This Sunday’s issue (7/15/12) of PARADE magazine features an exclusive interview with former president George H. W. Bush, 88 and his wife, Barbara, 87, where they share with presidential historian Mark Updegrove their extraordinary journey and their take on today’s politics. We were fortunate enough to receive a preview of the interview. and we’re sharing it with you. You can follow the link to the full interview here: http://www.parade.com/bush.
Here are some highlights from the PARADE interview with the Bushes:
ON PRESIDENT BUSH’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS
What is your proudest accomplishment in public life, Mr. President?
GB: I think we had an honorable administration. We were relatively scandal-free and blessed by good people. Something I guess I’d throw in there is the liberation of Kuwait.
BB: The coalition was huge. He was at the UN and in China—I don’t think any president’s ever had the background he had. I’m prejudiced, I admit. And 40 million people now have jobs they can get to because of the Americans with Disabilities Act. You can’t not count that.
THOUGHTS ON THE “NO NEW TAX” PLEDGE FROM GROVER NORQUIST
During your presidency you gave in on your “no new taxes” pledge. You’ve been vindicated in many respects for that decision. I wonder how you view the “no new tax” pledge from Grover Norquist that seems to be requisite for GOP political candidates.
GB: The rigidity of those pledges is something I don’t like. The circumstances change and you can’t be wedded to some formula by Grover Norquist. It’s—who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?
BB: I think he ought to go back to Alaska. [laughs] Don’t quote me! [A reference to a comment Mrs. Bush made about Sarah Palin in a 2010 interview, in which she said, “I think she’s very happy in Alaska—and I hope she’ll stay there.”]
THE BUSHES ON THEIR SON, GEORGE W. BUSH
The media often characterized your relationship as one president advising another. …
GB: We didn’t counsel on various issues. It was more just about father and son—family. For me, anyway. I think he’d say the same thing.
BB: He may have talked to you about things, but you never advised.
GB: Oh, yeah, we’d talk about things. He never said the “Dad, what do I do now?” kind of thing.
BB: Nor was there any competition. People always said, “I read that George was just doing this because he wanted to beat his father.”
GB: Yeah, there were a lot of those stories …
BB: … and they were stupid. It wasn’t true. There was no competition at all.
Did his presidency have a high point for you?
BB: Every day we were proud of him. Of course, 9/11 … I think George’s [leadership after] 9/11 was brilliant. I think it was a high point, just as the day the war started when you were president, trying to liberateKuwait—that first day was a high point. There were not many civilians hurt, which was very important.
ON REAGAN, CLINTON, AND REPAIRING THE BITTER REPUBLICAN DIVIDE
You served two terms as vice president under Ronald Reagan. What did you learn from him?
GB: Decency, honor, and kindness. He was a remarkable man and a kind guy—and generous. He didn’t care about the day-to-day legislation and amending the previous motion and all that kind of stuff. He was broad-gauged.
What should Republicans do to repair the bitter divide earlier this year over the nomination?
BB: I think they’ve started. [Mitt Romney has] been endorsed by the other candidates. That’s ever thus. I mean, you’re not very pleased with people who whip you verbally for months and then you turn around and you’re friends. But that’s the way it goes in both parties.
Which brings to mind your friendship with Bill Clinton. What most surprised you about him?
GB: Well, he knows a lot about everything. He’s a very knowledgeable, bright man. He sat out here one time, and we talked about every possible [subject]—one after another.
BB: But he never said a mean word about anyone. “[My] brother by another mother,” the boys call him. But he’s very nice—I think he thinks of George as the father he never had. Truthfully. I mean that as a compliment.He’s been very thoughtful about calling and he’s a good fellow.