.
“Well said, Kristi,” wrote “billybob.”
“As soon as I read the headline I thought immediately of Lewy body Dementia which, as you well know, is a very challenging condition. … It is a shame that this woman didn’t bother to discuss the incident with Barbara Bush, she may have become a bit more reasonable in her reaction. Nobody should be allowed to put their hands on you but LBD is on a whole ‘other level.’ It really is a cruel illness, takes your personality and replaces it with confusion, behavioural problems amongst many other things.”
Lind, in a post on Instagram that she later deleted, said Bush “sexually assaulted me while I was posing.”
But one person responded by writing: “You are terrible. He was 89 years old. and has some Dementia and Vascular Parkinson’s. You were not sexually assaulted. You cheapen every person that was. This is not political. I have never voted for a Bush or a republican in my life. This is just wrong,” the Daily Mail reported.
Another wrote: “Awards for bravery don’t belong to women who post on Instagram. I’ve been loathe to comment on things like this but this was the last straw. I’m not denying anyone’s ‘truth,’ and I am not saying that sexual harassment or assault don’t cause most victims to feel fear and shame, but I am saying that it isn’t all the same…”
The commenter continued: “It isn’t equal. And if you think this post is going to help the women trapped by husbands still beating them, the women who will be brutally raped tonight…”
Of course, no woman should ever be touched against her will. Anywhere. At any time. But conflating a 93-year-old man’s actions with those of Weinstein and others, to lump it in with the #metoo Twitter campaign, is just wrong.
Then again, we’re now politicizing the deaths of American soldiers, with lawmakers in cowboy hats calling the president a liar over whether he remembered the slain soldier’s name, so perhaps it’s just the times.
And sad times they are, indeed.