Everybody knows that George Bush and Bob Dole don't like each other, and that the antipathy dates back to long before this presidential campaign. In 1972, Richard Nixon unceremoniously dumped Dole from the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee and installed Bush in his place. Dole didn't like it.

This minor episode seems fascinating right now, and it's possible to find out what really happened by consulting the National Archives' "Nixon Presidential Materials Project." Nixon's closest aides, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, kept detailed notes on every conversation they had with Nixon; Ehrlichman's notes contain the whole story of Bush's move to the RNC.

Bush first caught Nixon's eye during a meeting at San Clemente in 1969, when he gave an impassioned argument for keeping the deduction for intangible drilling costs, a tax break much loved by oilmen. Ever since then, Nixon had been nurturing Bush's career. On Nov. 14, 1972, Nixon, who was at Camp David planning his new administration in a mood of triumphal sourness, told Ehrlichman, according to the notes, "Eliminate the politicians. Except George Bush. He'd do anything for the cause."

Later that month, back at the White House, Nixon explained why he wanted Bush at the RNC. Ehrlichman's notes have him saying, "Dole -- he must go. In self-interest. Need full-time man. RNC chairman must be 1. Youth 2. Image 3. Builds new majority 4. Center 5. South or Midwest 6. Bush?"

The answer to the mystery of why Nixon wanted Dole out seems to lie in the parts about "full-time man" (Dole was in the Senate), "Image" (Dole was a heavy) and "Center" (Dole was then seen as more conservative than Bush).

On Nov. 20, Bush was flown by military helicopter to Camp David and ushered into Nixon's house there, Aspen Lodge, for a long meeting. In Bush's campaign autobiography, "Looking Forward," he says that just before the meeting with Nixon he had met with George Shultz, then secretary of the Treasury, and that he wanted to become Shultz's deputy secretary. But judging from Ehrlichman's notes, Bush's book doesn't tell the whole truth: the job he really wanted was one he doesn't mention at all, deputy secretary of state. Treasury was his second choice, and the RNC his third.

According to the notes, Nixon began the meeting by telling Bush he had done a good job as ambassador to the United Nations. He said he wanted a shakeup of the staff of the U.S. mission at the UN, to weed out people who were disloyal. "Our staff from now on," the notes say. Bush broke in to supply the name of one disloyal person on the staff. Nixon continued. He asked Bush to write him a "tough, political memo" for his eyes only, not Henry Kissinger's -- send it to Ehrlichman, he said, and Ehrlichman would pass it on unopened. "Gives us the names of loyalists" at the U.N., the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and also the State Department, Nixon said. "Not brains, loyalty."

Then Nixon moved on to the subject of Bush's next job. At the time, Nixon was in the process of setting up a five-member "Super Cabinet," whose purpose was to keep power in the White House, away from the executive-branch agencies, which were infested with nonloyalists. He told Bush that because Shultz would be in the Super Cabinet, the deputy's job at Treasury would be an especially important No. 2 job. But the RNC was where he really wanted Bush. Nixon said he had a "new concept" for the RNC job. Politics would be taken out of the hands of the White House staff completely, so that the RNC's chairman would be "the president's top political advisor." His job would be to build the Republican Party to a level of popularity commensurate with Nixon's vote in the 1972 election. "A higher calling than Treasury," the notes say. As a "third option," Nixon mentioned the possibility of Bush's leaving government to run for office from New York, Connecticut or Texas.

Then Bush began to talk. At this point, tantalizingly, there is a page of notes that Nixon's staff has removed from the archives. The notes pick up with Bush saying that his U.N. experience would hurt him politically in Texas, but help him in Connecticut. The RNC job, the notes have him saying, "kills Texas chance." Bush came to the point. While he had a "real interest in Treasury," he loved foreign affairs and wanted to be deputy secretary of state. "Can tiptoe between Henry Kissinger and William Rogers," the notes say.

But Nixon seems to have been completely uninterested. He mentioned one of the three undersecretary jobs at State. Bush parried by reiterating that deputy secretary of state was his first choice, the Treasury job his second and the RNC his third. The notes continue: "President: Will you let me decide?" "Bush: Stay alive, stay visible." "President: RNC high risk, high opportunity. I was 48 when defeated for president. Ray Moley {an aide to Franklin Roosevelt who later became a conservative Republican} came to my house, said greatest service -- be RNC chairman."

Now Nixon delivered the clincher: he told Bush that if he took the RNC job, he could expect a Cabinet appointment after the 1974 congressional elections, regardless of their outcome. If he went to Treasury, on the other hand, there would be "a chance for Cabinet via the deputy route but George Shultz is vigorous and could be secretary for four years." The "in clique" of the second Nixon administration, he said, would consist of Ehrlichman, Haldeman, Kissinger, Roy Ash and Bush. John Mitchell, the attorney general, would handle the unpleasant task of telling Dole to leave the RNC.

"Let me think about it," the notes have Bush saying. "I'll do what you tell me. Not all that enthralled with RNC but I'll do it."

After Bush left the room, Nixon told Ehrlichman to call him that night after dinner and say, according to the notes, "none his peers at top of White House -- only Ash." Bush took the job, of course.

The notes show that Nixon saw that the key to winning over Bush was to appeal to his ambition to keep rising in the government -- Bush was hardly a disinterested patrician being reluctantly called to national service. And why did Nixon want Bush so much? The simple answer seems to be that Bush was totally loyal. In November 1972, every high official was given a memo to read about Cabinet members' newly reduced powers and increased expectation of fealty to the president. Unlike most of his colleagues, Bush neatly checked every point and signed his initials and the date at the end. At his next meeting with Nixon and Ehrlichman, in March 1973, he told Nixon, "New York and Washington, D.C. ask the questions" about Watergate, "not Kansas City. . . . Impoundment, Watergate, Executive Privilege won't be an issue in '74. Never get questions on it."

The writer is national correspondent for The Atlantic.