By Steve Fisher
BOOKS ON UNITED States presidents are
not unique. But what is rare about 41: A
Portrait of My Father is that it was written
with a very unusual perspective. For only the
second time in our 238-year history, a son followed in his father’s footsteps to ascend to the
presidency. That was George W. Bush, the 43rd
president of the United States, and in his new
book he writes about his father, George
Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president, in a
heartfelt, intimate and illuminating portrait,
and the impact he had on him as a man and in
his own presidency.
The Connection was able to correspond
with the younger Bush via email about his
book, his father and more.
The Costco Connection: What was
your dad’s reaction when he first heard about
George W. Bush: I told Dad about the
book and he just kind of smiled. He knows that
it’s going to be a love story because he knows
how much we all love him. When I gave him the
manuscript, he looked at some of it. He’s comfortable in the fact that people are
beginning to look at him differently,
and this book of course will help do that.
He was a fabulous father. He was
never one to lecture or try to impose
his will. He was always there with good advice,
and of course he set high standards—no lying,
cheating or stealing; do unto others as you
would have them do unto you; always think
about the other fellow; and share credit.
My dad had a lot of achievements throughout his life. Obviously the most notable was
being elected to the presidency. He was able to
skillfully bring the Cold War to a peaceful
conclusion; he liberated Kuwait from Saddam
Hussein’s invasion. He led with strength and
he led with compassion.
CC: What was your father’s role when you
were running for the presidency?
GWB: My dad helped me a lot in the run-
up to the presidency because he taught me
that you can go into public ser-
vice without compromising that
which is most important: your
faith and your family. When I
was president, the best help he
gave was to let me know how
much he loved me. The pressure
is enormous when you’re presi-
dent, and there’s nothing better than getting a
calming phone call from somebody you
CC: How have politics in general changed
from your father’s term in office to now?
GWB: Politics seems to be a lot meaner
today than it was when Dad was president.
The president is always going to get criticized,
and there’s always partisanship, but in this day
and age, it seems as if the words are harsher.
Perhaps it is because of social media and the
anonymity people can gain online.
We all take our lumps when we’re president
of the United States. It seems as if the unwillingness to work together is more pronounced today
than it was when he was president.
CC: How do you explain the Bush-Clinton
GWB: The Bush-Clinton friendship is a
unique friendship that was started when I asked
Dad and President Clinton, former rivals, to
raise private funds for tsunami relief. The friendship has flourished for two reasons: one, Bill
Clinton is so thoughtful to my dad, and two, my
dad likes Bill a lot and, in some ways, is like a
father figure to Bill. The odd couple’s friendship
is an important part of the book.
CC: How has it been being out of office?
GWB: Being out of office has been a fascinating experience. One goes from 100 miles
per hour to about 5 overnight. For me, I was
able to deal with the change of pace by writing
my earlier book, Decision Points [Crown
Publishing, 2010]; by exercising; and by helping
build the George W. Bush Presidential Center
on the campus of SMU [Southern Methodist
University] in Dallas. [My wife] Laura and I
love being involved with our institute there,
where we can continue to work on a lot of the
issues that guided our public service, with a
focus on expanding freedom.
Finally, I have become an oil painter. I’ve
spent a lot of time painting—I’m enthralled with
art at this late stage in my life, and I’m trying to
get as proficient as I possibly can as a painter.
CC: What would you say to anyone with
ambitions to run for president?
GWB: My advice to people with ambitions to run for president is: If
you’re in a position to do so,
don’t fear failure (or fear success), but run. Give it a shot.
The job is an exciting job, it’s a
fulfilling job and it’s a hard
job—but if you have a vision, a
set of principles you’re willing
to defend and the experience
necessary to be the president,
my advice is to run. It was the
highest honor of my life to serve
as your president. C
George W. Bush writes about
George Herbert Walker Bush
arts & entertainment
The Costco Connection
41: A Portrait of My Father (Item #920553) will
be available 11/11 at all Costco warehouses.