Jordan Peele recently wrote two excellent horror screenplays. In addition, The Babadook was quite spooky before the titular character became a gay icon. I still haven’t read the Wikipedia page for Hereditary, but from what I understand, it’s extremely scary.
Unfortunately, none of those earn the title of most terrifying horror story. In fact, they might as well be PBS viewing for toddlers compared to the scariest story of all, the one contained in two paragraphs of a new Barbara Bush biography, excerpted in USA Today:
After Trump was elected, a friend in Kennebunkport gave her a Trump countdown clock as a joke. The red, white, and blue digital clock displayed how many days, hours, minutes and seconds remained in Trump’s term. She parked it on the side table in her bedroom, next to the chair she would sit in to needlepoint or watch television.
She liked the countdown clock so much that when the Bushes returned to Houston that October, she brought it with her. It sat on her bedside table, where she could see it every day. It was there to the day she died.
Do you feel that coldness? That icy shot to the kidneys? It hits at the precise moment one realizes it’s possible to expire before the presidency countdown clock on the bedside table does. What horror show is this? What perfect torment?
The biography was penned by Susan Page, the Washington Bureau chief of USA Today, who interviewed the Bush family matriarch in the final six months of her life and had access to the former First Lady’s diaries. (Bush died nearly a year ago in Houston at 92, just over seven months before the death of her husband, former president George H.W. Bush.) Between the beginning of Page’s time with Bush and the end of it, something changed. “Did she still consider herself a Republican? In an interview with me in October 2017, she answered that question yes,” Page wrote. “When I asked her again four months later, in February 2018, she said, ‘I’d probably say no today.'”
It’s certainly notable when news breaks that a blue-chip Republican finds little of value in the party today. But before one welcomes the ghost of Barbara Bush to the resistance, remember that her particular anti-Trump hostility came from the potent mix of maternal instinct and Reagan-era pride. In the 80s, Page wrote, Bush saw through Donald Trump’s cartoonish, ham-fisted grasping. She took issue with his needling of Ronald and Nancy Reagan at a charity benefit in one diary entry. Then in another, after the media reported Ivana wasn’t satisfied with her $25 million divorce settlement, Bush wrote in her diary, “The Trumps are a new word, both of them. Trump now means Greed, selfishness and ugly. So sad.”
Little did she know that a quarter of a century later, “Greed” would be cyberbullying her son Jeb and giving her a heart attack. According to Page, she attributed a flare-up of her congestive heart failure and chronic pulmonary disease during the presidential campaign to the “angst” Trump had caused her family and the country. It’s amazing how you can see exactly who a person is, and then watch him get worse. Maybe that’s the most frightening horror story of all.
More Great Stories from Vanity Fair
– Why can’t we get enough Elizabeth Holmes?
– Kellyanne and George Conway’s cross-platform couples therapy is getting awkward
– How the kids implicated in the college-admissions scandal might save face
– Malcolm Gladwell’s very contrarian take on creativity
Looking for more? Sign up for our daily newsletter and never miss a story.
Get Vanity Fair’s Cocktail Hour