‘Bush 41’ was an inspiration to many – even political foes

By DAVID GUSTAFSON,

While interviewing political candidates prior to issuing endorsements, I often ask how they will feel when (not if) I am critical of them on the Opinion page. 

Their answer to that singular question almost always sways me one way or the other.

I won’t dilvuge what the “right” answer is, but Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker, State Rep. Brad Touchstone, and State Rep. Missy McGee are three local politicians who passed with flying colors.

Maureen Dowd, the fire-breathing political columnist for The New York Times, was fiercely critical of President George H.W. Bush while he was in office and she was even harder (and justly so) on George W. Bush.

However, through all of the criticism, the elder Bush never considered her - or any her colleagues - to be “enemies.”

In fact, Bush #41, who is the polar opposite of the buffoon currently in the White House, had this to say about Dowd, his political sparring partner from the Fourth Estate:

“I reserve the right to whine, to not read, to use profanity, but if you ever get really hurt or if you ever get really down and need a shoulder to cry on or just need a friend — give me a call. I’ll be there for you. I’ll not let you down.”

And he never did.

The unlikely friends remained in touch long after they both left the White House. They wrote letters. They exchanged gifts. 

When Dowd’s mother died in 2005 at the age of 97, President Bush wrote a heartfelt email to the columnist that she now admits made her cry.

“I hope your own Mom had a peaceful passing; and that she felt joyous about going on to heaven. Heck with politics. Heck with the New York Times and all of my hang ups about it.”

President Bush often spoke fondly of Bill Clinton and respectfully of President Obama. He did not feel the same away about the current occupant of the White House.

In fact, he famously summed up his feelings about President Trump with a few simple words:

“He’s an ass.”

Rest in peace, Mr. President. You served us with respect and dignity.

Give our love to Barbara.

– David Gustafson