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The first President Bush speaks (and leaves us confused)

November 1, 2007 |  6:00 pm

George H.W. Bush -- the 41st president and father of the 43rd president -- has joined the chorus wondering whether Hillary Clinton's debate stumbles earlier this week could dramatically redirect the course of the Democratic presidential race. But as he discusses the matter -- in an interview airing on "Fox News Sunday" this weekend -- he provides a useful reminder that Clinton isn't the only one who sometimes struggles with an answer.

Bush pere kicks off a new "American Leaders" series on Fox, and the cable network sent excerpts of his comments to The Times' James Gerstenzang. Among the questions posed by Chris Wallace was whether the former president agreed with the much-publicized prediction by his son that Clinton would emerge as her party's White House nominee.

The elder Bush replied: "I thought a few weeks ago that she was almost a ‘gimme,’ as we say in golf, for the nomination. I'm not sure I feel that way now. Well, there seems to be more kind of internal -- in her own party there seems to be more willingness to take her on and to argue about stuff.  But she's a formidable opponent and she's done very well, in my view....”

So far, so good. The flow of thought is somewhat herky-jerky, in classic Bush I fashion, but we can follow what he's saying. He lost us, though, as he continues (we've italicized the sentence that is truly mystifying:

“I'm not sure that -- you know, again, I want to be on record as just saying I don't necessarily believe Hillary is going to win the primary, to say nothing of the general election. But the American people have a way of sorting these things out. And they go to caucuses or go to the primaries and just work, grind your way up the -- to whatever lies ahead, and that's what's happened. There hasn't been any anointing in the process.”

Dana Carvey, fresh material awaits you.

-- Don Frederick