A few weeks ago, reviews and coverage of President George HW Bush's biography, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, began to appear in the news. The initial coverage focused on Bush's trash talking, speaking ill about people from the time of his presidency and his son's presidency. I paid the most attention to what he said of his 1988 Presidential Campaign foe Michael Dukakis, calling him a "little midget nerd." The 1988 Election was the first time I voted for a president. I was 18 years old. I voted for Dukakis. In 1992, I voted for President Clinton. I've didn't vote for HW Bush, but after he left office I enjoyed the news coverage of his private life, especially when he jumped out of an airplane for his 80th birthday and 90th birthday. In the context of his son's presidency, HW Bush seems kind of moderate and a little likable. But after learning about his "little midget nerd," comment, I find it hard to think of him as likable. Learning about the biography, I thought of two things. First, there is no way anyone can deny midget is a derogatory, hurtful word that too many people are eager to use as an insult. In some cases (midget divisions of hockey and football, midget race cars) the word may be disguised as benign, but even then there is no escaping the underlying derision of the word. Second, no one is safe from using the term in an attempt to cast others in a negative way. As I said, I was never a fan of HW Bush, but I would not have expected him to use the word to disparage someone.
Yet, the word midget is still commonly used as an insult. With this in mind, it's hard to be a fan of any public figure. The fear is that someday that public figure will disappoint me by publicly using the term in a negative way. Joe Moe did a good job of explaining this type of disappointment in a radio segment on "Weekend America" back in 2008. Moe, who has a daughter with dwarfism, said he used to be a fan of Mike Myers. But he couldn't see the movie The Love Guru because, "In a trailer for the film, Myer's character literally objectifies Troyer's (Verne Troyer - a little person), pretending he's an Oscar statuette."
The HW Bush biography reminded me that former Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush once used the word as an insult. At least I thought he had. But I couldn't find anything through a search of the internet and a search of my old emails. In that search, what I did find were references to Ann Coulter using the word to blast republican candidates for being critical of Donald Trump, "Instead of any of these 'midgets' figuring out that Donald Trump has struck a chord, all they want to do is leap on one flip remark he makes (Fox News Insider)," and a number of message boards referring to Jeb Bush's wife, Columba, as a midget. Evidently, there is a significant size difference between Jeb and Columba. If the message boards are any indication, I am guessing that Jeb Bush and his wife have had to face public harassment because of the difference in height. To me, this makes the comments of George HW Bush even more concerning. Columba probably doesn't identify as a woman of short stature, but no individual should be forced to deal with the mword, then learn that your father-in-law, a former President, used the word to demean a political opponent. That would be similar to me learning that my father in-law used the word as an insult. Try as one might, the mword will never be eliminated. Every once in while, it feels as if progress has been made in terms of awareness about the word. But it's disappointing when the lead story about a former president's biography includes the disparaging use of the word.