George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Pierce Bush

Serves: 5



What can I say about George Herbert Walker Bush, the ultimate preppie President who, when someone is in trouble says, “Oh, he’s in deep tapioca!” Just once, I’d like to hear him say it correctly. But anyway, the man is from a well-named, well-to-do family, a real blue blood related to Benedict Arnold, President Franklin Pierce, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Not forgetting Dan Quayle, Gerald Ford and, of all people, Marilyn Monroe. George Bush, even with his family background, is a self-made man who raised four sons and a daughter, who all turned out well.

Among other things, George Bush was a congressman, a businessman, director of the CIA, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, chief United States liaison in China, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and vice president of the United States before he ascended to the presidency on January 20, 1990. He was the first sitting vice president since Martin Van Buren to be elected President.

During his four years, President Bush masterminded the fall of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, invaded Panama and captured General Manuel Noriega. His most notable effort came in the Persian Gulf as commander in chief of Desert Storm.

The collapse of communism was the hallmark of his foreign policy and the most important foreign relations event since World War II. Presidents from Truman to Reagan were preoccupied with anticipating the Soviet threat. The Bush administration maneuvered brilliantly, which left the respective governments to fall of their own weight. This end of the Cold War yielded the new world order. At a summit meeting in Washington in the spring of 1990, Presidents Bush and Gorbachev agreed on the framework of a reduction in strategic arms and chemical stockpiles and to cooperate on atomic energy research. At another summit in Paris, Bush and Gorbachev and twenty other leaders of the nations that made up NATO and the Warsaw Pact signed a mutual nonaggression pledge proclaiming the end of the Cold War. Bush signed the treaty and declared we are “a new world order.” After all the negotiations, the reunification of Germany and the democratization of Eastern Europe, missile sites were dismantled and the American and Russian leaders signed the pact with pens made from the metal of the destroyed missiles.

George and Barbara Bush came to the White House with great experience on the international scene. The rigorous schedule of entertaining required at the White House was almost second nature to the President and First Lady. They both enjoyed the special state dinners held for Mikhail Gorbachev, the diplomatic corps, and the Emir of Kuwait.

George Bush was the kind of guy who would rather talk than fight, but was very capable of taking care of himself. After eight years as vice president, Bush developed a reputation as reserved and deferential. When he became President, he emerged as a tough administrator and earned the grudging respect of his long-time critics for his leadership in the Gulf War. During the crisis, Bush clung to a normal work and recreation schedule to avoid appearing to be under siege. He even went fishing with his national security advisor at Kennebunkport, Maine, his summer residence, during the emergency. This was done in the hopes it would show Saddam Hussein that he wasn’t important enough to be a concern. I liked the approach—a nice touch on the President’s part.

An emotional man, President Bush had to skip talking about the casualties of Desert Storm in a major speech because he choked up with emotion during the rehearsals and did not want to appear weak to the people of Iraq. He developed an informal diplomatic style during his tenure, building personal relationships with heads of state and world leaders, and becoming personal friends with most of them. He kept frequent telephone contact and wrote personal notes and letters to most of the world’s leaders. Being in the public spotlight for as many years as he was, President and Mrs. Bush had garnered these friendships long before entering the White House.

George Bush has often been described as warm, generous, witty, engaging, considerate, unpretentious, and unerringly polite. His friends also said he could be flighty at times. John White, an old friend and former Democratic national chairman said, “George has always been like popcorn on a hot griddle.”

In praising George Bush, President Ronald Reagan said, “George Bush is a man of action, a man accustomed to command. The vice presidency doesn’t fit easily on such a man, but George is a patriot, and so he made it fit and served with distinction like no one has ever done before.”

Sheik Jaber Al-Ahmed Al Sabah, Emir of Kuwait, said, “His principled, courageous, and decisive position in the face of Iraq’s aggression on Kuwait is a true expression of the unabated faith and commitment of the American people to the humanitarian morals for which the United States of America was founded.”

Some people, such as Robert Strauss said, “George is a damn good guy, but he doesn’t come through well. It’s a case of choking. It takes eleven hours to get George ready for an off-the-cuff remark.”

Jim Hightower, the agriculture commissioner of Texas, once said, “If oil ever reaches $40 a barrel, I want the drilling rights on George Bush’s head.”

But Ross Perot said, “All you can hear from Bush is Lawrence Welk music, wonnerful, wonnerful, wonnerful, and we’re spending $400 billion of your children’s money this year to try to get you to vote for us again.”

Bush said of himself, “I am a Conservative, but I am not a nut about it.” He said, “I don’t feel the compulsion to be the glamorous one-shot, smart comment kind of guy and I think experience, steadiness, and knowing how to interact with people is a way to get things done.”

During a meeting of world leaders in London in 1991, President Bush tried hard not to let it bother him that Mikhail Gorbachev was getting the lion’s share of attention. One night, however, his ego got the best of him.

At the queen’s dinner for all the world leaders who attended the London summit, the wife of one of the foreign ministers came up to the president and greeted him warmly, “Oh, Geoffrey,” she cooed, “It’s so nice to see you.”

Bush stiffly responded, “Madam, I’m George Bush, President of the United States.”

The woman, without batting an eye, sniffed, “Well, you look a lot like Geoffrey.”

Once, according to former President Gerald Ford, George Bush was in the Middle East and during a sight-seeing tour asked his guide, “How dead is the Dead Sea?”

The guide answered, “Very!”

Bush was amused and not offended by Dana Carvey, the comedian on Saturday Night Live who did satirical imitations of him. President Bush often invited Carvey to the White House and the two became good friends. On one such visit, the two of them stood in front of the fireplace in the Oval Office and talked at the same time with Carvey doing Bush and Bush doing himself. The President doubled over in laughter as Carvey suddenly began chopping the air with one hand and imitating the way the President defended vice president Dan Quayle against criticism.

“Daaaan Quaaaayle is getting stronger, learning ev-er-y daaaay.”

George Bush was a created Texan. But that’s okay, because most of the men who died at the Alamo were from somewhere else. Bush learned very early on, though, that Texans do not use “summer” as a verb or wear blue ties with little green whales on them nor do they call trouble “do-do”.

“We are not setting the standards here,” remarked Molly Ivans of the Dallas Times Herald, “but here they are.”

Amused by George Bush, Russell Baker of The New York Times said, “Bush’s efforts to present himself as old-shoe George made him look like an Ivy League hayseed. Who is he really?

“He is George Bush, Yankee son of rich and elegant investment banker, Prescott Bush, who became a senator from Connecticut. He is George Bush of Andover and Yale. He is George Bush who knows what a debutante ball is and doesn’t know that Iowa farmers don’t. He is the top drawer, upper crust, one of the snobs. He summers in Maine and knows about sailing. He says ‘golly’ and ‘gee’ and ‘gosh’ and maybe even ‘damn’ and ‘heck’, mostly ‘darn’ and ‘heck’ and says them naturally because he was brought up that way to believe that gentlemen don’t use vile language. That’s George Bush!”

Barbara Bush is probably the best match for this man. She is a wonderful lady who never let any grass grow under her feet. A mother, grandmother, and wife, Barbara Bush is the true power of the Bush family. She never tried to be an equal to the President or to advise her husband unless asked. She was her family’s main support system who took on the responsibilities of First Lady with grace and charm that has not been in the White House since Edith Roosevelt. Barbara Bush, however, truly had a wicked wit and once in New Hampshire, during a primary campaign, her husband was asked about his stand on abortion. The woman who asked the question also added her own two cents.

Mrs. Bush turned to a friend and whispered, “There’s a B.S. question.”

On the podium, George Bush struggled with the answer and tried very hard not to offend anyone.

Barbara Bush leaned over to her friend again and said, “And that’s a B.S. answer.”

Like Edith Roosevelt, Mrs. Bush has always been an impeccable hostess who enjoyed her job. She especially liked her husband’s tour as UN ambassador, where entertaining and diplomacy were closely intertwined. “I’d pay to have this job,” she once told a reporter.

She even learned Chinese at the age of 50 so she could communicate with her hosts when she lived in Beijing.

All the diplomacy and entertaining was just a warm-up for the White House years. As the vice president’s wife, she hosted 1,192 events at the vice presidential mansion and attended 1,132 events as a guest. She traveled 1,330,000 miles with her husband to 68 countries and 4 territories, which is an equivalent of 54 times around the world. Before she even moved into the White House, she had met every political leader in the world.

After the president’s defeat to Bill Clinton, Mrs. Bush said, “I didn’t like it, but having said that, I think I’ll put it behind me. It’s not my style to brood over the past, especially when the future is full of good things.”

Mrs. Bush moved back to Houston with her husband and immediately picked up with her old friends after 20 years, without missing a beat. Both she and Mr. Bush have yet to say no to volunteerism and to boards and charities. It’s part of their continuing commitment to the One Thousand Points of Light, Bush’s famous call for the help necessary to improve life in America.

I have never met Barbara Bush, but I must say it would indeed be a privilege. She seems to be the type of person everyone would want as a personal friend.

President Bush is not known for his epicurean prowess. He fishes, but does not particularly like seafood (he often releases his catch or gives it to his Secret Service detail). He prefers Mexican and Chinese food and likes to snack on pork rinds doused with Tabasco® sauce.

He barred broccoli from Air Force One menus saying, “I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. Now I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more damn broccoli!”

His favorite way to spend an evening is a long lingering dinner with friends at a restaurant. He likes to sip an occasional beer or vodka martini. Some of the Bush family’s favorite recipes follow.

This George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Pierce Bush recipe is from the Secrets from the White House Kitchens Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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