Farewell to Our Horseshoe President

President George H.W. Bush and the art of the small gesture

©Susanne Nilsson

During a window in time, there was job in the White House called the Horseshoe Commissioner. You might be surprised to know such a position existed — but it did, at least unofficially, according to President George H. W. Bush.

President George H.W. Bush

Early in his presidency, I was the White House Horseshoe Commissioner. Twenty-one years old, fresh out of college, and a new member of the president’s small personal staff, I was in way over my head. And the president, he was passionate about playing horseshoes. It was something he played with his family and friends, visiting heads of state, celebrities, and members of Congress. It was also his way to unwind, break the ice, do casual business, or just get the competitive juices flowing.

The “pit” was conveniently located behind the Oval Office next to the White House swimming pool. It was his creation — something not seen at the White House since Harry Truman. And there was a whole foreign language associated with his horseshoe play. Phrases like “Vic Damone!” for a win, “Ugly Shoe!” for a bad toss, or “Power Outage!” for a horseshoe that failed to reach the clay. He was “Mr. Smooth” when he’d throw a ringer.

Read the entire piece in National Review.

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