Skip to content

About PERC

All Areas of Focus

All Research

Farewell to Our Horseshoe President

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

  • Brian Yablonski
  • ©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.

    Written By
    • Brian Yablonski
      • Chief Executive Officer

      Brian Yablonski is the chief executive officer of PERC and the former chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    Related Content