A long his­tory in South Florida

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By An­thony Man

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, who died Fri­day, had a decades-long re­la­tion­ship with South Florida that be­gan long be­fore his climb to­ward the pres­i­dency.

It be­gan in 1943, when the young en­sign trained at what was then the Fort Laud­erdale Naval Air Sta­tion — now Fort Laud­erdale-Hol­ly­wood In­ter­na­tional Air­port — and went on to be­come the Navy’s youngest pi­lot. As vice pres­i­dent, Bush stopped nearby, hold­ing a 1981 busi­ness round­table at the iconic Lester’s Diner on State Road 84.

Later, as pres­i­dent-elect in 1988, the first place he vis­ited af­ter the elec­tion for a brief va­ca­tion was the ocean­front town of Gulf Stream in Palm Beach County. Though the na­tion was treated to pic­tures of Bush fish­ing, he re­port­edly didn’t catch any­thing.

And as a for­mer pres­i­dent, he and his wife, Bar­bara, vis­ited with stu­dents at Del­ray Beach’s Morikami Park El­e­men­tary School in

2004, one of many stops in the area over the years.

Bar­bara Bush died April

17. Her hus­band died seven months later at his home in Houston.

The for­mer pres­i­dent was drawn to South Florida for many rea­sons, said Kevin Fo­ley, a devel­oper who used to live in Palm Beach Gar­dens. Bush’s mother, brother and un­cle had homes on Jupiter Is­land, and many of his friends, school­mates and peo­ple he’d met in pub­lic ser­vice also spend time in the area, Fo­ley said.

South Florida, in re­turn, was of­ten — though not al­ways — kind to the man who be­came the na­tion’s 41st pres­i­dent.

Del­ray Beach is home to Ge­orge Bush Boule­vard and a bridge over the In­tra­coastal Wa­ter­way named af­ter him. In 1988, the year Bush de­feated Demo­crat Michael Dukakis for the pres­i­dency, Bush won Broward, Palm Beach and Dade coun­ties.

But by 1992, voter sen­ti­ment shifted and Demo­crat Bill Clin­ton won the three South Florida coun­ties on his way to the White House.

Aside from the for­mer pres­i­dent’s son, for­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the South Florida politi­cian who may have known him best was for­mer U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, a Repub­li­can who rep­re­sented Broward and Palm Beach coun­ties. Shaw be­gan his 26-year con­gres­sional ca­reer in 1980, in the same elec­tion in which Bush was elected vice pres­i­dent.

Shaw met Bush ear­lier in the cam­paign — when he sup­ported Bush for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion over Ron­ald Rea­gan, the man who ul­ti­mately pre­vailed and be­came pres­i­dent.

A long friend­ship en­sued. “Some peo­ple you just click with,” Shaw said in an in­ter­view be­fore he died in 2013.

When Bush was pres­i­dent, Shaw and his wife, Em­i­lie, some­times joined Ge­orge and Bar­bara Bush in the pri­vate res­i­den­tial quar­ters at the White House for take­out Chi­nese food. Other times it was movies. And Em­i­lie Shaw oc­ca­sion­ally played ten­nis at the White House with Bar­bara Bush.

When Hur­ri­cane An­drew struck in 1992, Shaw tele­phoned the pres­i­dent and told him he needed to get down to Dade County to see the de­struc­tion.

For­mer U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw

“He’s prob­a­bly the only man who’s even been pres­i­dent who it didn’t go to his head. He was the same old Ge­orge through and through,” Shaw said. “There wasn’t an ar­ro­gant bone in his body. Just the same Ge­orge Bush that was there be­fore he went to the White House. That is all too rare in Wash­ing­ton [where] … it seems the higher peo­ple go, the more ar­ro­gant and stand­off­ish they get and full of them­selves they get. But that never hap­pened to Ge­orge Bush. Not for a minute. Not ever.”

Fo­ley, who re­lo­cated to Martin County, got to know Bush while work­ing as a Rea­gan staffer in the 1980 cam­paign. He later worked on sched­ul­ing and ad­vance work on trips for Rea­gan, Bush and Bush’s vice pres­i­dent, Dan Quayle, na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. He was with the pres­i­dent-elect on that 1988 trip to Gulf Stream and many other vis­its to the area.

“I don’t think it comes through the me­dia how good and gen­er­ous all of them are and were,” Fo­ley said. He said he most re­mem­bers Bush for “his kind­ness. He was a de­cent, de­cent man.”

For­mer Broward County Com­mis­sioner Ed Kennedy also backed Bush over Rea­gan in 1980. He most re­mem­bers Bush’s de­meanor. “He was very pres­i­den­tial. He was not nasty. He was the gen­tle­man politi­cian, which you don’t find too of­ten,” Kennedy said in an in­ter­view be­fore he died in 2018.

As time passes since Bush’s pres­i­dency, Kennedy said Bush “more and more has the stature of a pres­i­dent.”

Long­time sup­port­ers saw Bush as the last pres­i­dent be­fore the cur­rent era of in­tense, slash-and-burn pol­i­tics in which many peo­ple in the op­po­site party ex­hibit a con­stant, vis­ceral ha­tred for the oc­cu­pant of the Oval Of­fice.

Shaw said he ad­mired Bush as some­one who was will­ing to work with all sides to get some­thing done — even when it was po­lit­i­cally per­ilous, as when the pres­i­dent agreed to a deal that in­cluded higher taxes de­spite a cam­paign prom­ise not to raise taxes.

“It got him in trou­ble [with the con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can base]. He was will­ing to com­pro­mise on some of th­ese is­sues, which was even­tu­ally his un­do­ing. But it shows his abil­ity to lis­ten and make law,” Shaw said. “You can spend you’re whole life say­ing no. But Ge­orge Bush wasn’t that way. He was a good lis­tener. And he worked hard to un­der­stand the other side and we did some good things back then.”

And Bush remembered, and was loyal to, his friends, Shaw said. Though he hadn’t seen the for­mer pres­i­dent in a while, Bush sent him a warm note when he lost his 2006 re-elec­tion cam­paign.

“He loved be­ing the pres­i­dent,” Shaw said. “And he’ll go down as one of the great pres­i­dents.”

“He’s prob­a­bly the only man who’s even been pres­i­dent who it didn’t go to his head. He was the same old Ge­orge through and through.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.