Vice resident: Duke served as intern for late Bush

Published 4:18 am Saturday, December 8, 2018

While certainly many Washington Parish citizens mourned the death of former president George H. W. Bush, his passing might have been a little more personal to David Merlin Duke.

Duke, who is the prosecutor for the city of Bogalusa, served a three-month volunteer internship in the press office for Bush, who was then the vice president under Ronald Reagan.

Duke said that he was a junior at LSU, and withdrew from classes in the spring semester so that he could take part in the internship in Washington, D.C. He later caught up on those classes he missed, but the experience he gained in the nation’s capital may have been even more educational.

Duke began his internship right after “Super Tuesday” in 1988, which was March 8. Super Tuesday is so named because many states hold their primary elections that day, and so it gives voters the first idea of who might be viable candidates in that upcoming presidential election.

As a result, Duke came into his internship at an exciting time — not only was Bush still Reagan’s vice president, but he was also becoming the prohibitive Republican favorite for the party’s 1988 election. Of course, he won that election and then served as the country’s 41st president.

“(Bush) was just starting to get some momentum for the presidency in 1988 when I started interning in his office,” Duke said. “Before that, his candidacy really had not had many wins. That sort of gave him the big rush. I started right after Super Tuesday, and I worked through the end of May.”

Duke also spent one additional month in Washington, working in then U.S. Rep. Richard Baker’s office in June.

Duke said that he had the opportunity to meet Bush face-to-face in passing several times, and spoke with him on the phone as well. Serving in the press office, Duke’s primary duties were to keep up with the media wires and alert Bush’s representatives of any stories and press clippings that may be of interest to Bush.

“I was responsible for clipping out the stories and putting them in a packet, and then passing those out to the various offices,” Duke said. “There was obviously no internet at that point. There were some machines that would let us know when the stories were coming over the wire, and when there was an especially big story, the machine would make this loud ring so we knew it was important.”

Duke said he had the opportunity to attend some major events during his internship, including a state visit from Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, and the day that NAFTA was signed. It wasn’t all work, however. He and the other interns were invited to a barbecue at the U.S. Naval Observatory, the official home of the vice president. Duke also assisted with the traditional White House Easter Egg Roll that year.

“The barbecue was very interesting,” Duke said. “I remember that George W. Bush was there, and he was playing horseshoes with his dad. Of course, this was before anyone knew that he would become president as well. The two twins were there, Jenna and Barbara … it was such an interesting day, because it was an intimate family barbecue but the interns were given a chance to go.”

Duke said he enjoyed his time working in Bush’s press office so much, that he also volunteered at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans in August of 1988.

“Every time I interacted with any of the Bushes, I remember that they were always very pleasant people,” he said. “That was probably the one thing that I’ve seen most written about him since his passing, and I would have to say that it is certainly true.

“Even though I was just one of many interns who served for him, I certainly felt very important and respected during the time that I was there. He was a tremendous leader, but I also believe he was a good person.”