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tv   The Presidency George H.W. Bushs Former Aides  CSPAN  April 20, 2019 3:05pm-3:49pm EDT

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and see our programs. that is c-span.org/history. >> next on the presidency, three of george h w bush's former aides discuss their time with him. the george w. bush presidential center hosted this 40 minute event. >> when it comes to president bush 41, there is no greater treasure trove of story then in addition to secretary baker, which was a real treasure, the former aides to president bush. tom had a long run as president bush's aide from 2000 to 2007, which included a number of disaster relief initiatives from around the world. today he is the managing director at avenue capital. moderating tonight is the director of a leadership program here at the bush institute. she is qualified
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because she served as personal aide to laura bush in the white house from 2003 to 2009. please welcome our panel to the stage. [applause] >> this is going to be fun. we all know the bush's have a great
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sense of humor, so we should start right there following those hilarious videos. >> humor was a critical part of the presidency under mr. bush. secretary baker referred to the national security team. at some point, president bush created the scope croft award to honor those people who fell asleep in meetings with the president. [laughter] the general himself was national security advisor to president bush. he was burning the candle at both ends and had a knack of falling asleep himself. that is where the name came from. they would judge and secretary gates was part of the ranking committee for this. they would judge award winners i how long they slept, the quality of the sleep, did they snore, extra points for snoring, and the recovery. did you knock over
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something as you woke up? did you rejoin the conversation? [laughter] it became quite an honor. >> you said ranking committee. i think you have a story. >> i do. i should introduce my introductory piece to george h w bush humor. i had just come on board and i got cold down, i need to talk to you, schedule, something like that, so i'm very nervous. i have my notepad. as i sit there, the president had just received an electronic version of a will because should. -- version of a whoopy cushion. here i am and the button gets pushed. my face is completely red. i'm glued to the
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paper. there must be a grand finale on this thing, because it went off and two secret service agents who were in on the joke came in and that was my introduction to -- [laughter] it worked out pretty well. the ranking committee, and the family would talk about it more, if they ever had competitions for horseshoe or other games, people complained, 41 a fast pass through. the ranking, don't worry about that. the ranking committee. he eventually transform that into judging of jokes. he would get a lot of emails and he would rank them. that was a five, i want to see better next time. i'm not sure i ever got above a six and i
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thought i had some good ones. he unveiled -- people complained, we want to know what this committee is. we try to find a photo. we could not. president bush was tired of asking, who makes up this committee? so he had five people, and he super glued his head on top of their bodies and that was the committee. there was. [laughter] >> was the ranking committee around in 1978? >> the ranking committee was around. it was. i was involved in the first presidential campaign of 1980 and secretary baker was our campaign manager. he ran a tight ship. a very tight ship financially. a lot of 1979, we flew commercial. we flew in coach. all most all the time. i remember we would be getting on the plane and he would say, don't linger here. we are in steerage. i also remember
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we would see on the campaign trail, particularly later in 1979, we would cross paths with other presidential candidate and we would see a falcon jet parked at an airport and it was john conley, his campaign had rented it. we were flying coach, commercial, or if we were flying out small airports, we might have a twin engine prepare load -- twin engine propeller plane. as we were driving near the jet with governor conley, he would say, charlie, fire up the falcon for us. [laughter] so many comments like that that i remember so well. it was always funny to see president bush, he would give the speeches when he would refer to as white-collar crime, he
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would give these a speeches and they would involve a reception line at dinner after. people would come up and say, i did not know he was so funny. i think it showed how much respect he had for the office that his public persona was one which was always in regards to the right thing for the office. when you got to know him, his sense of humor was a key component to who he was. he was one of the funniest people out there. >> does anyone even know what a personal aide is? we need to address that first. >> i served as missus bush's personal aide from 2000 eight to 2009. we were fortunate to serve next to top-notch white house staff, including our great chiefs of staff. we were chiefs of staff. that's what personal aides do. they manage stuff. i
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was fortunate to do that and witness firsthand missus bush's brilliance and her sense of humor. rallies, rope lines, hospitals, war zones, carrying a 40 pound bag of stuff. i had cards we would hand out to children. sharpies, altoid it's, -- deltoids -- altoids, purell. what was in your bag? >> that was pre-internet and cell phone. whenever we landed somewhere, i would have to run and get on a phone, check with the office, make sure if there were any changes to the schedule. i remember at the end
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of each day in a hotel room, i emptied my pockets of business cards and notes and i'd have to try to make sense of it before the next morning. there were other aspects very similar to what all of you did. trying to keep the candidate on time, helping with thank you's after-the-fact, which are very important for him always. usually with him, he loved people, so usually your difficulty was trying to get out of a meeting. there were occasions when he was ready to go and he just felt like he had done enough, or somebody had been bending his ear too much. he was ready to go. if i did not pick up on it, he -- we had a
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signal. he would say how are we doing on time, david? i would say, sir, we need to get going. [laughter] that is all part of being personally -- personal aide. >> we have a summer lad with us. >> i grew up in maine, where the bushes go for the summer. president and missus bush used to have guys come out and help with everything. one day you were helping with aaron's or mrs. bush needed some finishing on her garden. you need to go pick somebody up at the airport. future vice president dick cheney or condoleezza rice. some famous person you were going to pick up at the airport. you are a 16-year-old kid and it's the greatest thing in the world..
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when i got to college, they had one intern and i had the opportunity to be an intern in the office. you talk to every crazy person that calls the office. you send out mail. i had made the big enough mistake asked me to come back full-time. the aide job, there's a lot of similarities throughout the year. tim was the aide for the presidency. there were two responsibilities. making sure you had a sharpie in your pocket. the other was carrying the ridiculous bag of trinkets. they were always there in case you needed them. i will say i was glad president bush 43, the way he referred to it today was the nicest version of how they would usually refer to personal aides. thank you, sarah, for
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upgrading us a little bit -- thank you, sir, for upgrading us a little bit. [laughter] >> tim, you were the aide in the office of the vice president and the president. >> the level of support and attention changed after the president was elected, after the vice president became president-elect. when we traveled as vice president, it was often without a secondary. someone had to type the speech cards. if he made changes, he would cross it out and write in what he wanted to say. we had to order room service for him to eat and make arrangements for his exercise. there was not that much support. when he became president, that changed. the tension as president-elect or tripled. the national media was
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on him. election night in houston was a big celebration. the next day, the president-elect flew to washington. we had been told there were going to be 5000 people or so at the hangar. we did nothing much of it. what was a really big to do from the media standpoint and the public. he said to me overnight, everything has changed as a result of his being elected president. even though i had been his aide three and a half years, i realized, it's going to be very different. >> you told the story when we spoke earlier last week about one of your special duties in gift finding. >> oh yes. i had been the vice president's aid and was not sure what i was doing exactly. he said as he is heading to the
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west wing, tell the agents we are going to go christmas shopping after this. he said he was going to buy a present for president reagan. i thought, this is going to be really something. so we leave the white house. the motorcade pulls up in front of the magic shop on vermont street three blocks away. [laughter] that's not what i was expecting. he looked around for the perfect gift for president reagan, whom he did adore. he came out with a magic eight ball for making decisions. that was the christmas gift. i said, ok, i'm going to learn a lot in this job. >> president bush was such a remarkable person. why don't you share one of your favorite memories? >> one memory, it is so hard to think of just one, but what i remember is just how grateful he was to people that supported him
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and helped him. he always wanted to make sure -- i think everybody -- making sure all the thank you notes are going out for this event and he would do a lot of handwritten notes. he could not do all he wanted to do, but he wanted to make sure the office was getting the rest out. at events, he would always say, i want to thank the folks in the kitchen who helped make this event possible. he was always -- she was very appreciative of everybody that supported him and was helping. >> tom, you have lots of memories in maine. on that note about character. >> one of my favorite stories, president bush loved his secret
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service detail. i always thought of it as an extension of family. we would stay in d.c. so they could not have to be far away from their families. one of my favorite stories is one of the agents sons was diagnosed with leukemia at two years old. naturally, this young man, patrick, his father, the secret service agent, when he came back to work, the detail -- the entire detail shave their heads. they explained it to him, and within minutes he said, get him in here, i want to have him in here. he wasn't doing it for any of the reasons, he did it because he wanted the little boy
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-- this is a guy who himself lost the child of leukemia at a really young age. for him to do this to just show support for this two-year-old boy, and then the father, the detail, was amazing. they invited the mother, and she was -- she basically saw that photo, they probably should have told her. it was a sense of true character of who george was. -- who george w. bush was. [applause] >> as i have mentioned, we managed a lot of stuff. that
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included traveled. we had different travel experiences. tim, you told a really sweet story. >> in 1989, the iron curtain was beginning to fall. secretary baker reference that. president bush decided to make a trip to budapest to show his support for the reforms. we traveled to budapest. it had been a rainy day. there were tens of thousands of people in their main park. for some reason, no doubt a mistake on my part, we did not have his raincoat. the president said, that's all right. we will figure something out. one of the agents offer his collapsible raincoat. the president said, perfect, i will wear that. he gives his speech, and after the speech, shake
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hands with folks along the rope line. he sees this little lady who was a little cold and he says, here, take my coat. [applause] [laughter] i said, you can't give that, it's not yours. we start struggling over this coat. finally he says, i'm giving her the coat. he gives her the coat. now i have to find the agent and say, he gave your coat away. the president wrote a check to the agent, but it was a very sweet thing. notwithstanding it was not his coat. >> on the subject of character and coats, you have another story. >> this one says everything about president bush. on the day he was inaugurated president, we were leaving the white house for
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the traditional coffee president and mrs. reagan. it was a balmy day. the president-elect says to me, i don't need my coat for the ceremony, which is a sign, leave it in the car. we get to the capital, we are just a few minutes away from he and mrs. bush being escorted onto the platform and he sees that nancy reagan is bundling up president reagan. it wasn't that cold. he turns to me and says, i need your coat. i said, we don't have your coat. the real problem was there was no way to get the coat and be back in time before the ceremony would begin. he said, but i can't look hardier than president reagan. i offered him my coat very quickly said, where this one. he wore it out just to
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show he was in a coat, took it off, and was sworn in without a coat. he was very concerned, on this day, his concern was for president reagan and how some small gesture, walking out with or without a coat, might draw a negative contrast. it amazed me and said amazing things to me about his ability to look out for others and to put himself in some other place. [applause] >> building on a couple of things secretary baker said in the first panel, i like to call you sometimes the ambassador's ambassador. you were there with the tsunami and wrangling those efforts. tell us about that and the efforts -- >> i thought we should talk
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about president clinton and president bush' relationship, but sec. baker really downplayed that. [laughter] i do want to say one thing. tim just talked about a couple mistakes he made and the big joke when i was the aide was that barbara bush would say, you are never going to be as good as him. i made a few blunders. barbara bush was very nice to say, tim would not have done that. one of mrs. bush's friend said we should get a bracelet made that says, what would tim do? marvin bush, president bush's son, near the beginning of my tenure, said, guys, don't worry about who the best aide is because it's david bates.
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talking about the relationships, president bush and president clinton, they had a very formal relationship. they met in 2004 for the opening of president clinton's library. the horrible tsunami the day after christmas in 2004, the president asked both of these former presidents to come together to help raise awareness and funds. they both agreed very quickly. it was basically bringing these guys together, the power -- one, better to -- the fact they could go out into the world, traveled together for common good, send quite a signal. they visited all the countries that were devastated. many of the leaders said, what you're doing, we
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could never do in our own country. it had a real impact. they did it again for katrina and rita. through it all, they really sparked a friendship. they were traveling on air force two, one bedroom, two presidents. [laughter] they would get on board, president clinton, to his great credit, said you take the bedroom. president bush 41 had prepared a rollout mattress he set up for president clinton. [laughter] it sparked a friendship. it was real. that was 2005. president clinton essentially came to maine every summer just to visit. there was nothing on the agenda. it was, how is your family? how are you? go for a
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boat ride. it was truly a great relationship. it was something that carried all the way to the end of president bush's life. in 2005, that same year, there was a big event. the pope's funeral. john paul ii had passed away. the president had asked for a delegation. it included president bush and president clinton. the presidents were now getting along, that's good, but they landed in rome very late at night. if you have never been in a presidential motorcade, it is just massive and it goes on. they were all writing in the same limo. -- riding in the same limo. there were 70 delegations there. technically, president bush 41 and president clinton's motorcades were outside the
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vatican wall. they go to say goodbye to the president, he is staying at the ambassador's residence. they take off and all of a sudden standing there is president bush, president clinton, two aides and secret service agents, one for each. this is a time of harsh rhetoric from the united states and certain nations in the world. the president decides, let's just walk to the gate. the second delegation we get to his iran. [laughter] 10 security guys came running out. it was no problem, we are just regular people walking tour motorcade. it was an amazing friend ship. >> one of the great things i get to do here as director of
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leadership's work on our leadership scholars program. we work with midcareer professionals in partnership with other presidential centers. we are going to be there. this module, we are focusing on what secretary baker so eloquently said earlier about strategic partnerships. these relationships president bush formed and how he was able to get things done in his administration. do you have any memories? >> the difficulty of getting the british and the french on board, but that success was really set in motion at the beginning of the presidency. the first visitor president and mrs. bush invited to maine was the french president. many on the staff
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said, why would you invite this guy? but what president bush understood was in his presidency, he is going to need the franchise allies. he understood the importance of -- the french as allies. he understood the importance, and it did pay off german unification. it went a long way to building trust and it paid off. again, at the time of the gulf war. that was something we saw a regularly. this ability to make connections that would have great meaning in the future. he understood that in a way many on the staff did not. >> you saw different relationships because you were with him in the beginning when he was invested or bush, before he was president. -- ambassador
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bush, before he was president. >> there was a political action committee and it had two employees. one was karl rove. he needed to spend more time in the office. fortunately, the job opened up for me. our other employee was the future ambassador to morocco and spokesperson at the state department. i was the third person hired. secretary baker was an asterisk when we started. it was a big field. ronald reagan nearly won the primary in 1976. bob dole was the vp nominee in 1976. john conley, the former governor of texas, secretary of the treasury. two respected illinois congressman. nobody really gave us a shot. he
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was the last man standing. won some big primaries, michigan, pennsylvania, connecticut, the iowa caucus. we went to the convention in 1980. it will be the last convention where i'm sure -- the last time where the nominee went to the convention without having chosen a vp nominee. and had not settled in his own mind whom he was going to pick. we thought president bush was probably a logical choice. he had foreign policy expertise. president reagan had the domestic expertise. i
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remember the wednesday of the convention, president bush was scheduled to speak that night. he had done so well as a candidate. about 5:00 at night getting ready to go to the auditorium, that's the first we heard of the gerald ford thing. it looked like ford was going to be the nominee. by the time we got to the convention hall he was getting ready to speak. jim wooton was there. president bush said, what's the latest on reagan and ford? he said, it's a done deal. their agents are coming over to the auditorium. they are going to make a joint appearance tonight. he shrugged his shoulders and went up the stairs to the podium and he gave -- typical of him, he gave a short, sweet speech, not a thing about himself, all about how great ronald reagan was and how he needed to be elected president and what a great
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president he would be. we walked back to the hotel and i remember him saying, let's get some beer, have a little party, and we all figured it was -- that was the end of the road. i remember when the party broke up, we went next door to our room getting ready for bed. about 15 minutes, mrs. bush knocked on the door and said, your dad has some news for you. david, you come to. jim baker was there. we walked in and president bush said, ronald reagan just called and asked me to be vp nominee. it was an incredible story. the next morning, president and mrs. bush i remember going over to have breakfast with president and mrs. reagan. they did not know
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them at all. they heard rumors they did not want him to be on the ticket. you all know the look. he was grinding those molars. they were both quite nervous. they went to the -- suite and ronald reagan had this big smile on his face and i could tell immediately he had put them at ease. i had a nice breakfast. i know i am going long, but on the way down -- they had a press conference after breakfast on thursday morning. they were going down in the service elevator. i remember somehow a conversation came up
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about their dress and president reagan set i wish i had been dressed like this or that. he said that remise me of this joke and he told a very funny joke. they both love jokes. it broke up president bush and to this day i think president reagan may have been an old hollywood trick to loosen up knowing president bush would want to make a good first and present -- first impression. he had a method to that joke. he did great. they both did great in the press conference. it was a great relationship all the way through the presidency. >> you went five minutes over on that one. [laughter] >> tim, i want you to sleep better tonight, tom. tim was not perfect. didn't you leave
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something behind? >> clothes in fort knox. [laughter] the president was having everything with the troops -- having a briefing with the troops. about halfway to louisville that night i realized i had left his suitcase at fort knox, which was not going to help later because he was still in his jogging clothes and we were off to some other event. i ask of the agents, where is that car? it's on its way. 20 minutes before we are to leave, he says, i need my clothes. we said, we don't have your close. the agents donated clothes and shoes. about that time, his clothes arrived. he probably should have fired me that night,
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but didn't. [laughter] >> i don't know anything about that. [laughter] >> leaving clothes? >> moving on. tom, let's talk about parachutes. where did this business come in with parachuting? >> president bush parachuted out in world war ii. he had lost two crew members when it happened. i just think it stuck with him. he wanted to do it again right. and he did. he did a few jumps. he said i'm going to do one on my 80th birthday, we are going to raise some money around it. we will give it to some charities. as they were preparing press and
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people were asking, asking mrs. bush, why is he doing this? it's for a good cause. i know it's good, but either way, this is his last jump. [laughter] president bush said, and he probably phrased it differently, he ended up doing another 10 years of jumps. there he is. the other one was the golden nights black suit. someone had said, you look very handsome in this. we could not get him out of it after that jump. he said, look at me. i'm the new fonzie. the real meaning was that old guys can still do something. you have to set goals in life. i don't want to be one of those guys sitting around drooling playing shuffleboard. although right
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before he did do it, we said, if this does not work, you can try a new hobby. the staff got him a shuffleboard kit. he did it all the way to his 90th birthday. quite impressive. >> i wanted to close on something secretary baker said. the mark president bush left on this country and on each of you, i'm sure. speaking personally, my personal life, my professional life was shaped forever. that's what happens. let's start with you, tim. >> what i learned without realizing at the time i was learning it was the leadership quality of really putting yourself in the shoes of others. president bush had this ability to empathize, certainly had a life of service. he also was a leader who cared about the contributions of everybody in the organization. something i
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have tried to take in my own business career. >> to summarize the four things, do your duty, nothing less. maintain high ethical standards. the highest ethical standards. treat everyone with kindness and respect. always put your country first. i remember being in the white house when he was president in another capacity. just hearing his own decisions he had to make, he would always say, let's do the right thing for the country. we will sort out the politics later. let me just say here that, made every decision with that same frame. [applause]
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>> i would just say he always cared about the other guy. we have set a lot of virtues and principles he lived by. he was gracious, he was generous. he was patient. he listened. he always exuded class always. everything you learned as a child or that loved ones told you growing up or at different points of your life, my wife is here and she has no problem telling you when i'm running low on those categories, but he lived by these every day. so many others are beyond lucky because he altered the paths of our lives by firsthand knowledge of watching someone live by a
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code of ethics, by principles, and then through friendships created in his orbit. it was impossible to spend time with george bush and not leave wanting to be a better person. a better version of yourself. he had that effect on you. no secret why we all loved him. he was our hero. simply put, he was the kindest, most caring gentleman i have ever known. the world could be a little more like george w. bush. -- george h w bush. what a better place it would be. [applause]
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>> i want to thank secretary baker and this wonderful panel. what a special conversation. [applause] >> if you have not done so already, put on your calendar march 5. our next program, an insiders look at camp david, which launches our special exhibit open that same week in the museum away from the white house, a at presidential retreats. we will see you at the next event. [applause] american history tv is on c-span3 every weekend. all of our programs are archived on our website at the span.org/history. you can watch lectures in college classrooms, tours of historic sites, archival films, and see our schedule of upcoming
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programs. today, we are at mail would. --mayowood we will learn about the three ayos who lived m here. mayowoodwe are at home was built in 1910 and 1911. they had three children. both of the boys were intrigued with medicine and watched her father do surgeries and things. they got involved in a very young age.

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