Laura Bush blames car and ‘small’ stop sign for alleged ex-boyfriend’s death

By Ron Brynaert
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 10:53 EDT
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According to New York Times writer Anahad O’Connor, former First Lady Laura Bush “has finally opened up publicly about the mysterious car accident she had when she was 17, a crash that claimed the life of a high school friend on a dark country road in Midland, Tex.”

In her new book, “Spoken From the Heart,” Mrs. Bush describes in vivid detail the circumstances surrounding the crash, which has haunted her for most of her adult life and which became the subject of questions and speculation when it was revealed during her husband’s first presidential run. A copy of the book, scheduled for release in early May, was obtained by The New York Times at a bookstore.

RAW STORY was unable to find an advance copy, so it’s premature to conclude that the account isn’t so “vivid”, however, there are curious details left out of the New York Times write-up regarding the crash.

“On a November night in 1963, Mrs. Bush and a girlfriend were hurrying to a drive-in theater when Mrs. Bush, at the wheel of her father’s Chevy Impala, ran a stop sign on a small road and smashed into a car being driven by Mike Douglas, a star athlete and popular student at her school,” O’Connor writes.

But the Times neglects to mention – perhaps because Laura Bush neglects to mention it – that the former first lady reportedly had some sort of a romantic involvement with Douglas.

Multiple accounts, including an unauthorized biography of Laura Bush, have quoted classmates or simply referred to Douglas as an ex-boyfriend.

After the police report was finally released to the Associated Press in 2000, Jim Vertuno wrote as his lead sentence, “At 17, Laura Bush ran a stop sign and crashed into another car, killing her boyfriend who was driving it, according to an accident report released to The Associated Press on Wednesday.”

But in Washington Post reporter Ann Gerhart’s 2004 book “The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush,” the relationship was characterized as more nebulous: “What made the crash even more devastating was that the boy Laura killed was no stranger but a good friend of hers, a boy from her crowd. Some said Mike Douglas was her boyfriend. Or had been, or maybe she wanted him to be.”

From Snopes:

There has always been speculation about the nature of his relationship with Laura Welch. One rumor asserts the two had never dated, but that Laura had been romantically interested in him. Another claims he had been Laura’s boyfriend when he died, and another that he had once been her boyfriend but the couple had subsequently broken up. (The latter theory is advanced in the 2002 biography of the Bushes, George and Laura: Portrait of an American Marriage, which states Laura Welch and Michael Douglas had dated throughout early and mid-1963, but by the fall of that year Michael was going out with Regan Gammon, one of Miss Welch’s closest friends.)

The Times article notes, “Mrs. Bush concedes that she and her friend were chatting when she ran the stop sign. But she also suggests a host of factors beyond her control played a role — the pitch-black road, an unusually dangerous intersection, the small size of the stop sign, and the car the victim was driving.”

But, according to Gerhart’s book, “The police accident report notes that the pavement was dry and the visibility excellent on the night Laura flew through the stop sign at 50 miles per hour.”

The photos in the police file show an intersection bisecting the flat Texas landscape, a stop sign unobscured by buildings or shrubs, nothing but utility poles marching toward the horizon. They show the violence of the impact: Mike Douglas’s ’62 Corvair looks like one of those carcasses police departments put by the side of the road to scare people off drinking and driving. Its metal hood and right front side panel are crumpled like a ball of paper, its entire chassis wrenched out of shape. The report by the officer on the scene notes that the investigation was not complete, but if there was any follow-up investigation those results have long since disappeared from the files at the Midland County Attorney’s Office.

Gerhart notes Laura Bush “was not charged, not even ticketed for running through the stop sign, although Douglas’ death was the second fatality at that intersection that year. The police reportedly found no evidence of drinking or excessive speed, although the report is inconclusive as to whether she was tested for alcohol.”

The Washington Post writer speculated, “Perhaps Mike Douglas’s parents, who lived out in the country and weren’t part of the more affluent set in town, didn’t have the right connections to press for a more vigorous investigation.”

“Perhaps, like many white teenagers of comfortable means, then and now, Laura Welch was granted that chance to make a terrible mistake without it ruining her life,” Gerhart added.

An earlier Raw Story article focused on Laura Bush’s bizarre, unsubstantiated belief that she and President Bush may have been poisoned during a trip to Germany.

But Mrs. Bush’s complaints about the car Douglas drove seem to carry some credence.

“It was sporty and sleek, and it was also the car that Ralph Nader made famous in his book Unsafe at Any Speed,” Laura Bush writes in her book. “He claimed the car was unstable and prone to rollover accidents. A few years later, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration went so far as to investigate the Corvair’s handling, but it didn’t reach the same grim conclusions. I was driving my dad’s much larger and heavier Chevy Impala. But none of that would ever ease the night of November 6. Not for me, and never for the Douglases.”

The Times adds, “Mrs. Bush reveals that she was wracked by guilt for years after the crash, especially after not attending the funeral and for not reaching out to the parents of the dead teenager. Her parents did not want her to show up at the funeral, she states, and she ended up sleeping through it.”

There is no mention if Mrs. Bush ever even attempted to reach out to the Douglas family to offer her sorrow and condolences for their loss, even years after the tragic event.

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