Remembering 41: Card, Becker Recall Memories of President Bush
Two former key staff members of the late President George H.W. Bush recalled poignant memories of their boss Monday night to a full Annenberg Presidential Conference Center audience and praised his leadership style and his relationship with others.
Jean Becker, former chief of staff, and Andrew Card, White House deputy chief of staff to Bush and chief of staff to President George W. Bush, both called the late President “the greatest one-term president of all time.”
“He made institutions better, whether it was the CIA, the United Nations, Congress, or the offices of the Vice President and President. He molded the White House into the best example of democracy in the world,” Card said.
Card said that Bush, who died Nov. 30, was especially good at building relationships with both his staff and world leaders.
“He wanted to hear your opinion and different opinions. He wanted to hear different voices so he could make better decisions. He helped Ronald Reagan become a better president because he fully understood the political process and how to get things done in Congress and in the CIA and other groups.”
Becker, who also served as press secretary for Barbara Bush from 1989-92 and helped her write several books, said that President Bush was a genuinely nice person and wanted America to succeed above all else.
“He passed the presidential baton to Bill Clinton,” Becker said. “He and Barbara greeted Bill and Hillary Clinton on the front steps of the White House on Clinton’s first day as president and said he would be rooting for him. The man who defeated him (Clinton) wound up becoming one of his best friends. If that doesn’t tell you something about the man, nothing ever will.”
Becker added, “I will tell you probably something you don’t know. President (Barack) Obama was one of the last persons to see Bush. Obama was in Houston for an event and came by to see him three days before he died.”
The audience, which included former baseball pitching great and 7-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens and his wife, heard numerous funny stories from Card and Becker about Bush’s time in government and public service during the Presidents Day celebration.
“About those parachute jumps – he really loved those,” Becker said.
“I think he made eight jumps in all. He did those to show people that you can still do things in your old age. He always said, ‘When you’re an old guy, you don’t have to sit around and just drool.’ “
Both Card and Becker said that Bush’s relationship with his secretary of state James Baker was a friendship for the ages.
“I’ve never seen two people who had a closer friendship. The bond between those two was almost indescribable,” Card said.
“They trusted each other completely, and this lasted for decades. James Baker was there in the room the entire last day of Bush’s life, saying goodbye to his best friend. I would have to say that both Baker and President Bush had more effect on me than anyone in my life.”