George H.W. Bush, in my mind, was an underrated President. I thought that, as Republicans go, he was actually pretty good. He was a skilled diplomat, well acquainted with the dual arts of negotiation and compromise. When building the global coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait in 1991, his fellow heads of state were in awe of his abilities. And, not to mention, he was nice. His ‘Kinder, Gentler America’ speech in 1989 did a lot to set a new tone, moving away from some of the more strident rhetoric that was employed during the Reagan years. And, I’ve always felt that Bill Clinton has gotten too much of the credit for balancing the budget. It was President Bush that did much of the heavy lifting that benefited Clinton’s budgets in the early 1990s. So, despite the fact that he was a one termer, I still think the man’s presidency was a resounding success.
Today, Brad Meltzer went public with a copy of the note that Bush left for Clinton in the Oval Office in 1993. Meltzer is writing a book, and Bush sent a copy of it to him for material. The note is as follows:
January 20, 1993
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 –
There’s a part of me that wonders about President Bush’s timing and the release of this note. Right on the heels of the shooting in Arizona, with the topic of the day being tone and rhetoric, I can’t help but suspect that this might be the gesture and example of an ex-President telling us all to calm down and relax. It costs nothing, I think he’s saying, to be nice. And in this day and age, I find the tone that he employed refreshing. It’s hard to imagine someone using that same tone nowadays, but here’s for hoping.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that I’m reading more into the timing of this than is actually present, and that President Bush just coincidentally released it this week, of all weeks. But I don’t think that’s the case.