Intimate conversations with President George W. Bush. Fascinating revelations of the intense period that brought conflict and drama to our country.
A Word About this Book
George Bush and I have known each other since our early teens. For decades our friendship has sustained a true sense of mutual dependence and trust. In countless occasions, we have lived each other’s triumphs and joys as well as shared sorrows, disappointment and pains.
It would take several volumes to set down the more memorable of our experiences together. Our conversations have covered countless topics and have taken place in numerous locations. They reveal George W. Bush’s complex yet straightforward mind and his unique love for his country and for humanity.
It is a pleasure and an honor to be able to bring to you, kind reader, a rare glimpse of a President whose greatness has not been totally recognized and acclaimed, and whose wit has been cherished by friend and foe alike.
La Napoule, 2008
I first met George W. Bush when he was a cheerleader at Phillips Andover Academy, the well known boarding school north of Boston. My sister, a few years older and already at Smith College, dated George a couple of times and vaguely referred to their date as more of convocation of Andover party-goers than a more conventional encounter. She introduced him as Andover’s best “acquisition”.
“You mean a sports jock?” I asked her.
“No dear. George could end up as Dean of Students or even President of the College. He can convince a frog that it is really a beautiful prince or vice versa. This is a bit unusual coming from an Andover prep!”
As a student he has been described as arrogant and mediocre. The fact that he did not make the honor roll every semester does in no way reflect his capacity for learning and developing in many instances, cerebral theories and wise elucidations. What people termed arrogance was nothing but a vague sense of aloofness derived from his fear of being compared with his famous father.
“George, I do not see why you have to disguise your mental capacity with that veneer of indifference because of the Old Man. Forget it. He is just another President!”
A Sad Farewell
I last saw George W. Bush not too long ago. We had dinner together at Ginocchio’s, that great Italian restaurant in Atlanta during one of his visits. I was glad to note that his appetite had not diminished in spite of the pressure applied to him by just about every political faction of every political party. Some were trying to get him to forget that they had ever voted for him while others were anxious to hear about those rumors of great new “deals” and appointments in the Administration.
As usual, Ginocchio’s owners, Alberto and Nella had reserved the best table and, discreetly, placed the four agents accompanying the President at a table nearby. Before we had even looked at the menu, Chan, our favorite waiter appeared with two tall Negronis and a tray with a choice of meats and cheese on small pieces of buttered panini. We raised our glasses without saying a word and proceeded to taste a perfect Negroni.
Aware of the President’s bitter disappointment with the press, I tried to provide a bit of comfort:
“George, this is not the end of the road. Have you ever noticed that life, real honest to goodness life, with murders and catastrophes and fabulous inheritances, misery and sadness is invariably reported with special resonance by the more popular newspapers?”
“Of course I have. Sensationalism is the adrenaline of the printed page. Listen, I do not want to malign the press in this or in any country, but my recent experiences remind me of some of the priceless definitions spouted by that supreme sultan of glib and spin, Spiro Agnew. Things like: ‘Journalists are an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals’. He further called journalists ‘nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club: the hopeless, hysterical, hypochondriacs of history!”
We laughed. He paused to drink some of that incomparable Negroni and then smiled satisfied as he said:
“John, don’t take what I said personally. I know you are a respected author and journalist, in addition to being a mediocre golfer, a sad lover and to compensate for any more serious deficiencies you happen to be filthy rich. If any of the professions did not have a majority of responsible and decent people like you, they would not exist.”
Knowing that I had decided to move to my island in the Mediterranean, in a large measure thanks to his generous tax policies, and knowing that it would be a long time before we met again, we proceeded to enjoy the Prosciutto e Melone, the Gnochetti di Spinacci and the Medaglione d’Agnello plus the bottle of Gattinara 1984
After coffee and a ceremonial brandy, he said:
“And do not worry about friend GW. Being an ex president does not scare me. You know, retirement in the ranch after these years in DC, is the best reward that I can expect. I look forward to sitting back and criticizing at will. Let no public figure deliver a mixed up phrase, a confusing sentence or a poorly structured commentary, that I shall make the usual mountain out of that molehill.!”
He smiled and then delivered a last Picasso:
“I liked retirement at the White House when I fought for protection of the American people and to be faced with harsh realities that are harsh as they retire and stop to save our democracy and our way of life!”
I was not surprised. George W. can find his way anywhere. I asked:
“Anything you need or wish done, just let me know, Okay?’
“Thanks. There is just one thing I want to ask you”
“What is it?’
“Would you pick up the check?”
That was the last meal I had with George W. Bush. .
As he got up off the table, causing the four agents to do likewise, he leaned toward me and with tears in his eyes said:
“A great meal can be a great event if a great friend is part of it! God bless you, John”!
Through my own, I could see the tears in his eyes.