Note left by Ge­orge H.W. Bush to Bill Clin­ton is an ar­ti­fact of po­lit­i­cal hu­mil­ity

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY ALEX HOR­TON

Ge­orge H.W. Bush felt the sting of win­ter cold in his last walk on the White House grounds as com­man­der in chief, the stroll punc­tu­ated by the barks from Ranger, the puppy of first dog Mil­lie Bush.

The world’s at­ten­tion was fo­cused on the steps of the Capi­tol, where Bill Clin­ton would as­sume the pres­i­dency. But Bush, who died Fri­day at 94, was tak­ing in the last mo­ments of his one and only term.

He sat in the Oval Of­fice, the Res­o­lute Desk stripped clean of doc­u­ments and pho­tos, Bush wrote in his mem­oir “All the Best, Ge­orge Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writ­ings.”

Bush placed a sin­gle let­ter there, dated Jan. 20, 1993:

Dear Bill,

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.

I wish you great hap­pi­ness here. 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. 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

The let­ter was one of the more fa­mous dis­patches by Bush, who has hand­writ­ten cor­re­spon­dences since his time as a Naval avi­a­tor in World War II.

Af­ter Bush’s death, the let­ter to Clin­ton made rounds on so­cial me­dia, with many struck by its tone of hu­mil­ity and ci­vil­ity that many be­lieve has all but va­por­ized in Wash­ing­ton. “Al­though Mr. Bush served as pres­i­dent three decades ago, his val­ues and ethic seem cen­turies re­moved from to­day’s acrid po­lit­i­cal cul­ture,” The Post’s Karen Tumulty wrote. “His cur­rency of per­sonal con­nec­tion was the hand­writ­ten let­ter – not the so­cial me­dia blast.”

The note left an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion on Bill Clin­ton, who did the same for his suc­ces­sor – Bush’s son, Ge­orge W. Bush.

“I thought about the note to Pres­i­dent Bush I would write and leave be­hind in the Oval Of­fice,” Clin­ton wrote in “My Life,” a mem­oir. “I wanted to be gra­cious and en­cour­ag­ing, as Ge­orge Bush had been to me.”

On Satur­day, af­ter Bush’s death, Clin­ton re­flected on his pre­de­ces­sor’s note in an op-ed for The Post.

“No words of mine or oth­ers can bet­ter re­veal the heart of who he was than those he wrote him­self,” Clin­ton said.

Letters to in­com­ing pres­i­dents have be­come tra­di­tion. Ge­orge W. Bush would also write a let­ter to Barack Obama, and in turn, Obama wrote a let­ter to Don­ald Trump. But for many who shared the note, it’s the dig­nity and hope for Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s let­ter that is so strik­ingly anachro­nis­tic in 2018.

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