By Joseph Curl
DALLAS — Shortly after Barack Obama was elected in 2008, a fellow reporter who'd covered President George W. Bush all eight years told me she'd had enough of the travel and stress and strain of the White House beat, that she was moving on.
We reminisced about all the places we'd been, all the crazy days and wild nights, all the history we'd seen — first hand. Just before we said our goodbyes, I asked her if she'd miss covering President Obama.
"Not at all. He's an inch deep. Bush is a bottomless chasm, a deep, mysterious, emotional, profound man. Obama is all surface — shallow, obvious, robotic, and, frankly, not nearly as smart as he thinks. Bush was the one."
But she was right. And that contrast was apparent to all who watched Thursday's ceremonial event to open W's new presidential library in Dallas. The class and grace and depth of America's last president completely outshined that of his successor (who, coincidentally, or perhaps not, was the only one seated in the shade on a sunny Texas day).
In fact, the day gave America a chance to measure the men who have served it as commander-in-chief for 28 of the last 36 years. Five of the last six presidents were on stage, the first time the quintet has appeared together in public. And what a study in character it was.
Bill Clinton followed. He, of course, spoke twice as long, filling his speech with jokes and faux humility. He was his usual affable self — smooth, confident, taking just the right pauses to punch passages, set up jokes (all of which wife Hillary guffawed at).
But the lip bites, the craggy-finger point, the cocked-head squint all looked like "Saturday Night Live" caricatures — mainly because they once were. Mr. Clinton, for all his prodigious gifts, will always be the class clown, the one no one takes too seriously. And with good reason: He did, after all, not "not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky" in the Oval Office. And W — who vowed "to return dignity to the office of the presidency" — was America's answer to his tomfoolery. It was, America said, time for a grown up.
Then, finally, W took the podium. Gone were the punched phrases, the comfortable pauses, the perfect elocution of Barack and Bill. Back was the Texas drawl, the too-fast delivery — nerves? No, just impatience — that the wine-sipping media so deplored.
He got right to the point: "For eight years, you gave me the honor of serving as your president. Today I'm proud to dedicate this center to the American people."
He gave a profound lesson to his successor and his predecessor: "In democracy, the purpose of public office is not to fulfill personal ambition. Elected officials must serve a cause greater than themselves. The political winds blow left and right, polls rise and fall, supporters come and go. But in the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold.
But it was the end that gave us the truest glimpse of the man. Like so many other times, the power of America got to him. With tears in his eyes, his voice breaking, he said: "It's the honor of a lifetime to lead a country as brave and as noble as the United States. Whatever challenges come before us, I will always believe our nation's best day lie ahead." By the end he was in tears, barely able to creak out: "God bless."
But there was one last classy move not many saw. The program nearly over, Sgt. 1st Class Alvy R. Powell Jr. came to the side of the stage to perform the "Star Spangled Banner." A big, powerful black man, Mr. Powell belted out the anthem. With the crowd applauding, the sergeant moved along the line of people, shaking hands with all. After greeting W, he turned to go. But the 43rd president put his hand on the sergeant's arm and said, "Stay," just as a chaplain stepped forward to give a benediction.
So the final tableau of the day: Five presidents, five first ladies, heads bowed in prayer. And Sgt. 1st Class Alvy R. Powell Jr. No one, really, just the Man a President asked to "Stay."
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times and is now editor of the Drudge Report.
Tara Jane sent this to me and, hoping she won't mind my taking the liberty to post this, I do feel that this one needs to be shared. It is edifying and a postive article that, in these days, we all need to enjoy.
I do not care one iota what anyone things of George W. Bush Jr. or their views on his presidency, as you see, what matters is wihen it is all said and done, this man's patriotism, love of the U.S. and it's people, sense of honor and integrity, efforts to make the best decisions under some of the most diffiuclt and trying of circumstances, respect for the Constitution, and true respect for the military earning him a right to serve as Commander-in-chief, and his deep, sincere and tremendous pain and grief for the lives lost prove that he understands what was required of them and for that you have to respect the man.
Do I miss him, your are darn right I miss him. He has proven to the people of this Country that he was a class act and more deserving of the office of President than many others; especially the charlitan that holds the office right now. Compare them; there is no comparison as you can't compare a class act man like G. W. Bush Jr. with a person like Obama; Obama fails hands down.
Yes, there is no comparison between the two men. Bush is a man of character. Almost all military think so, too, from all I've seen & heard.
Linda, I just home from work and copied and pasted this from my email all ready to post it here! Thank you for posting a thread on this.
I love this and it is, oh, oh, oh, so true.
Linda......Thank you for posting this! Lordy, I do miss this man! One thing ya gotta say - he was truly genuine. Always gave credit where credit was due - was never ashamed of his beliefs. And, his love for this country, his family and his humility!
God Bless Him!
No argument here ladies, I voted for him twice and would vote for him again as there is much more of value that he offered and did for this Country than there is anything that was wrong. You could trust him and his word as he never blamed another and always remembered that ultimately, the man (or woman) at the top is the one responsible regardless.
It is so sad that the present occupyer of the WH has never leared the value of doing just that but then when you hate a Country the way he hates the U.S. I guess he finds there is nothing that he is responsible for that has happened in the negative realm.
Tara Jane so glad you sent this to Linda and Linda, so glad you posted it.
I never felt that Bush got the credit he deserved for so many things. Yes, things could have been better in ways but which president had as much on their plate as he did?
Like you said he was honest with his feelings and true to his beliefs and treated others with respect as well as his country. Perhaps when all is said and done people will realize how much he cared and did for this country and who was really to blame for much of the problems that occured after he left office.