In 1992, President H.W. Bush seemed increasingly out of touch. His critics panned actions such as spending $28 on presents for his grandchildren and not understanding the technology of a grocery store checkout counter.
Marlin Fitzwater, press secretary: The problem was that when you would ask him to do something symbolic, like going down to this little town near Camp David and showing concern for the economy, he saw it as not being true, as not real. And what was real to him was, he needed to buy some gifts for his grandkids. And so in his mind, that was a far more realistic thing to do. And it's just one of those things where it ended up working against him.
Narrator: When Bush flew to Japan with American automakers in an effort to create more jobs, he soldiered on despite a case of the flu. At a formal state dinner, he got sick on the prime minister. "These last two months have been the worst of my presidency," he told a friend. "And the last year has been the worst of my political career." Things would not get any better. The next month he was skewered by the New York Times for seeming out of touch at a grocers' convention. He marveled at new technology that could read the bar code of shredded label. The New York Times said he didn't know how an ordinary check-out counter worked.
John Robert Green, presidential historian: The story stuck because it fed in with what was being argued by his opponents, both on the far right and the Democrats, that Bush had lost touch with the American people.
My American Experience
Who is your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Reagan? Clinton? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?