Wednesday, September 01, 2004

A reader sent me a story about when she went to the White House for a charity event involving children to meet privately with the President. She wrote me of the wonderful way he was with the children, pausing to talk with and hug each one. This is her description.
While at the White House, I spoke with several media types that have coordinated with both current and the previous Clinton administrations. I had a long conversation with a media guy who had also worked with the Clintons during their eight years. He was young, aggressive, Democratic, and did some work for the current administration. He said, at first, he was unrelenting in his disdain for Bush...that he was a "loyal" Democrat. But, after working with Bush on and off, for the past 4 years, he
absolutely "loved" the President and that working with the Clintons was "hell"...they were both demanding, rude, arrogant, paranoid people, who were late for everything. He said that President Bush was a "good, decent man, who respects
everyone he works with".

Another thing. This event could have been pure positive PR heaven for the President, given the nature of the organization and the people it represents. But he insisted on it remaining private with no cameras, media, wasn't even on his daily agenda. He offered himself extensively to the people involved who wished to meet him and talk with him. He continually told the Secret Service to "stand back", so we could have close access to him.

This young Democrat said that if it would have been the Clintons, they would have exploited the event, had the media all over it, refused to pose for pictures, etc., and then been a couple of hours late anyway. And, he went on to tell me, everyone who worked with President Bush on a daily basis pretty much felt the same way as he.
This is in accord with other things I've seen here and there. Apparently, Bush has visited soldiers injured in Iraq, but he has done it quietly without the press. Can you imagine Clinton doing that? It is unimaginable. And the Democrats have even bashed him for not visiting the wounded or talking to the families. It is only because some people have talked about their experiences talking with the President that we know about it. I saw the story of one man who lost a leg in Iraq and when Bush visited him, he mentioned how he wanted to undergo therapy and start jogging again when he got his artificial leg. And Bush invited him to the White House to jog with him. And Bush carried through and had him there.

I once saw a story written by a man who worked in the kitchen at some hotel where President Bush came for some dinner and event. And the man wrote that when the dinner was over, Bush came back to the kitchen and spent time thanking the help and posing for pictures and talking with them. These are the kind of gestures that are so impressive because Bush does this naturally without making a big deal out of it. And he deliberately keeps such moments private from the press. He doesn't see people as props as Clinton did. I hope that others will see that essential goodness in Bush.

UPDATE: Thanks so much to the person who gave the link in the comments section to the story about Bush with the waiters. It is from December, 2001. I'm shocked to realize that this story ran in Salon. Read it here, but here is the part that stuck in my mind.
Suddenly there was a commotion in the kitchen. I walked in and there was President Bush in his trim blue suit standing in the middle of the small room, dirty glasses and plates all around him, surrounded by the waiters and kitchen staff -- nine of us in all.

He must have walked his guests of honor out, then doubled back by himself to come into the kitchen. Agents stood in the doorway.

It was as though helium had been released into the room, something that changed the actual composition of the air and suffused it with a rarefied, electric buzz. I've met and spoken to a number of famous people, but this was different, this was being a kid again, before we learned doubt and cynicism and cold reason. Political convictions, if you had any, fell away; judgment, bias, opinion -- these were not on the guest list.

It was the heart responding, not the head.

"How are you all? Wanted to thank you for your hard work tonight."

He had a black felt tip pen in his hand and was signing menus.

...."Mr. President, can you sign this for my Christian brother Mike? And this one for my mother. My Christian mother prays for you every night." One of the older waiters was wide-eyed, standing right next to him.

"You know, I'll tell you something, this entire country is praying right now and I can feel it; I really do; I feel lucky for that."

What Bush said suddenly reminded me of something. I was nervous, but I decided to say it out loud over the noise and excitement of the room. I barely got the words out of my twitching mouth.

"There's a line from Churchill where he says, 'The nation had the lion's heart, I had the luck to give the roar.'"

Bush was standing right in front of me, and he'd heard me.

"I like that, that's a great line. I put a bust of Churchill in the Oval Office, not because of that quote -- because I didn't know it -- but because I admire the man so much, what he did."

He was signing another menu.

"But remember, after the war he lost his bid for reelection." He was smiling and laughing, and so were we. "Time for politics later, though, we've got a war to win."

What a mensch!