Gov. Bush's dad gets teary-eyed
At a leadership forum, the former president recalls with pride how his son handled defeat.
By JONI JAMES
Published December 5, 2006
TALLAHASSEE - Former President George Bush, visiting Florida in his son's final days as governor, broke into tears of pride Monday when he recalled how Jeb Bush handled an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 1994.
"He didn't whine about it," Bush said of his son, his voice beginning to crack. "And he didn't complain."
As he struggled to stop crying, he joked that his wife, Barbara, "will bawl me out for breaking up."
Jeb Bush then came to his father's side, receiving a light admonishment from his father.
"I can do this," he said, then added as his son threw an arm around him, "I love this guy."
The audience rose in extended applause.
The venue was the last of the Leadership Council Forums the governor has hosted the past six years for senior staff.
It has featured speeches on leadership from notable business and government leaders, from former Disney chief Michael Eisner and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu to former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
For the first 15 minutes of his address, the 41st U.S. president stuck closely to the theme of leadership, saying good leaders must delegate responsibility, be loyal, humble and surround themselves with smart and strong people.
He credited his mother, who warned him not to become a "braggadocio," with teaching him to build a team.
The former president recalled how two of his nominees, Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court and former U.S. Sen. John Tower for secretary of defense, offered to withdraw as their nominations faced intense criticism. Thomas now sits on the bench; Tower wasn't confirmed.
"Stay in there and back your people," Bush told the audience. "That helped me get the most loyalty, and you can't do everything yourself."
The elder Bush also urged the audience, packed with Republicans who have served during the governor's two terms, to develop personal relationships with opponents, noting how his own friendship with former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev helped lead to the end of the Cold War.
He also spoke at length about how his friendship with former Democratic President Bill Clinton has matured since 2004, when the two men were tapped by the current President Bush to aid in the Asian tsunami relief effort.
A turning point, Bush said, came as the two men traveled to Asia and Clinton refused to take his turn in the single airplane bedroom so the elder Bush might sleep uninterrupted.
Bush said he awoke to find Clinton curled in a fetal position atop a sleeping pad on the airplane floor.
"That said a lot to me," Bush said, though he also acknowledged that if Sen. Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2008, "the situation could change."