From Bush to Clin­ton: a grace note for the ages

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - CALVIN WOOD­WARD

WASH­ING­TON — It was a grace note for the ages.

“Dear Bill,” Ge­orge H.W. Bush scrib­bled Jan. 20, 1993, to the Demo­crat about to suc­ceed him as pres­i­dent. “When I walked into this of­fice just now I felt the same sense of won­der and re­spect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.”

Short yet in­ti­mate, the note left in the Oval Of­fice from van­quished to vic­tor seeded a friend­ship that flow­ered in the decades since, to a point where Bill Clin­ton said upon Bush’s death Fri­day: “I just loved him.”

Hil­lary Clin­ton says the let­ter made her cry, when she first read it back then and again when she heard Bush was gone. “That’s the Amer­ica we love,” she said on In­sta­gram. “That is what we cher­ish and ex­pect.”

It is tra­di­tional for an out­go­ing pres­i­dent to leave a let­ter for his suc­ces­sor. Barack Obama’s to Don­ald Trump of­fered con­grat­u­la­tions on “a re­mark­able run” and checked off ver­i­ties of Amer­i­can lead­er­ship — ad­vice to “build more lad­ders of suc­cess,” “sus­tain the in­ter­na­tional or­der,” yet take time for fam­ily. It was as guarded as when they awk­wardly posed for pho­tos to­gether and shook hands.

Bush, who months be­fore writ­ing his let­ter had warned vot­ers to “watch your wal­let” with that Demo­crat Clin­ton, was self-ef­fac­ing and per­sonal in his hand-off.

“I wish you great hap­pi­ness here,” he wrote. “I never felt the lone­li­ness some Pres­i­dents have de­scribed. There will be very tough times, made even more dif­fi­cult by crit­i­cism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give ad­vice; but just don’t let the crit­ics dis­cour­age you or push you off course.

“You will be our Pres­i­dent when you read this note,” he con­tin­ued (un­der­lin­ing “our”). “I wish you well. I wish your fam­ily well.

“Your suc­cess now is our coun­try’s suc­cess. I am root­ing hard for you.

“Good Luck — Ge­orge”

Writ­ing in The Wash­ing­ton Post on Satur­day, Bill Clin­ton said those words showed a man with “nat­u­ral hu­man­ity.”

Clin­ton said the two men had a re­spect­ful friend­ship dur­ing his own pres­i­dency, but it was af­ter that they truly got to know each other, when Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush asked his fa­ther and Clin­ton to be in­volved in U.S. re­lief ef­forts for the 2004 In­dian Ocean tsunami dis­as­ter and hur­ri­cane Ka­rina in 2005. They trav­elled to­gether far and wide in their ef­forts.

“His friend­ship has been one of the great gifts of my life,” Clin­ton said. “I cher­ished ev­ery op­por­tu­nity I had to learn and laugh with him.”

They were 22 years apart — Clin­ton, 72, Bush, 94.

In June, Clin­ton vis­ited Bush in Ken­neb­unkport, Maine, and a photo posted on Twit­ter shows the 41st and 42nd pres­i­dents to­gether as Bush dis­plays a pair of “Bill Clin­ton socks” from his colour­ful sock col­lec­tion.

Af­fec­tion be­tween pres­i­dents, across to­day’s toxic po­lit­i­cal di­vide, has ex­tended be­yond Clin­ton and the elder Bush. The Clin­tons and the Oba­mas both be­came friendly with the Bush fam­ily and at­tended Bar­bara Bush’s fu­neral in April. Trump did not, though first lady Me­la­nia Trump did.

Trump had mocked two gen­er­a­tions of the Bush fam­ily in his po­lit­i­cal rise, crit­i­ciz­ing fa­ther and son pres­i­dents while de­feat­ing the other son, “low en­ergy” Jeb Bush, for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion.

The elder Bush called Trump a “blowhard” and voted for Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016.

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