Monday December 3, 2018
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- George H.W. Bush. We've watched, read, and heard the moving tributes to him since he left the deck of this carrier we call Earth for the final time over the weekend.
- Every story has the same basic theme: A man, born into privilege, but disappointed in losing not one, but two races for the U.S. Senate, and devastated by the loss of a toddler daughter to leukemia. A man who was married to the same woman for 73 years, and also loved his country for every day of his 93 years. A man who, for too many who did not know him, were quick to have branded him a "wimp," had been the youngest combat pilot in the U.S. Navy during World War II. A man who, if you were drawn into his orbit, treated you like a favorite niece or nephew from then on.
- George Herbert Walker Bush was known as simply "George Bush" until his son George Walker Bush was elected 43rd President of the United States.
- From that point on, George père was known as "H.W." or, at least here in Our Nation's Capital, "41" (the number of his Presidency) thus becoming the owner of the most famous number in that regard since the first George - Washington - who forever owns #1.
In the days (the late '80s) when I was the communications director of VICE PRESIDENT George Bush's political action committee the man who became known as "W" was not President, not the Governor of Texas, not yet even the managing partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team.
George W. Bush would come up to Washington with some regularity to help his dad's not-yet-announced Presidential campaign and, frankly, keep an eye on the rest of us.
He was most commonly known as "Junior" which was an incorrect, but handy title. We did not call him "Junior" to his face.
- After losing the bitter 1992 election to Gov. Bill Clinton, H.W. left a hand-written note in the Oval Office desk. A part of that letter read:
You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well."
- "Our" is underlined in the original note.
- Another example of H.W.'s grace: In his State of the Union Address, delivered on January 29, 1992, Bush said:
"But, the biggest thing that has happened in the world in my life, in our lives, is this: By the grace of God, America won the cold war."
- Scholars and historians are busily revisiting whether or not anyone "won the cold war," but that's not the point. The point is, Bush didn't say something like "My policies won the cold war" (which had a great amount of truth), nor "The cold war was won during my Administration" (which was demonstrably true). What his said was "America won the cold war."
- I was not a friend of 41. I wasn't a favorite nephew. I had a few one-on-one encounters with him, my favorite was during W's administration when 43 and I had volunteered to do a fundraiser for a Member of Congress from western Connecticut - Nancy Johnson, as I remember.
- This was a home game for President Bush as he had grown up around there, nestled hard against the Long Island Sound.
- I had given the low-dollar luncheon speech; the President was booked in for the high-dollar dinner event.
- We were hanging out and chatting when I mentioned that my son, Reed, worked for his son, George. Reed worked at the White House in the Office of Presidential Advance.
- I said that it was great to be able to dial the White House switchboard, ask for my son by name, and be patched through to him where ever he happened to be in the world.
- H.W. looked out at the Sound, his lips curling into a smile, and he said, "I do the same thing."
- Two dads talking about their sons in the warm sun of an early Autumn Connecticut afternoon.
- One of them was George Herbert Walker Bush.
- On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to a bio of George H.W. Bush, to an essay by Bill Clinton about the note 41 left for him on his last day as President, and to the 1992 State of the Union Address.
The Mullfoto is moving farewell in a Tweet from the U.S. Navy to a former Naval Aviator.
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