Excerpts from an upcoming memoir show former President George H.W. Bush’s transition from head of state to concerned father for another president, George W. Bush.
“I see some of his most nasty critics trying to shoot down my beloved son – shoot him down by mean spirited attacks,” the elder Bush wrote in 2005, before alluding to an encounter with Japanese fighter pilots 61 years earlier. “I was a scared kid back then. Now I am just an angry old man hurting for my son.”
CNN published the excerpts on Monday after getting an advance copy of the elder Bush’s memoir. The book, “All the Best, George Bush; My Life in Letters and Other Writings,” traces the twilight of the 41st president’s political life through correspondence with other political figures and journalist Hugh Sidey, a long-time friend.
After his son won the presidency in 2000, Bush wrote to Sidey that he preferred being called “#41″ to avoid confusion between himself and his namesake.
“Adjusting will take time but it will not be difficult at all,” Bush said in the letter. “It is funny after all these years to have to get a new name; but, hey, what does it matter if your boy is President of the United States of America so help me God.”
Besides confiding in Sidey his happiness and “amazement” at the realization his son had won the presidency, Bush recounted a brief conversation with former Vice President Al Gore, who lost that election following a Supreme Court ruling in December of 2000.
“I knew he must be hurting,” Bush said of Gore, who served under the man who defeated Bush in 1992, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. “He was very gracious. The conversation was over in a flash, but I suddenly felt quite different about Al Gore. The anger was gone, the competitive juices stopped flowing. I thought back to my own feelings of years before when I lost, when I had to go out and accept my defeat. He did it better than I did, and his ordeal had to be tougher because the election was so close.”
As happy as he was to close his political career, though, Bush told Sidey he felt the sting of criticism toward the 43rd president in the wake of the failed government response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“My heart went out to him,” Bush said in another letter. “Here is a guy who cares deeply. Who wants every possible resource of the Federal Government brought in to bear to help people, yet he is being roundly accused of not giving a damn.”
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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