My Favorite Memories of President George W. Bush

The George W. Bush Library and Museum opens this week in Dallas and many  already have written about our 43rd president and his legacy. As commentators  and historians hash over the big decisions, successes and mistakes over those  eight years, here’s my personal take on what President Bush means to me.

Dana and President Bush in the West Wing of the White House.

On election night 2000, I had never met then-Governor Bush, though I’d  supported him for years. I believed he would be a strong, optimistic and  gracious president with solid conservative principles and a big heart.

When I got a call to volunteer on the campaign in early 2000, I had to turn  it down due to a new job and a new life we were trying to start in San Diego.  When I hung up the phone, I cried, “Now I’ll never get to work for George Bush. “

Then the 9/11 attacks changed everything for everyone. I moved back to D.C.  and worked for the Bush administration from the fall of 2001 until the last day  on January 20, 2009. Over those years, President Bush became a friend and a  leader who made me strive to be a better person and citizen.

Here are some of my favorite memories:

• One night when I first took the deputy press secretary job, I went with him  on Marine One to an event in rural Virginia for the Boy Scouts Jamboree. Weather  had kept us from going for two days, but on the third night, we made it out  before another storm rolled in. On the way home he insisted on sharing his  peanut butter and honey sandwiches with me and the chief-of-staff, Andy Card.  The sun had started setting as we left to return to the White House and we  talked just like friends do – he asked me all about my family, travels, pets and  goals. I remember every moment of that night – including the orange and pink  sunset that lasted the whole flight.

• Another time he howled when I told him how my mom had asked me about my  first week at the White House, and how I’d told her all about how great it was  and how Karl Rove had been so nice and helpful to me, and how he was just so  smart and how happy I was to be at the White House….when I broke to take a  breath my mom said, “Who the hell is Karl Rove?”

• Every week he held a secure video conference either with Iraqi Prime  Minister Maliki or Afghan President Karzai, and I learned from his strong but  gentle guidance of them – always respectful, firm, encouraging and  non-condescending. I noted that even behind closed doors, President Bush  strongly, ably and graciously defended America.

• He used to catch my eye during policy meetings and tip me a wink with a  little smile as we had noticed when Vice President Cheney had been “resting his  eyes.” Then we’d share a laugh realizing once again that it was clear the VP had  heard every word.

• President Bush treated my dad like the king of England when he came for a  state dinner – as if his eight years in the White House never would have been  complete if Leo Perino hadn’t come for a visit.

• He insisted we turn the other cheek and focus on the issue, never the  personal. With forgiveness came humility – not gloating and allowing others to  bask in a political win. I felt like we never got to dance in the end zone, but  that that was the right thing to do.

• He got to know his staff and how they did their best work – some needed  chiding, others needed to be pushed, but I needed reassurance. When he’d call me  to the Oval Office, he’d say, “And tell her there’s nothing wrong.”

• He also knew I liked to be told I was right. One day after a press  conference, I said that while I thought it’d gone well, that one thing he said  would be taken out of context and be the headline. He disagreed. A few hours  later, I got a call in my office from the residence. It was the president. He  said, “Hey, just wanted to call and tell you that you were right.” I said, “Excuse me, sir, could you repeat that?” He did. And we laughed.

Mrs. Barbara Bush once told one of my Minute Mentoring events that when she  talked to her son about me and to me about her son that “Loyalty goes both  ways.” Indeed.

I believe that leaders should inspire you to be more like them. President  Bush set a high bar and I thank him for the opportunity he gave me. He was a  good president and is a good friend.

 

Comments

  1. Susan Roberts says:

    Dana- This brings tears to my eyes. Your words are heartfelt. Susan

  2. Debra Dennis says:

    I have enjoyed watching you on The Five, and was especially happy to hear that you would be doing the 43rd interview. What a gracious, wonderful man President Bush is. I loved hearing what he has been up to lately, and just being exposed to his wonderful words of wisdom. I especially loved his advice on forgiveness. I am so glad that you were blessed to work with him. Thank you for being so loyal to him, and don’t let that Greg push you on The Five. I really love that show, by the way!:-)

  3. Hi Dana – I enjoyed your story about your mom and Karl Rove. That reminds me of the time that my mom came onboard the USS IOWA (BB 61) for a Change of Command and Decommissioning Ceremony. I was a First Class Yeoman at the time working in the Captain’s Office and on the morning of the ceremony, I was in my office, finalizing a few last minute details. While I worked, the CO and XO walked in and introduced themselves to my mother, who was sitting there, watching me work. After a while, they left and my mom turned to me and said, “Those were such nice men, who were they again?”

    The skipper and XO roared after I told them what my mother said.

    Thanks for all your hard work in supporting our troops. Keep charging!

    v/r,

    John W. Quinn
    Senior Chief Petty Officer, USN, Retired
    Author, Someone Like Me – An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph Over Cerebral Palsy

  4. Jay Branson says:

    It is really nice to sit and read your comments on former President Bush. Regardless of how the media and some forms of the public viewed him, I always knew he was a good President, person, and has a true heart. You speak of him like a daughter does a father and it is endearing to hear. I had the great opportunity to meet his Father President George HW Bush once, and I knew then how gentle these people really were. Thanks for doing your part and getting it to the world about the real President Bush and what he meant to you.

  5. andy olson says:

    Dana,
    saw the rebroadcast of W last night. Just for the record, I am, was ,and will continue to be a proud 30 percenter.
    Party on,
    Andy

  6. I absolutely loved this interview! Dana, you are such a good soul and I can tell how much you love President Bush every time you speak of him because you’re so respectful to him. I’ve always loved and respected him and one story I can share is from Thanksgiving Day in 2003 when he surprised the troops in Iraq. I’ll never forget watching my Dad crying with joy at seeing the President show up there because his son and my brother Danny was at that base and it just made my Dad so happy to know that the President was there when Danny was over there serving our country and couldn’t be home be the holiday for the first time in his life. It was a moment I’ll never forget and brings tears to my eyes every time I think of it. You’re such a special lady and your introspective views on President Bush are so wonderful because I know from listening to you what a truly great man that he is. Thank you for doing this interview with him. I’ll cherish it always!

  7. Pat Stewart says:

    Dana, I recorded your interview with President Bush and was so proud of him and of you. I am a Tennessean by birth, but have lived in Texas for 50 plus years. I am a dyed-in-the-wool Republican and get so angry when folks demonize President Bush. I actually met him when he was running for Governor of Texas the first time. When I told him I was so honored to meet him, he said, “I don’t know why.” That’s so typical of his humility. Thanks for standing up for him and giving us your first hand experiences.

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