Ties That Bind: The Blue Ties of George W. Bush

November 26, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


ROGER MUDD: Not since George Schultz, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, wore the same necktie four days in a row back in 1983, has there been anything quite like the blue tie phenomenon of the George W. Bush administration.

It’s not that it’s gone unnoticed, it’s just that nobody has seemed willing to talk about it. That is until tonight. ( Cheers and applause )

The phenomenon began soon after the president’s inauguration more than two years ago, when America’s chief executive would show up from time to time wearing a tie whose color was unknown in Washington, D.C. — not the familiar power red or the Ivy Leaguer’s stripe or the diplomat’s polka dot or even the bureaucrat’s standard silk foulard, but a blue that seemed more at home on a teenaged girl’s bedroom wall than on a necktie.

It was a blue that the paint store color charts might call “rock-a-bye blue” or “bassinet blue,” and it was a blue that sent a signal: “I, George Bush, am from Texas. I wear cowboy boots. I wear blue jeans. I talk with a twang. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be sensitive once in a while.”

As Washington has discovered about this administration, once a signal goes out from the Oval Office, it’s heard and heeded from the west wing all the way to fish and wildlife. Quietly but without hesitation, the men of this administration began to add to their tie racks those blue cravats that branded them as George Bush men. One of the first was the president’s political guru, Karl Rove, and, of course his press secretary. Then came the attorney-general. Other cabinet secretaries, like Spencer Abraham, quickly fell in line, not to mention their Secret Service escorts. Even deputy secretaries got the word. The blue buzz naturally reached California.

SPOKESMAN: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States. ( Cheers and applause )

ROGER MUDD: And when the president gave his state of the union speech in January, he could look down on a bevy of blue-tied Republicans: McConnell of Kentucky; Santorum of Pennsylvania; Lott of Mississippi; Roberts of Kansas; Smith of Oregon; and in the front row, Commerce Secretary Evans, out blued by Labor Secretary Chao.

The blue tie had become, it seemed, a badge of loyalty. Only few have dared to hold out. To date there is no usable evidence that either Secretary of State Powell or C.I.A. Director Tenet has worn a Bush blue in public, but that might change if their oversight is pointed out. On his recent trip to London, the president wore that blue tie two days in a row, trying no doubt to let the Brits know that like his daddy he really has a kinder, softer side.

How proud he must have been to see the prime minister wearing not only a blue tie, but a blue shirt, and how even prouder he was when wearing his white tie and tails, he fell in beside Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace and saw that she was wearing his blue. It is true that The Washington Post in one of its early dispatches from London, reported that President Bush was wearing “his familiar blue tie.” But that line vanished from all later editions, and has not been seen since. So once again, the NewsHour continues to breaking new ground.

I’m Roger Mudd.