This week on “Inside Politics,” our panel of top political reporters shared some of their memories of covering President George H.W. Bush.
1. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty:
The last time I saw the president up close and in person was at a funeral for my former colleague at Time magazine, Hugh Sidey, and President Bush got up and began reading this remarkable exchange of letters that he and Hugh Sidey had exchanged over the decades. And he got so emotional that he broke down and could not finish. His daughter, Doro, had to get up and finish reading these letters for him. So I think people keep talking about his amazing Rolodex. But what they don’t realize is that for every name, there was a really intensely personal connection as well.
2. Former CNN White House correspondent Frank Sesno:
The president would have the White House press corps to his home in Kennebunkport in the summertime. You could bring your family and all the rest. So 1989, I went. I had a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old, and my wife and I were there. And the president and Mrs. Bush engaged with the children because they really were family oriented in every way. And there’s this great picture I have. I’m holding the boys and all the rest. And next time we saw them, my wife and I together, was at the White House Christmas party that following December. By this time, my wife is very visibly pregnant with my third child. And we come through and the president points to her and goes “oh,” he says, “another little Sesno on the way.” And Barbara Bush who was there said, “Yes, George, you remember their two boys,” and he said, “Yes, I do.” Whether he did or not, I don’t know. But the impact that that had on us personally, and what that says about the president and Mrs. Bush, I think, really does speak to the human connection that they made in virtually every interaction they had.
3. The New York Times’ Carl Hulse:
In 1984, I was a local government reporter in south Florida, and George Bush comes down and he’s on a campaign swing for the Reagan re-elect. And I really hadn’t had a big interest in national politics. This was the first sort of national politician I was around. And it made an impression on me, sort of piqued my interest in national politics. A year later, I was in DC, and a few years after that, I was covering his inauguration. I feel a real journalistic connection to him.
4. Former ABC News Radio correspondent Ann Compton:
The internet revolution caught up after he was president, and while he was a prolific letter writer, in 2010 I got my first e-mail from a president. And from Kennebunkport, he writes that we rarely go out anymore. We live a very happy, content life. We watch a lot of “Law & Order.” I go out on my boat and I sit and I watch the sea and I count our blessings. The domain for the George Bush retirement office is FLFW.com — for former leader of the free world.
5. CNN chief national correspondent John King:
I’ll share a funny encounter I had — by chance — with President and Mrs. Bush at what was a tough Bush family moment. It was backstage at a CNN Republican presidential debate in Houston — not long after Jeb Bush dropped out of the race. The GOP establishment was in a panic — aghast at the growing likelihood Donald Trump was going to be their presidential nominee. Also in the hallway was Reince Priebus — then the Republican National Committee chairman. He jokingly asked President Bush if he wanted his old job as party chairman back. Forty-one had a hearty laugh and said ‘hell no.’ As I said goodbye, Mrs. Bush said, ‘You know, you could have been nicer to Jeb.’ And President Bush laughed again.